Creating a New Narrative around Time and Work
Nothing is more enjoyable and motivating for me than going on a well-deserved vacation, especially after an extremely busy professional period.
Therefore, it was that a few years ago, on an extremely cold May morning, I was in London on my way to Luton. I’d been planning this short getaway for months, and frankly, it was one of the few things I looked forward to during my exhausting days at the office.
That morning everything went according to plan. There were no incidents on the way to the airport. We got through check-in quickly and when we got to the gate, we were denied boarding: we were 10 minutes late, the plane was full and we had no chance to get on that plane.
We immediately started looking for other options and we decided to rush to another airport where, again, we missed the flight. This time, the check-in door closed right in front of us.
Looking for an explanation for the lack of timing that morning, I had no other solution but to run the movie of the events a few dozen times in my mind. I assumed that it was not the right time for me to go to Iceland.
Although these kinds of experiences leave a bitter aftertaste, I realized there would definitely be more trains or planes that I will miss in the years to come.
Day after day, we get to have moments of perfect timing but also impressive misses. Sometimes we repeat cycles, other times things just flow optimally for us and we conclude that we are the right people at the right time. We set deadlines, we want to speed things up, or on the contrary, we postpone them. In the jungle of time, few of us find our balance.
When it comes to time, the Greeks have two different words representing the two gods, Chronos and Kairos.
Chronos is the linear, sequential and quantitative time that is divided into days, weeks and months. When it comes to work, we use it to calculate productivity, to create a schedule, to set deadlines and to keep our agenda.
We often forget, however, that an equally important aspect is the quality of time and the opportunities that come our way. The assessment of such moments is much more subjective. Kairos embodies that moment of inspiration when we do things at the right time.
If Chronos is about quantity, Kairos is about quality.
I think the new season is about learning when it comes to timing. How we spend our time is starting to become more and more important. Time management skills aren’t enough and shouldn’t be the only thing we focus on. We need to understand that the way we perceive time is different from individual to individual, from culture to culture, and that, in fact, there is no one solution that works for everyone.
More and more employees start owning their time.
In fact, what fills our agenda on a daily basis either makes us happy and fulfilling at the end of the day or, on the contrary, is a huge stress factor.
In this new time cycle, quantity begins to lose its glamour. If the past was about making things happen as quickly as possible, the new phase is about setting, communicating and maintaining our time limits so that we are in sync with others while also having quality time. On a deeper level, it’s about our needs, values and priorities.
So, while on the one hand, the new context simplifies our lives and brings new opportunities, such as remote working, on the other hand, it also comes with a number of challenges, like:
How do you say “No” to a manager in a different time zone, who comes from a culture where time has a different meaning?
Given the large number of remote, regional and global roles covering projects across multiple time zones, this is one of the questions we need to answer.
Within organisations, the god Chronos sets the tone, at least so it looks. The focus of many companies is to have employees with good time management skills.
Although employees who are productive become more visible during this period, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are happy with the way they spend their time.
If their agenda is full of tasks that „eat up” their time and are often unrelated to the role for which they were recruited, they are unlikely to draw inspiration and satisfaction from that job.
When this happens, a phenomenon called boreout occurs: a kind of boredom, apathy, lack of vitality that has to do with the fact that their work is not linked to a strong, bold, inspiring purpose.
When the clock is ticking and what you’re doing doesn’t inspire you, it’s time to set clear goals and make changes.
Another aspect of time is that it can be an instrument that we can use to show our appreciation. Some employees feel valued when they get to spend quality time with supervisors and colleagues, as explained by authors Gary Chapman and Paul White in their book, “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace”.
Last but not least, let’s not forget that the most important thing is to be able to meet in the present, here and now.
This means we should not let the past drive our agendas and divert our attention from our vision of the future.