Time is of the Essence

Time is of the Essence

Making the most of your team's time, the most limited resource

Before you continue reading this article, pause for a moment. Just a moment. Look around at where you are. Think about what you were just doing before you started reading this article, and project out through the rest of today’s activities.

What happened in that pause? Could you do it? Or, maybe you thought, “I don’t have time to pause, I’m too busy.” 

We only asked for a few seconds, something many people waste without even realizing. How critical are seconds? 

time-is-of-the-essenceA perfect example the vitality of seconds can be found in the daily routine of the USAF Thunderbird Solo Team performing their signature “Knife-Edge Pass.” As they role out on opposite sides of Show Center, 4 miles separate their powerful fighter aircraft. They are precision focused on one goal. The 125,000 onlookers disappear as their laser focus centers on nailing the Hit – a Thunderbird term for the snapshot moment, when the aircraft are perfectly aligned over Show Center for the cameras of the fans. To ensure perfection, or correctable excellence, the pilots are graded on every maneuver. This grade is not based on their efforts, preparation or efficiency, but the moment of production…the moment of photographic proof…the instant canopies align and cameras flash. From four miles apart, their entire window to correct any discrepancies is 5.1 seconds and they must pass within .8 seconds of the targeted point. Now, look at the picture…are you that efficient in the use of your time and that of your team?

Is ‘efficiency’ hurting your team?
Time is the most critical resource in our lives. The passage of time is unconditionally out of our control; the second hand keeps on ticking. But, what we DO with our time, that’s where we have an opportunity to make things better. Ineffective and inefficient use of time not only takes away from the physical work we accomplish, but also depletes our team’s emotional and physical currency which are even tougher to replenish. The question is, “How can we work more efficiently?”

In organizations around the world, leaders are routinely focused on reducing costs and increasing organizational efficiency. Individual contributors are routinely told to “do more, with less.” These buzzwords may discourage some individuals and misdirect others. If this flight path is not corrected, primarily targeting these two goals may just be the downfall of your organization.

When it comes to managing your time better, you need to be a leader who emphasizes positive change through root cause efficiencies. Reducing costs and increasing production are treating the symptoms of your illness and may not send it toward remission.

The solution: Realize time is of the essence. A truly dynamic leader focuses on positive change and unequivocal progress for their organization. This requires an imperative focus on moving the organization forward by lighting a fire in the gut of your employees, not just a fire under their butt. Start small, stay consistent, and make it easier for people around you to accomplish more with this all-too-limited resource.

The difference 15 can minutes can make
This week, commit to giving each member of your team back 15 minutes per day. Look at your calendar over next 7 days and reduce a meeting’s duration by 15 minutes. Instead of starting at 10:00am, invite everyone to convene at 10:15am. 

Think about what your management team could do with that extra 15 minute window. Consider the value of returning 1/96th-of a day to your team, then think of how much motivation it could release in them and the limitless second and third order effects of this positive change. A positive change which gifts them back a mere 1% of their day.

Next time a meeting starts 15 minutes late, look around the room and count your team members. Think of what could have been done in that time. One tactic you may consider implementing is this: In a special section of your notebook/organizational system, make a list of 10 things that you could do if you suddenly had an extra window of 15 minutes. Then, when a meeting is cancelled at the last minute, or someone is running late, review that inventory looking for something to do and progress to be made..

Respect the time-honored clause, time is of the essence. Find efficiencies in the most critical and perishable natural resource, TIME. It will reduce costs, increase efficiency and send morale through the roof. Value your employees’ time as much as you expect them to value yours, respect them as much as you expect them to respect you.

Like a phrase in a contract, recognize your adherence to this time commitment is necessary in order to require improved performance by your team. Failure to refine time efficiencies constitutes a breach of contract on either side. Commit to returning 1% of a day to your team, and the result will be 100% effort to the organization.

Chris R. Stricklin, Colonel, USAF, is a combat-proven leader, mentor and coach integrating the fields of dynamic followership, negotiations, leadership, positive change, public relations, public speaking and complex organizational change. Chris is a Certified Manager with degrees in Economics, Financial Planning, Strategic Studies and Operational Art and Science. Read more from Chris at, and follow him on Twitter at @ChrisRStricklin.

Jason W. Womack, MEd, MA, provides practical methods to maximize tools, systems, and processes to achieve quality work/life balance. He has worked with leaders and executives for over 16 years in the business, military and higher education sectors. His focus on creating ideas that matter and implementing solutions are changing the way organizations and the individuals. To find out more about Jason, visit his website at and follow him on Twitter at @JasonWomack.