Our Most Valuable Resource
Demands are all over us. They’re all over everyone else, too. In the workplace, there’s a huge shift going on and, with it, the demands on us grow more numerous and varied and, well, more demanding. The once optional is now mandatory, and, while the quality of the work we do remains paramount, there is something else that ranks equally important yet gets a mite’s share of attention. That something is our most valuable resource—our time.
We all wish we could control time and redistribute how we spend it. But the truth is, none of us can add one second to our day much less to our life. We start out with the same number of hours in a day as everyone else. But how we must spend them, or how we do spend them, quickly varies. The reasons why are many. Let’s look at a few.
We procrastinate. We know it’s a bad idea, that it creates problems and crunch times for us, but still we do it. We put off things until they become crises, large or small, that we can’t put off anymore. This keeps us functioning in crisis-mode, and that makes us minimally productive. You’ve heard, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. While that might work on your car, it’s not a great way to run your life. Think about it. You see something that needs doing. You set it aside. You pick it up three or four times and then when it squeaks, you handle it. You’ve wasted all that interim time—the seeing, setting aside, picking up and setting aside again and again. Reclaim that time. When you see something, handle it. It’s done, off your desk and out of your mind. Now you’re free to press on to something else.
We get distracted. We start out to do one thing and another intrudes and claims our attention. We let it and shift our focus to the new thing. Typically this ends with a lot of time wasted and no task completed. Surely you’ve been zipping along and this terrific idea for a new project flits through your mind. You stop working on your current project and follow the idea for the new project. Now you have two partial projects and no finished projects. Odds are good that before you finish either of them, you’ll get another new idea and flit to it. Ideas are wonderful things, and we all get a million of them. But we have to have the discipline to channel our energy to avoid leaving everything half-done. Yet we don’t want to ignore inspired new ideas. So stop the current project long enough to jot down the idea and then put it in a folder, a box, a file, an idea notebook—somewhere you can retrieve it from later—and then get back to your current project. Finished projects are the objective. Not partial projects left undone. Finish, and then move on to a new idea and project.
We manage poorly. Many of us are creative sorts but we also must be or become business sorts. That’s easier for some than others, but hard or easy, it’s essential. When we don’t work, we don’t eat. If we’ve acquired a staff, the staff dependent upon us doesn’t eat either. All the ancillary entities and people we support also go without. So when we don’t perform well, our lack of performance impacts us and all these others. Poor management of time, energy and resources is a huge challenge for most people, particularly those in professions where there’s a high rate of unpredictability. Ones where change is the everyday norm. It best serves us to be flexible and serious stewards of our time, energy and resources to maximize potential for us and our work. We depend on it. So do others.
Mind your time. In certain careers, like writing, for example, outsiders are misguided. They think writers have tons of free time. They see a book or two a year and figure writers get to play for the other ten months a year. They aren’t aware of all the indirect jobs writers do, or the other job requirements that come along with writing books. Writers should, non-writers think, be able to volunteer for any and everything that comes along. They’re working twelve to fourteen hour days, many of them six days a week, but only other writers realize it. While some get regularly scheduled vacations and days off, writers don’t. Bluntly put, if they don’t produce, they have no income. It’s that simple.
Some of the best advice ever given me on protecting one’s time:
Do what you can, but don’t be tempted to overdo. There are many worthy causes and many things we’d like to do, but we are one person and we must accept that. We can do what we can do and then we can’t do anymore.
The best advice? “No is a complete sentence.”
No doesn’t require an explanation, doesn’t demand discussion. Say it, stick with it. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the position of being a volunteer and writing in the wee hours when you should be sleeping. Forfeiting sleep has many hazards. Think health. Think your life.
Mind Your Energy. You know yourself, your body, your demands. Respect them. If you attempt to function at the speed of light for long, you’re going to burn out. It’s that simple. You can be determined, devoted, disciplined, but if you aren’t respecting yourself, you can bet your body is going to let you know it. So do respect your energy level. Yes, you can build up your tolerance and do constructive things to increase your energy level, but stay balanced in doing it. No engine improperly maintained can function at peak performance. You and your body are not an exception.
Resources. Budget, budget, budget and then stick with your budget. Over the years, I’ve seen so many people put themselves in precarious financial positions because they banked on money they did not yet have in their hand. Don’t be tempted to overspend. Set your budget based on money you know is yours to spend, and then stick to it.
If you deviate, do a cost benefit analysis—make your call based on facts and logic and not on emotion. If you elect to take a risk, make sure you’ve done all you can to minimize those risks and that you’re not putting you or your family’s well being in jeopardy. This sounds like common sense, I know. But when a venture you produced is on the line, it’s more tempting to throw Common Sense 101 out the window to go for the gold. A situation might arise when you want to go for the gold—just be aware that you’re doing it, and do what you can to offset blowback. True, you might hit gold. Or silver. But you also might sink like lead. Even projects with everything in the world going for them have tanked. In short, allocate and use your resources wisely. Listen to the old rule: Never gamble what you can’t afford to lose.
We Play Mind Games. We let doubt and fear of failure, and fear of success, trip us up. We’re cruising along on a project we love, someone finds fault with it, and we abandon it. Sometimes the project needs to be abandoned, but never should it be abandoned because we’ve given doubt, the fear of failure, or the fear of success free reign to wreak havoc in us. I’m often asked for my personal rules. I have one. Only one? Yes, but it’s a big one and it’s extremely powerful. It is:
Never invest in a project you don’t love. You spend a lot of time on a project. Your time is your life. Don’t waste it. That’s an insult to the value you place on your life.
But there’s another reason not to invest in a project you don’t love. A new project is shiny and beckons. It’s exciting. But having the discipline to stick with it until the project is done takes more than shiny newness or glittery glitz and enthusiasm. It takes love. Love means you believe in it. You want it finished. You need to finish it. It matters. Maybe not to another living soul, but to you. And you know what? You’re enough. You loving the project is enough to battle and win against doubt, against the fear of failure and against the fear of success. It’s enough to allow you to hear criticism, determine if it’s constructive or destructive—after all, even the best criticism is subject and not privy to the entire vision in your mind—and to determine the value of it. If that criticism proves its worth, take it. If not, ditch it. Love lets you do that because love demands your best for the work. So never invest in a project you don’t love. Change it until you do love it, or don’t waste your time. The lack shows in a million ways—to you and to anyone else.
Doubt. Merciless, mean and violent, doubt can chew you up and spit you out—if you let it. It can convince you that something that is wonderful is trash. It can make you frigid, unable to look at your project much less work on it. It can make you shun something you believe in—and if you work with purpose, you can expect it to strike and strike and strike. It doesn’t let up. Think about it and it makes perfect sense. If you’re trying to do something “good” and you can be kept tied in knots, you won’t accomplish that good and no one else will be able to benefit from it. For those who work with purpose, the battle of good and evil is a constant one. However, love trumps doubt every time. Doubt won’t fade away, but when it steps up to the plate, love knocks it out of the park. It comes back—it always comes back—but love is there to counter every time. It’s truly a powerful and empowering weapon, and always love wins.
Fear of failure. You know the old I wish I had a nickel for every time… Well, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen a fear of failure—not failure, but just the fear of it—stop someone in his/her tracks, I’d be richer than Midas. So what’s so bad about failure, anyway? Why does it deserve to be feared so much? We try, we fail. Okay. We know what didn’t work. That’s one less thing to try. So we try something else and if we try enough, we’ll land on something that works. Here’s the thing. We try, we fail, we’re gaining wisdom. In my book, gaining wisdom is growth. So is failure really failure?
Not in my world. Okay, so some projects I think should be screaming successes are moderately successful and some aren’t. But that isn’t failure. A year later, maybe ten years later, here comes that project again and this time it’s burning rubber coming out of the gate. My point is that few “failures” are permanent. Maybe it’s timing, packaging, world events. Maybe it’s the phase of the moon or something else entirely. I firmly believe that in its own time (in God’s perfect time) that project will find its feet and do just fine. Exactly what it’s supposed to do. (Did you catch that? Perks of projects with purpose that you love. You know that the project will achieve its purpose in its time.) And that, is success. So don’t fear failure. What looks like failure today can look stellar tomorrow.
How do you define failure? Success? If I sold one copy of say, a book, and that one copy touched the life of one reader and proved constructive for that reader, then every second I spent writing that project is time well spent. Now the world might see that project as a failure. I don’t. Failure is relative. Don’t fear it.
Fear of success. Over the years, I’ve watched person after person snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Some because it’s dawned on them that success brings new demands that take people out of their comfort zone. Some because they don’t feel confident or worthy of success. They fear that they can’t do what someone is paying then that much money to do. They’ve grown so accustomed to struggling that they aren’t sure they know how to live not struggling. It scares them. The thing is success varies from person to person. Many equate it to money, but that is so restrictive and not at all an accurate picture.
Every one of us defines success in our own way. For some, that is money. For others, it’s purpose. For still others, it’s to prove to themselves that they can do what they said they’d do that everyone else in their lives said they couldn’t.
You can’t measure yourself with anyone else’s ruler. Because even the best of others likely don’t know your definition of success. What matters most to you? What drives you to write? And if you’re successful, what about that scares you? Falling from the top? Being a one-book wonder that you spend the rest of your trying to pinacle again?
Rather than fearing success, discover why you’re afraid of it. If you don’t feel worthy, figure out why. I can’t tell you right now, we are all worthy of success. Whatever the fear is, face it, deal with it, and put it to rest. Whatever you do, it should be the time of your life—it is time from your life.
Once there was a writer who feared speaking in front of people so much she sabotaged herself and her work so that she could avoid it. She was successful in doing so. And that was such a loss. She was a lovely writer with so much to say that others longed to hear. But she let her fear of success steal her success. She deserved better—and so do you. Deal with it, and put fear in its place, which isn’t messing up your head or your house or your work. And don’t allow anyone else to define success for you. You know your purpose and yourself. You define it. Then go get it.
When you get to the bottom line, it’s about time. Spent wisely and not squandered, much can be accomplished. Wisdom requires discipline and, if a person takes care of the physical but neglects the emotional and spiritual, s/he’s in for a very rough ride. But when we tend to the whole of us, we exhibit respect for the truth. We acknowledge our most valuable resource: our time.
© 2015, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Bride, Shadow Watchers, Book 1. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact.www.vickihinze.com. Subscribe to Vicki’s Newsletter.