Time — the most important resource of all

Good time management is key, says John D Halamka

Time is the one commodity you cannot buy or make more of. It is our most valuable resource. As a CIO, I should allocate this precious commodity to those people and projects most needing attention.

I would really enjoy spending my days meeting with friendly, aligned and supportive stakeholders and focusing on the projects that are proceeding flawlessly. But my time is better spent on the stakeholders who aren't satisfied and the projects that are troubled by politics, scope creep or technical challenges.

Every day, my staff peppers me with questions on the budget, strategy and workplace politics. I should not be the cause of a slowdown in their productivity, so I respond within an hour with either an answer or a set of next steps. This is a great use of my time.

Every day, my customers ask for new projects, new priorities or new features. I respond with either a blog entry so that I widely communicate the answer, a personal email or a set of next steps (pulling in our governance committees to consider the request). This is a great use of my time.

Every day, I receive a hundred requests from salespeople for my time. I will not grant my time to cold-calling salespeople. As needs arise, I'll search the web for technologies and user experiences with various products. I'll then contact the vendors I want to talk to.

Every day, I receive numerous requests to travel to give presentations. I'm always happy to educate, communicate and collaborate. But whereas doing a conference call, WebEx meeting or videoeconference is a great use of my time, sitting in an airport for half a day because of a cancelled flight is not. I'm hoping our culture changes to the point that we all recognise the value of time and do more virtual collaboration.

The value of time has been much on my mind lately, and I realised that while it's true that you can't make more time, you can make a gift of it. I did this recently for my father.

I had a Google Advisory Council meeting in Silicon Valley that ended in the early afternoon. My parents live in Southern California, so I asked my father to fly up to San Jose.

We drove together through the most beautiful places in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I then dropped him off at the airport and spent the night in San Francisco before an early-morning board meeting.

I can think of no more profound gift than time; I would be completely content to never get another tie, CD or gadget for Father's Day if instead I could have the gift of time from my daughter for a walk in the woods or kayaking a river.

Next time you ask how to organise your day as an IT professional, think about the value of your time. Think about the needs of your customers, staff and family. If you think about your time as a gift and your most valuable commodity, I suspect your schedule may change. I know mine has.

Frank Hayes returns soon

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