Don’t waste people’s time

Time is a precious commodity. If traded on the commodities market, its value would be incalculable. But alas, time cannot be bought or sold. And while the length of our lives varies and is unpredictable, the number of hours we have in each day is fixed.

Many books have been written on how to maximize your time. Read them and learn. You are the steward of your own time.

This essay focuses on the negative influence that people can have on other people’s time. In other words, if you want to waste your own time, that’s up to you, but don’t waste my time. Likewise, I don’t want to waste your time.

So let’s agree…

Be punctual.
If you have an appointment with someone at 1:00 p.m. and you arrive at 1:05, you have squandered five minutes of her time. To be on time you must be early; it’s nearly impossible to be precisely on time – time is moving too fast. For instance, if a meeting starts at 1:00 you can’t walk in 1:00 – that occurs in a milli-second and then becomes the past. You must arrive before 1:00.

Be organized.
When you are responsible for a project that involves other people, you must be organized or you’ll waste their time. You must predetermine what needs to be accomplished and know the quickest way to do it.

Plan ahead.
Plans exist in the future. The past is history, the present is reality. Always have a plan for what the future can look like.

Be decisive.
Often, it is wise to postpone a decision until it must be made – careful contemplation and monitoring changing variables are good reasons to delay a decision. But when a decision needs to be made, do so.

Be quick, not slow.
By and large, slow is not good. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE would ask his protégés, “Who wants to be slow?” It was a rhetorical question; I hope no one raised his or her hand.
While it’s good to be thorough, careful, wise, circumspect, cautious, and deliberate – don’t be slow.

Monitor conversations and keep them on track.
When you and I are talking to each other, let’s pay attention to what we’re talking about and use our time wisely. For instance, don’t spend time talking about irrelevant topics.

Anticipate
When I was 13 years old, we lived next door to an engineer whose hobby was rebuilding Volkswagen engines. One summer I served as his apprentice, so on warm summer evenings we rebuilt engines in his garage.
One of the first lessons he taught me was, “Don, try to anticipate what needs to happen next and act accordingly – hand me the right tool, fetch the next part to be installed – always be thinking two or three steps ahead in the process.”
That’s a great lesson to learn because it saves time.
Understand what can happen simultaneously and what must happen sequentially, and act accordingly.

Pay attention.
President Reagan was buried on June 11, 2004. It was a dreary, rainy day. Nancy Reagan and her family stood in the drizzling rain to watch the casket being taken from the Capitol Rotunda to the National Cathedral. A young military escort held an umbrella over Mrs. Reagan to shield her from the elements. In a moment of mental lapse, the young man allowed the umbrella to drift off to the side, exposing Nancy to the rain. She reached up, grabbed the man’s hand, and yanked the umbrella back into place.

Ouch. I can just imagine what the young man’s commanding officer might have said to him after the funeral: “Son, your only job of the day was to hold an umbrella over Mrs. Reagan. That’s not a difficult assignment. Millions of people were watching. What were you thinking?”

A Boy Scouts leader used to tell his boys, “If you are early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late you owe everyone ice cream.”

Don’t waste people’s time.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t waste people’s time

  1. Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your essays in my inbox. While I have to admit I don’t get around to ready every one, this one seemed highly applicable to a conversation I was having with a colleague. Thanks for writing. I’ll be sharing it!

  2. Like many others I am quite busy and have shrunk from reading most emails that are to encourage and inspire, but not yours. I find your work applicable.

    I’m a Christian writer and have published with many well-known companies. With your permission I would like to use this recent email as your quote in a book entitled “Healer of the Wounded.” It’s about God’s Holy Spirit and how He has come to help and comfort, especially, broken people.
    Ray Beeson
    rbeeson500@aol.com
    Or call me at 805-701-1902 and leave a message. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Ray, for getting in touch. I’ll respond to your email. I would be happy for you to share my thoughts.

  3. See you’re still using that brilliant mind of yours! Still miss you at FBCGV after all these years! A special gift you were at our church!

    • Shirley, it’s so good to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to write. I have fond memories of our times together at FBCG. I hope you are doing well.
      Don