Many moons ago, I was a salesman new to the media world, and I was young, hopeful, and indisputably did not know what I was doing. At another time we can get into the journey of how I got my position without being strictly qualified, but one way or another I was there, and I had to figure out how to make it work.

As part of trying to figure out how to make the position work and not lose the paycheck that I very much needed, I happened to sit through a seminar with a passionate speaker who shared their skillset, and I still remember that feeling of the world suddenly opening up to me.

Out of nowhere, the things that old salespeople told me off the cuff and without context were being explained as a process and tools that I could use in my career, instead of vague recommendations steeped in wit and a certain glib nature.

And one of the most helpful things I learned in that seminar, although I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, was something you’ve certainly heard dozens of times: time is money.

Undeniably, you’ve heard the concept before. But for me, hearing it and understanding it were different things. Before, I used to think that it simply meant, “Do things faster, go go go!” But it wasn’t until that seminar that I started to think of time as an asset that I could deploy to my advantage.

To get us thinking about this old phrase in new ways, the speaker wrote on the chalkboard (I’m dating myself, I know), “Time is…” and prompted all of us to fill in ways that time is money. After some ubiquitous dead stares, we started giving suggestions: Time is like money because you can spend it, save it, invest it, waste it, etc. We riffed for a while, but it the end one thing was clear: Time and money are both fungible assets.

Of course, being young and in the early days of my career, I didn’t incorporate this message as well as I could have, and I proceeded to create a work style that centered around trying to get too much done in too little time. And only as a manager did I realize that I wasn’t treating my time like it was my money.

But as a manager, you have to make a balance between the things that need to get done and the time available to you. And so I started looking at my time: Was I spending it wisely? Or was I wasting this resource on things that other people could have been doing? And that kind of examination is absolutely crucial to getting the most value out of your time.

This came up recently in working with an executive who has had a lot of success in growing their organization. A lot of success, in fact—about 50% growth in the last few years, largely driven by this individual’s zeal and enthusiasm.
As they’ve been adding people to their small-but-growing organization, the executive hasn’t really changed their routine to account for these new circumstances. In other words, the organization has acquired a lot of new resources, but those resources aren’t coming together cohesively because the executive self-selects what they do and when they do it.

I’m still working with this executive, and we recently started to talk about where, why, and how they’re spending their time. And a lot of that time is going to communicating with clients, something that this person loves to do, but probably isn’t the wisest use of time if their goal is to keep growing their organization.

And I want to be clear—the executive didn’t have to change anything, in the same way that nobody can stop you from spending your money on lottery tickets or expensive cars. But we talked about their options, and it took an investment conversation for them to decide if they wanted to spend their time in a client-facing position or if they want to spend their time growing their business.

Ultimately, this executive decided that their priority was in growing the organization. And in our conversation, we identified ways that they could secure their personal time and more wisely invest their time at work into projects and processes that will advance the organization.

We’re still in it, but I have every confidence that we’ll be able to keep finding ways for them to invest their time in a way that’s getting them closer to the goals that they want to reach. And while I don’t have a worksheet or a guided activity for you, I’d encourage you to think of how you’re investing your time.

So, how’s your investment working out?

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