In the U.S., November brings the celebration of Thanksgiving and a reminder to count our blessings. I am grateful to work on what I love, to enjoy the friendship of so many awesome Freeman colleagues and clients, and to be loved by family members who inspire me every day. Not surprising, each Thanksgiving my deep sense of gratitude evolves into a resolution to design my time better, so that it aligns with my priorities. I vow to spend more time focused on people and opportunities that really matter. I think I’m getting better at this, but I still fail when things that seem urgent displace those that are truly important. Meetings that run long. A stack of email in which I’m one of 100 people copied. Daily inefficiencies. Maybe this is something we can help each other eliminate.
Bruce Mau and I were chatting the other day about how time is the currency of modern marketers. With all respect to Benjamin Franklin, we agreed that his truism “time is money” is no longer true nor timely. Franklin’s “Advice to a young Tradesman” assumes that there is an excess of time that can be converted to ready cash. Work longer hours, make more money. This may have been sound advice 270 years ago, but in the 21st Century, most people I know would gladly pay any ransom to get back some portion of their hijacked time. In this sense, time itself is the treasure, and gold the means to redeem it.
We agree to this exchange more than we realize. Every time we pay more for the convenience of having something done for us or delivered to us, every time we use an app to shave minutes off a transaction, every time we choose a higher-priced custom solution over one that requires us to shop for what we want, we are buying time. What we do with that saved time is worth thinking about. Are we allowing people and things to drain away precious minutes that we’ve allotted to more meaningful things? Or can we commit to acting with intent by truly designing how our time is spent? We hear a lot about work/life balance, and it begins with design thinking. Considering our work goals, family goals and our personal goals, how do we want to spend the 24 hours of each day?
Yes, this is totally a #FirstWorldProblem. But the time/value transaction determines how our lives are spent, so it’s worth considering. We are all rushing around. But what are we rushing to? Something worthwhile? Something that helps a customer or a colleague? Or simply a blurb on the Outlook calendar that insists we scurry off?
Next, consider our impact on others. Are we respectful of their time, or are we in the habit of grabbing as much as we can get? In our industry, we need to design brand experiences in a way that helps both attendees and exhibitors make the most of the time they’ve invested to participate. For attendees, this means helping them quickly identify and experience things that align with their priorities. For exhibitors, it means facilitating the meaningful connections and leads they need to grow their business. For everyone involved, wasting time is tantamount to robbing them of their treasure. So we must design events to purge all the things that waste time: long lines, poor directional signage, pointless general sessions, etc. By respecting people’s time — by making each moment count — we give them more of what they prize most. And that builds loyalty.
Consider this less frequently quoted bit of advice from Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac” — "If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing."
We all want to spend our lives doing things that are worthwhile — things that matter — with the people who matter most to us. Let’s begin by being grateful for the time we’re given, and being respectful of each other’s.