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Not All Time Is Equal

The adage “time is money” prioritizes a regenerative resource over an irreplaceable one. The statement, and the underlying mindset, ignore opportunity costs. We can always acquire more money, but we can never recapture time.

Always trade money for time

This is the economic basis of companies. Trading money for the time of employees, contractors, and vendors to produce goods and services that, in turn, generate money.

How well is your company spending time?

The obvious answer typically focuses on projects. ALL. THE. PROJECTS. The what you are doing: new projects, initiatives, product development, client selection (or lack thereof).

And yet, it’s not about more.

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.

Steve Jobs

Do less.

Do less, better.

Ruthlessly discriminate between what you will do and what you won’t.

Time today is more valuable than time tomorrow. This week is worth more than next week. Both are 168 hours long. Yet, my success next week requires urgency and intentionality now. Next week will be too late.

The best time to plant a shade tree was 20 years ago…

This is crucial: how you spend time now determines the success of your company later.

The org chart of time

Typically, the most expensive time in a company is that of the CEO. This is the role that, generally, the company trades the most money for their time. And a good CEO - one that casts clear vision and creates an environment for employees to execute on that vision - is under compensated.

And even with that being true, the time of the CEO is not the most valuable.

The most valuable time belongs to those directly involved in creating the product or delivering the service. When the do-ers’ time is wasted (meetings, spread too thin on projects, lacking focus, not working on the most valuable work), the company’s ability to deliver on its promises is diminished.

When the United Auto Workers (UAW) go on strike, the auto industry comes to a standstill, restricted to selling from existing inventory. That’s a crystal-clear example of the true value of do-er time.

Ruthlessly protect the do-ers’ time as much as you do your brand, your vision, your company culture.

The stewardship of (employee) time

My charge is to steward (”spend”) the company’s most valuable resource: the time of our developers. My time is not as valuable as that of my development teams.

While it’s not itemized on my job description (maybe it should be?), the most important part of my job is to protect their time and ensure they are working on only the most valuable tasks at any given moment. It also means ensuring that vision and priorities are communicated, blockers removed, and decisions made.

If they work on the wrong thing today, we are that much further from converting their work (their time) into value for our customers. (Who, in turn, pay us. Cash flow is king!)


The best time to plant a shade tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.

ancient proverb

Time is an irreplaceable resource and more valuable than money. Companies trade money for time, but often misuse the latter by not focusing on the most critical tasks. Prioritize and protect the time of the do-ers, or those directly responsible for creating a product or delivering a service, as this time is the most valuable for the company’s success. Mismanagement of this precious resource will severely affect a company’s ability to deliver value.

  • Focus. Say no to more so that you can do less, better.
  • Optimize the work lives of those that produce revenue generating products.
  • Empower those that steward your most valuable resources to say “no” more - to clients, to co-workers, and even to the CEO. 😉