Tag: time

We are all extremely sensitive to time. It is measured out for us almost everywhere we look. Alarms wake us up and clocks suggest when it is time for bed. We eat around noon and again around 6pm. Work is expected between 9am and 5pm and is often half-expected anything up to two or three hours either side.

Of course, we are not alone in our dependence on time. My dogs are fed every evening at 5:30, and from 5:20 they will gently remind me of their presence so they can be sure I won’t forget my duties.

We might make time to sit and breath during the day. Sometimes for ten or twenty minutes. Many people use gentle alarms to suggest when this time is over. And then we spend our days encouraging our minds to stay present in the moment. But what do we mean by that? How long is a moment?

A moment is usually thought of as being “a short period of time”. We think of it as being here now. But now is a tricky concept. If we say the word now out loud it only takes a fraction of a second, but the start of the n is at a different now than the last lingering w.

And thought usually precedes action. So if we think, “I am going to say “now“”, and then we say “now“, which is the moment we are interested in. The thought? The action? The start of the action? Then end of the action?

We’ve quickly fallen into Zeno’s paradox territory, where trying to break down a continuous flow into it’s instantaneous parts leads us in an infinite spiral towards zero.

If time is a continuous flow, then now is just a point in that flow. Trying to determine the position and duration of a single moment is like trying to isolate a drop of water in a great river. All we can be certain of is that we are looking at a huge mass of moving water.

But time is tangled up with space. There was no time before the big bang at the beginning of the universe. Time has flowed along with space ever since. So as the two concepts are so inter-twined, why don’t we instead consider moments in space rather than moments in time? We may be extremely sensitive to time, but we have an even greater connection to place.

When I am at the sink, I need to concentrate on doing a good job of the washing up. When I am at my desk working, I have to just focus on the task at hand. Let the moment be determined by the place, not by the time.

But now I have to run. I have a train to catch.

image by Magdalena Roeseler

A common objection to the idea of spending ten minutes a day sitting and breathing is, “I’m too busy. I just don’t have the time”.

Who has the time?

The only answer to that question is “nobody”. But of course, the question is an odd one because it implies that there is only one time, and that this singular time can be possessed.

Isaac Newton built his view of the universe on a single, perfectly linear idea of time. It starts at the beginning and carries straight on towards infinity. Or the end. Whichever comes first.

Clearly, if time is a straight line, it must, in some sense, be possible to travel along it. In 1895 HG Wells built his fictional Time Machine on this concept, and the idea of time travel has enthused millions of people ever since.

Imagine the possibilities! We’d be able to follow Frank Sinatra’s burger recipe, or grab next week’s lottery numbers, or speak firmly and persuasively to Hitler, or start a dinosaur farm…

Sadly for the “what if” fantasist in all of us, ten years later Albert Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity. To be fair, it took a while for anyone to figure what it meant, but broadly it explains that time travel was now possible, but only within certain virtually impossible parameters. Time, it transpires, isn’t a straight line at all. It bends and twists and speeds up and slows down depending on how quickly you’re travelling or how much gravity is thereabouts. It’s a mess.

But time only responds to what you are doing from the point of view of somebody else. In other words, we each have our own time. And, according to the ever reliable Wikipedia, “the rate of a clock is greatest according to an observer who is at rest with respect to the clock”.

Of course, this runs contrary to our own observations that a watched clock appears to tick more slowly than it does when we’re rushing around trying to get things done.

One way to get yourself the time to sit and breathe is to rush around as much as possible yourself. This would slow down the rate of the clock with respect to you. Otherwise, get your team (or your boss, depending on where you sit in the corporate pecking-order) to do the running around, forcing their clocks to slow down so that you can use the extra time you have for simply sitting without their noticing any fall in your output.

By far the best and most effective method to be sure you have the time to sit and breath is to accept that time is a construct of mathematics and convention. In fact, the only time that exists in any meaningful way is this exact moment. You should use each moment to its fullest potential. And if that means focusing on your breath, then you have all the time you need.

image by Oskar Karlin

 

 

Let me start by saying that anyone claiming your business can be more profitable simply by being on Facebook is a charlatan. Or an idiot. And I’m not sure which is worse.

For me, a Social Business is one that is outward looking. It genuinely cares about satisfying its customers. It not only acts on their feedback, it encourages feedback. A Social Business is innovative and responsive. And it isn’t necessarily on Facebook or Twitter.

Nice guys don’t get rich

Unfortunately, running a business in this way takes a lot of time. You must constantly analyse what is working and what is not. You must solicit, collate and build a plan around customer feedback. You have to stop running the kind of business that your bank manager wants to see in order to make it more social. All in all, it’s far easier to run an unsocial business. In fact, in terms of profitability and gross revenues, it seems make more sense to run an actively anti-social business. There are countless examples to back this up; in the banking sector; in flagrant multi-national tax avoidance; in tech companies’ increasingly closed, proprietary systems. The list goes on and on and gets longer each day.

If you’re here, there’s a good chance that you’re a nice person. And if you’re running your own business, large or small, you still need to sleep at night. We firmly believe that being nice and being in business need not be mutually exclusive positions.

A key characteristics of nice people is that they are open and welcoming to new people and ideas. They are willing to listen act on what they hear. It’s called empathy. The same is true for businesses.

Consider Twitter

In the early days, Twitter was held up as an example of openness. They had a simple but effective platform, but they were willing to let others develop on top of it, building their own ideas and ultimately growing the userbase for Twitter through their own efforts. Now think about the reception they get when they announce increasingly restrictive terms of use and effectively stamp out many fledgling businesses. I’m not judging Twitter one way or another. They’re clearly doing what they believe to be right, but I would argue they are losing their empathy. Whether this will be detrimental to their long-term goals is still up for grabs.

Time is money

According to Steven Covey, one of the habits of highly effective people is taking time for yourself; going to the gym, walking the dog, sitting and thinking. He calls it Sharpening the Saw and uses a story to illustrate the point.

“A man walks through a wood and finds a lumberjack logging a tree. It’s hard work. After a while the man notices that the lumberjack’s saw is blunt. “You need to sharpen your saw”, he says. “But I have all these trees to chop up”, responds the lumberjack. “I don’t have time to stop and sharpen my saw”.”

In other words, we need to make the time to stop and regroup, reorganise our thoughts, and consider new ways of approaching the future. We need to do this both as people AND as business people. A truly Social Business will build this time into its operations. And it may end up being a lot of time. And, in the short-term at least, time is money.

This is what kills many small businesses efforts on the Social Web. As we know, the Social Web is great for gathering feedback and engaging with your customers. However, most businesses aren’t set up to be Social from the start. They are built around a product or service that they believe to be great, so that is their main focus. When they decide to raise their heads and look at their place in the wider world, it can be quite scary. They are not prepared for the sheer number of man-hours that can be consumed. They have no mechanisms for using feedback constructively. So they flounder and withdraw.

Unless your business has a willingness to listen and people who care enough about their customers to act on what they hear, your Facebook page isn’t going to help your business grow. Your initially enthusiastic Twitter timeline will be unused and useless.

Take the time to stop. Spend time listening. Then act with empathy.

And sleep soundly at night.