If Time is Money, How Can There Be Free Time?

I couldn’t help but look up the old axiom, “Time is money,” just to find out who first uttered this quote.  Not surprisingly, it was Benjamin Franklin.   In the future, I should just save myself some time by attributing any succinct, wise quote to Ben Franklin and be comforted with knowing that I’d probably be right at least 50% of the time.  That said, this post isn’t about Ben Franklin, but about the age-old paradox that if one subscribes to time as money, then by definition, carving out “free time” is a false pursuit.  It’s something we dream about (during periods where we could be doing something more productive no doubt), imagining if that if the world would just stop spinning for a few days, we might be able to catch a breather and recharge our batteries without believing that we are somehow sacrificing our livelihood.   So how do we serve our life and our livelihood?  How can we use our time more wisely?

Last week at Vistage, my colleagues and I talked about the top reason CEOs and senior executives balk at joining a peer advisory group.  Know what it is?  Time’s up.  It’s time.  It’s not about added expense for dues, questions about the potential value (personally and professionally) that can be gained, or a lack of willingness or understanding about how much there is to be learned from a group of peers from diverse backgrounds and industries.  It’s about the perception that as a CEO or senior executive, you believe it to be impossible to reserve one day a month to attend a peer advisory board meeting.   Here are five reasons I suspect are at the core of this issue:

  1. You believe in your heart of hearts that your company can’t live without you for one day per month.  If you take a moment to think about it, it shouldn’t take you much time to concede the point that this is a flawed excuse.
  2. That the peer advisory group meeting is time “away” from your company.  Physically, maybe, but as a practical matter, not at all.  By working with a board of advisors, you’re learning and receiving practical advice that can help you take your business to the next level and address some of the shared challenges you all face, particularly during these times of economic and political uncertainty.
  3. A lack of understanding about the personal benefits that can be gained by engaging with your executive peers.  At the office, you can work on your business, but it’s not so easy to work on your life.  As a peer advisory board member, you help one another do both!
  4. If you really believe that time is money, then it stands to reason you should be just as concerned with your Return on Time as you are the Return on Every Dollar you invest in your people, your company, and your myriad stakeholders (including yourself).   If you’re a business owner or have risen to the rank of CEO, follow Marshall Goldsmith’s sage advice that “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.”  If you’ve never joined a peer advisory group, you’ll be investing your time in a pursuit that can take you THERE.
  5. Admitting to yourself that your employees might actually benefit from a day where the boss isn’t in the office.  That’s not to say they don’t love you, but they could use a day a month too – maybe engaging in internal peer groups of their own.

I may be partial to Vistage, but I wholeheartedly encourage you to seek the peer advisory experience that best meets your specific needs.  Working on your life and your livelihood with a group of peers doesn’t serve as a withdrawal on the limited time we have in this world, it’s a deposit.  Just remember what Ben said.

Category: Leadership

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Avatar About the Author: Leo Bottary

Leo J. Bottary is an adjunct professor for two of Seton Hall University's graduate level programs in strategic communication and leadership.  Leo has enjoyed a 25-year career counseling leaders in the areas of strategic comm…

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