One Idea : Time (Aristotle to Heidegger)

What is time ?
This is one of those questions that actually has no definitive answer. It could be that time is the movement of the clocks but fundamentally, what is time ? Is it just a notion that humans have applied to understand the change of states ?
So it only exists in our mind and is not related to the universe itself.
or is it just the result of the universe expansion and what we feel as Time is just the side effect of that ever expanding universe ?

Aristotle stated:s

Time is the most unknown of all unknown things

Time is a very abstract subject that is in the frontier of Philosophy and Science and can be discussed for hours and hours without the beginning of an understanding.

That doesn’t change the fact that Time is important. Especially for us, in consulting or project management. Whenever we are dealing with projects we are faced with this notion that needs to be comprehended and tamed as much as possible.
We will see that time is not the same for everyone and that you can have different strategies to try to control it.

Time is personal

First of all, we can do a first assessment, we are not living time in the same way. We are living Time relatively based on the amount of time that has passed since we were born.
Let me explain:

If you would have to wait a year to buy a new car or a certain thing, that amount of time will be feel differently if you are 10 or if you are 30.
The reason is that 1 year is 10% of your life when you are 10 but only 3% if you are 30.

So when we are talking about time we are not perceiving and understanding the same thing, depending our age and experience.
You may tell me that I take very extreme examples and in our field we will not have the same difference in time, the difference of 1 year for a 30 and 40 years old is 0.5%. :
1 year for 30 years old is 3% and 2,5% for 40 years old.

However, our lifetime is not the only thing that influences our comprehension of time because time is also contextual.

Time is contextual

Time is also contextual for everyone, a person that is in a company for 5 years and has seen a lots of projects will not be trouble for a year project but as a consultant, just starting in your project, thinking of a end-date that is 365 time longer than your first day is quite an important effort.

External Consultants and Project Managers live in a different time frame than the other person in a company. Time is actually what they are selling and trying to optimize on a daily basis.

It doesn’t depend on what we are doing but a day will always have 24 hours and you have mostly only 8 hours per day to realize your work. This is a constant and it makes time a very valuable things. From the very beginning, for everyone, humans to companies there is only a limited amount of time available.

Time is precious

In an analytics world that is more and more technical, where the (technical) knowledge are more and more the top priority for new consultants and project managers, time is really precious. It is required for scoping, or for management itself.

Being technical by nature, I feel that what I am trying to achieve for my clients is not providing tools or data. It is to gain time.
Time is (one of) the only things that money can’t buy.

And that statement shifts the work of a consultant, your most precious advantage is not your technicality. I know way better consultants than I and they are far less technical than I am. Your competitive advantage is how much time you can make your client gain by working on the project.

Consideration of time

There is this interview of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, where, during the discussion, they discuss the time management strategies they have., or had (video here)

I do think that perception and management of time is part of successful consultant career and there may be some answer to that with philosophers.

Heidegger stated:

Once a human is born, he is already old enough to die.

It means that we need to take full consideration of our mortal status. The same applies for projects, they do have a mortal condition. We need to know that each project has an end date and our jobs is to optimize the time spent, the duration, of that project.

In that aspect, I will give some advice, that are personal but I feel can help managing time on your project:

  • Identify your biggest time consuming tasks at the beginning of a project.
    It is always good to consider them and ask yourself if you can either optimize or start with them.
    Therefore, the most probably delays are known first.
  • Time is constant: So no more stress 10 mn before than 1 hour before a deadline.
    Being stressed for a deadline can happen but it is not making sense to get more stress as project progress (for scope and total amount of work constant).
  • Define what impact you can make on the project timeline and accept time waste for things you cannot move.
    It is easy to get irritated or stressed about part of project that are not realized in time but if it is not up to you, then you just have to live with the result.
  • Tools are made for gaining time not for comfort.
    It is easy to use tool because they are the ones you always used in your project. However, try to reflect if they are actually the most efficient way to solve your problem or answer your request.
    Getting rid of time consuming part of your project by efficient tool or method is something that should be identify at the beginning of the project.

I hope this article gave you some nice thoughts on time in Consulting, it is not an easy subject as so much things can be said on Time. However it would be shameful that we don’t take some time to think about it. 😉

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