The essence of time

Welcome to the XXIst. century, where almost everything needs to be measured, counted for and tracked, as meticulously as possible. Did Abraham Maslow do our era a favour? What he defined as fundamental in life moved to the business section, and Time has fallen into one of the categories. Measuring and valuing the intangible can sound like a wishful thinking. Is it though?

B2_-_ClockProducing logistics project plans, I base my targets on a timeline, making milestones objectives associated to a hard date. Understanding what needs to be done and by when, I usually work backwards, from the finaldeadline. I make every effort aiming for SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time based). Logically, because a logistics road map involves people, I allow a buffer (i.e. extra time) for the unexpected parameters. How much, you ask? How much time is essential for the project to run as smoothly as possible and to be delivered on time, on budget and as promised? So many time references, so much to do, and so little time to manage it!

Intimidating question, indeed: getting a feel of how Time is perceived, used, managed, and sometimes abused (it is a commodity to some, after all) within the project environment (location, equipment, tools, team, partners) is critical in order to grasp its magnitude. Keeping in mind that Time remains one of the scarcest resources in our modern world, the pressure stays high when Time becomes part of a contract clause which reads “Time is of the essence” requesting proper performance and punctual completion of the job· agreed upon (the “A” of SMART). Failure to comply may represent a breach. I have sat in what felt like never-ending negotiations on that detail only: fairly ironic to spend so much time on attempting to re-define both the extent and the idea of Time.

Time is running, yes. Now what is the best pace to adopt? Seasons, sunrise and sunset used to be the cardinal points to schedule an event, and time management was not different: it still is about how one gets prepared to the next deliverable s/he has planned. To lay out a planning and operations phase, smart phones and computers are helpful. Yet, these are only tools: getting organised, outside of these artificial brains, is fundamental. The success of a logistics plan partly relies on that: being able to coordinate an emergency situation without having access to “modern” instruments (think of the humanitarian field in remote locations as an example – Remember: “R” is for Realistic). Being on time is great, being prepared is essential.

Our little planet will keep rotating around the sun: having a sense of East/West can be a good start to understand the concept of time(and, while we are at it, space too). Know where/when you stand, forget anticipation, pay attention to your gut feeling (that might point out whether it is the right time or not) and start planning. In a timely manner, of course.

Image courtsey of Healingdream