This post title was updated 14.12.18 as it was brought to our attention that our original title used ableist language. We are grateful for this feedback as it has allowed us to become more aware and do better in future. We are sorry for anyone that may have been offended or upset by our original wording.

We do a lot of work with organisations to help embed new ways of working enabled by the digital workplace. One of the most commonly cited barriers to adoption of modern work techniques is employees who think they lack the time to try new things. More often than not, this objection comes from leaders, rather than front-line teams.

However, in reality this isn’t a barrier – it’s an excuse. There have been many studies over the years about the staggering number of hours organisations waste in non-value adding activity.

Released last year, ‘Time, Talent, Energy’ by Michael Mankins and Eric Garton, reported that one weekly leadership meeting they analysed soaked up 300,000 hours a year. Another middle management meeting totalled a cost of $15m annually. Forgive my eye-roll at anyone who suggests this is a better use of time than developing more responsive, modern ways of working.

Time is one of the most precious resources any team or organisation has, and yet it is shockingly undervalued in large organisations. This tolerance of wasted time is one of their biggest vulnerabilities in the fight against disruption. It unduly influences your organisational structure, process design, cultural values and leadership.

The good news is that how we manage our time is something we can control, unlike many aspects of transformation. This applies doubly if you are in a senior position.

Here are some practical steps you can take to help you start valuing your time more:

  • Work out your value Take a leaf out of the start-up playbook and consider your time in terms of cost. Work out, based on your salary and loaded costs, what a rough hourly rate for your time actually costs the business.
  • Map your time Keep track of how you spend your time on an hourly basis in your calendar, or on a notes app, for a week. Review what you spend time on and if it adds the value it should, bearing in mind your cost.
  • Raise and adjust From your tracking, consider what needs to change. When you are invited to meetings, or to feed into a discussion or task, consider if the value you create is worth the cost. If it is not, raise this with your colleague. Work with them to adjust their ask to make it better worth your time. Similarly, consider others time when asking for it. Is there a better way of achieving what you need that would use less of it?
  • Vote with your feet If your time is continually demanded for things that are not worth it, and they cannot be adjusted such that they are, stop agreeing to them. Since you have worked out the business case, it will be difficult for this decision to be challenged. Take confidence from this.
  • Encourage real-time collaboration to quickly solve minor issues that might otherwise stretch out over days of email tennis, such as picking a time for a meeting, agreeing an action or discussing a piece of information. Gently push back on email threads that could be better dealt with in real-time chat, and save time for your colleagues as well as yourself.
  • Form value-adding habits Hopefully, you have now created more space in your day for work that can add better value to you, your teams and the organisation. Some of that should be spent on developing better ways of working, so set aside some time – say 10 minutes every day – to discover and try new practices. Small changes made consistently over time is the true secret of transformation, after all.

As we approach the end of 2018, many of us have time away from work to look at the bigger picture, and make plans for next year. I urge you to think about how you can break out of this tolerance for time easting for you and your team using some of the idea above.

To further help, here are some additional links to reading on the topic that you can bookmark for the winter break: