For a rational leader, time is not money, it is much more

Giuseppe Ando
I
5
min read
For a rational leader, time is not money, it is much more
For a rational leader, time is not money, it is much more | peopleHum

Time is money! The first to pronounce this sentence was not Benjamin Franklin, as often handed down, but a Greek orator of the 5th century BC: Antiphon of Ramnunte. The phrase that Plutarch attributes to him can be translated as: “time is the most valuable or expensive thing”.Having said that, the question is: if time and money are the same thing, do they also have the same characteristics?Let's see the characteristics of money, understood as monetary value ( currency ):

  1. shortage
  2. fungibility
  3. divisibility
  4. durability
  5. transferability.

Why time is not money for a rational leader

Money must be scarce , by definition. The amount of money we hold represents our purchasing power. The more currency we have, the more we can buy. Obviously, the maximum purchasing power is represented by as much money as it takes to buy all the economic wealth in the world. But this is unrealistic, because it is possible to infinitely modify the value of the economic wealth of things, never having enough money to buy it all, or one would be forced to create money indefinitely, with the result that the relative value of money would be always lower than the total value of existing assets. 

Thus, money is "systemically" scarce. The currency is fungible both in terms of currencies (dollar, euro, etc.) and in physical terms of coins or banknotes. If we need to make a purchase for 100 euros, it matters little to have that particular banknote with that particular serial number, just have any banknote worth 100 euros. Likewise, if I'm in Japan or the United States, it doesn't matter if I buy in dollars or yen, the counter value will always be 100 euros. Leonardo's Mona Lisa, for example, is not fungible, either you have what is (unfortunately) in the Louvre or you don't have the Mona Lisa. The currency is divisible and that's a great thing. The divisibility of the coin allows you to enhance the big things and the very small. A car can cost 50,000 euros and a stamp 50 euro cents, everything is "priceable", thanks to the divisibility of the currency. Currency is a durable good.  

Money does not dissolve, does not wear out, nor does it perish. If we don't spend it and keep it, we'll find it intact. Today, then, that 95% of the currency is digitized, it exists and will exist as long as there is the network. The currency is transferable , fortunately. Indeed, the very function of money is to be able to be transferred and, with the transfer, to keep its value intact.Since time is money, does it also have the same characteristics as the latter? Let's see,  let's start with scarcity . How much time do we have? Of an amount sufficient to do what we need to do? Or, do we have less? Is it possible to have more time than we need? Unfortunately, we do not "own" time, but we consume it by living. We do not know how much time we can and will be able to have, so we can only live and, in doing so, as long as we are alive we “produce”, in a certain sense, the time we use. Therefore, time is less than scarce, it is an irreplaceable resource of which we do not know the extent to which we can dispose of it. 

Let's try to see if it is fungible. We said that money is fungible because it is not necessary to have that particular banknote, but any banknote of equal value. And for the weather? Well, we could say that an hour is an hour and, therefore, time is a fungible good. But are we sure? The hour that has just passed is indeed 60 minutes like the one that follows it, but they are not the same thing. That hour was that particular time of that particular day, that particular week, that particular month, that particular year and it will never come back. Therefore, time is not fungible. 

I cannot replace the time spent between 19.00 and 20.00 on April 30, 1950, with any other time. Each moment is unique. And what  about durability? Money resists over time, does not change, it always remains the same. But time does not stand ... over time. By definition, it is change in itself. Nothing is more changeable than the physical dimension that underlies the changeability. Therefore, time, by definition, is not durable, even though it is the unit of measurement of durability. Let's try to see if it's divisible. 

Here I would say that the thing is simpler. For example, an hour is divisible into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds. I would say there are no problems, right? Not exactly. The advantage of divisibility is given by the simultaneous use of fractions of value. If a car costs 50,000 euros and a stamp costs 50 euro cents, I can make the two purchases at the same time, having these sums available. But time can be divided a priori or a posteriori, that is rationally, before or after it has elapsed. Meanwhile, I cannot allocate an hour on one side and a minute on the other. I cannot, at the same time, spend an hour at the cinema and an hour with friends at the bar. Time is an   inseparable unicum.

We just have  to transfer it. Let's see, if I have to go to a conference that lasts an hour and ask another person to replace me, I have, in a sense, transferred an hour to someone. Or, we could say that if a colleague asked me to replace him in a meeting, and I accepted, I would have transferred the equivalent of one hour, which the colleague can use as he sees fit. I fear that even in this case we are not there. How can I transfer an hour of mine to another person? 

Is there anyone who has an extra hour, thanks to the fact that someone has given him an hour of his? I would say no. Time is not transferable, it is intimately connected to our existence and we do not have it. We can dedicate it to someone or something, but not transfer it. It seems clear to me that time is much more than money and, indeed, it has none of the characteristics of the latter. Therefore, time management is a very delicate activity and does not allow corrections. A rational leader organizes his time and disciplinedly follows the program he has set himself. 

It is good to know that each of us tends to waste time on non-essential activities. The frantic control of e-mails, telephone messages and the relative “unprovable” responses are the symptom of a neurosis that is not only attributable to the crazy use of new technologies, but is part of our neuro-behavioral tendency. Scientists call this "information seeking behavior" ( each of us is prone to waste time on non-essential activities. 

The frantic control of e-mails, telephone messages and the relative “unprovable” responses are the symptom of a neurosis that is not only attributable to the crazy use of new technologies, but is part of our neuro-behavioral tendency. Scientists call this "information seeking behavior" ( each of us is prone to waste time on non-essential activities. The frantic control of e-mails, telephone messages and the relative “unprovable” responses are the symptom of a neurosis that is not only attributable to the crazy use of new technologies, but is part of our neuro-behavioral tendency. 

Scientists call this "information seeking behavior" (information-seeking behavior ). Our mind wants information, it doesn't matter how useful it is, as long as it is information. Our dopaminergic system feels rewarded by this continuous and frenetic data collection. In the past, this obsessive gathering of information was our salvation, especially in hostile environments with looming predators and dangers. In our day, this behavior fuels our distraction from major goals and gives us back the anxiety and stress of productive deficit. We feel at fault and we blame ourselves, with the result that  we increase the time dedicated to work, but not our productivity .

How can this problem be solved?With planning based on objectives and priorities. I do not even dwell on the importance for a rational leader of setting goals and priorities, it would seem to me that I disrespect my reader. Rather, I would like to distinguish objectives from priorities. For many this will already appear clear, but many people tend to confuse the two terms and the related activities they entail. Let's start by making it clear that priorities refer to specific activities, "things to do". Normally, priorities relate to tasks that we have to carry out ourselves, for which we organize the day or at most the week. One priority concerns the present, it has a tight deadline. A goal is a result, an overall achievement. 

It's not about something I have to finish by today, it is rather a goal that I must reach in the medium to long term. To achieve a goal, a series of priorities must be lined up that mark my work from now until the goal is expected. And since we are talking about a leader and his team, it is good to specify that the goal is a common goal, the result of everyone's work. The agenda is the natural seat of our priorities, while a business plan or strategic plan are our goals. A rational leader is an organized person, who plans his week and disciplines his own planning. It is obvious that unforeseen or urgent situations may arise and, in these cases, it is even superfluous to specify whether to depart from one's program.

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