Finding time. Taking time. Losing time. Wasting time. And that’s just a short list, isn’t it? It’s interesting to think about all of the ways we talk about time. We talk much the same way about money and space, don’t we? It’s no surprise that these may be the most precious resource on a college campus. Every campus I know has wrestled or will wrestle with the fair allocation of one or more of these. What do we spend our time and money on? How do we allocate money and space fairly across enormously complex and diverse organizations? We can spend a lot of time discussing money and space, can’t we? And of course, each is a precious resource and they really are intertwined. It takes time and money to create new spaces on campus. It takes mental space to create new ideas.
I’ve often said that on a college camps, space is more precious than money and time may be the most precious resource of the three. But I’d like to think of space in a more metaphorical way. I’d like to think of using time to create space for ourselves to think, to rest, to create, to play. It’s something many of us struggle with in our busy lives. For many of us, that challenge only increased as we moved to work from home nearly a year ago. So to create opportunities for reflection and creation, we have to make time.
And really, we all know how to make time, the tougher issues is deciding to do it. And enlisting the support of the people around you to make it work. This morning, in a New York Times newsletter article about former Secretary of State George Shultz, there was a recommendation to try a ‘Shultz hour’. Once a week he closed the door to his office and sat down with a pen and a pad of paper. There were only two people who could interrupt him, his wife and the president. From that newsletter: “Letting your mind wander, Sandi Mann, a British psychologist, has said, ‘makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas.’ The author goes on to say that the Dutch even have a word for this, niksen, the art of doing nothing.”
It’s something many (most?) leaders aren’t very good at. Leaders often feel the need to use every moment of this precious recourse to the fullest. We have to accomplish something every minute of the day. But what if the way to accomplish the most, was to find time to do the least? What will it take for you to create the space to have the time for an hour for niksen? For some of us, it will require a negotiation with the people who share space with. For others, it will require a bit of money – can you pay for a couple of hours of babysitting time? For some, it may require teaching your children the value of doing nothing, the creativity that comes from being “bored.” It will be different for everyone and it may change from week to week. But I encourage you to give it a try. You may be surprised that it is time well spent.