Every year on 6th September, National Read A Book Day celebrates the unique joy that comes from immersing ourselves in literature - an escape, an exploration, and an education all at once.
As we celebrate this day, I want to share with you one of my favourite books - 'The Future of Time' by award-winning author, Helen Beedham. This work of brilliance is a journey into the intricacies of time and for me offers a welcome new perspective on the persistent problem of time management. The book is packed full of practical tools that can be applied across roles and industries. Helen positions time management as a strategic business issue and artfully argues for a more effective approach to work that promotes well-being and job satisfaction. Thoroughly researched, logically organized and readily accessible, it's an outstanding 'must-read'.
The key message of the book is to be successful we must manage time more thoughtfully across teams and the whole organisation.
The Future of Time is divided into three parts:
Part 1 explores the problem with the way we treat time and the implications for business.
Part 2 describes what good time management looks like, with examples from organisations doing it well.
Part 3 shares how to diagnose your organisation's own time defects and make things better with practical tools for effecting change. The major obstacle here is change fatigue. Much of this section of the book is dedicated to how to successfully implement change through reworking time. Helen helpfully suggests that directly linking a project like this to a strategic business priority can help to get buy-in. For example, if the strategic priority is to grow the business by 10%, you can demonstrate how reworking time would help to achieve that.
For me, The Future of Time's most interesting concepts are:
There’s a double bind with time.
Working hours are going up, but productivity is going down. The UK seems to be the worst offender.
Time doesn’t hold equal value to us.
We don’t value time as much as money.
We don't value other's time, as we do our own.
Time management is the responsibility of the organisation, not just the individual.
We're more or less 'time blind.'
Our physical location changes how we value time.
We need to shift from valuing inputs to valuing outcomes.
And finally - the most useful appendix I have ever seen in a book!
This is where you'll find all the tools and resources you need to rework time. I most loved the ‘Team Time Contract’, which sets out how a team will work together. I have to admit my initial reaction to this concept was ‘Who would make time to establish a contract like this?’ but her sample contract is actually very thought-provoking.
It’s easy to see how a Time Team Contract could be transformative and it’s reminiscent of why I also spend time 'contracting' in coaching, by which I mean spend time upfront with coachees to agree what's going to happen and how we will work together. It’s a false economy not to do this if ultimately you want the best outcomes.
I also recognised some other links to coaching in that coaches excel at holding the space and ‘time’ for their clients.
Coaching can also dispel the myth that you need lots of time to achieve something worthwhile – a single 30 minute coaching session can change the course of your day, your week, and sometimes even your life.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone. I was therefore delighted to hear that The Future of Time: how ‘re-working’ time can help you boost productivity, diversity and wellbeing had been announced as the winner of the People, Culture & Management Book 2023 by The Business Book Awards earlier this year.
The Business of Being Brilliant podcast
Late last year, I had the privilege of being a guest on Helen's podcast where she talks to business leaders, academics, authors and workplace experts about how to change organisations for the better so that everyone can flourish.