How much run time is running your life?

We often hear the word “run-time” but what does this word really mean? Technically, it refers to the time that a computer is running a program. Personally, I think of it as the time I spend running my computer and the time I must spend to deal with it. I have too much “run time” in my life. My computer often feels like it is running my life: emails, spam messages, viruses, run-time errors and other problems caused by this high-tech piece of equipment. I often joke that when I retire I am going to drop my computer into the biggest lake I can find or use it as a boat anchor while fishing.

We invent labor saving devices to save labor and they end up taking over our lives and costing us our sanity. Computers, cell phones, PDA’s and Blackberries have become Frankenstein like monsters. We can’t live without them. Some people take them to bed or even in their showers. They become an extra appendage. We have portable batteries and portable rechargers so that we never run out of energy for these devices. While the devices may never run out of energy, we sure do. Human beings were not designed to be run 24-7. We need downtime as well as runtime and even more rest time or perhaps some relaxation time. Our ubiquitous productive tools beep, ring, chirp, hiss and vibrate at us in a never ending chorus to get us to be more productive. Several popular science fiction stories have foretold the day when robots that take over and enslave civilization. Perhaps that day has already arrived.

Are you controlled by your computer or other labor saving productivity tool? Can you turn it off for a day or leave it home? What would happen if you did? Who will get mad at you if you do not answer their email today? How far behind the curve would you be if you did not answer your cell phone today? What might it do for your stress level if you had less “run-time” in your life? What if you had a “down time” day once a week? Do you have a cell-phone ringtone for compassion and kindness?

Well, folks, I am going to Belize today and will not be back until the 5th of April. I am going to get ten days of “downtime.” I will be back on the 5th and resume my blog then. Hopefully, I will use this time to think of some creative blog ideas and to rejuvenate my life. John

How about writing your eulogy today?

Have you ever written your eulogy? A eulogy is a formal memorial speech delivered when someone dies and usually at their funeral. We have all been to a funeral where we were very moved by the oration that a friend, family member or pastor gave. Most of the time, these were written after the person died. Sometimes they hit the mark and really describe the person and other times not as well. What someone would say about us, might not be what we would want to say ourselves. Unfortunately, there is no coming back after the fact to write our own eulogy. However, you can write one now.

Why would anyone want to write their own eulogy you might ask? Not because you will be better able to tell the truth about yourself; though this would be a pleasant change from the usual glowing eulogies. The answer is because it can help you to see what is most important in your life. It will help you to address the issue of whether you are really working towards what is important. When you are dead and buried will you be remembered for what you were trying to accomplish in life? Perhaps not! But perhaps thinking about what you would like to be remembered for now can help focus you on your goal.

This is a common exercise in many human relations classes. It is very simple. Just imagine that you are at your own funeral. The speaker is up on the podium getting ready to talk about you to the assemblage of friends and families. What would you like that person to say about you? What activities, events, goals and aspirations do you want to be remembered for? Write them all down. You have now written your own eulogy.

Now for the hard part! Looking over your eulogy, how does it sound? Is it realistic? Do you think someone would really say that about you now? Why or why not? What would you have to do to change in your life to make your eulogy real? How much time do you have to change your life around? It is never to late too start!

Do you understand process time?

Process time is a common term in business. When I first started doing TQM (Total Quality Management) consulting, it became very important to start thinking of everything in business as a process. The key to process consulting was to believe that all processes could be improved if they were first understood. Using TQM methods, we could better understand all organizational processes and continuously improve them thereby lowering costs, improving productivity and increasing customer satisfaction. The atom of business was the process and to understand the business, you had to understand the core processes.

I soon came to realize that these same concepts could be used to improve my personal and family life. I began to realize that everything we do in life is a process and that by better understanding those key processes that affect my life, I could also continuously improve my family and personal life. There are communication processes, argument resolution processes, financial processes, vacation time processes, family together time processes, personal growth processes, child rearing processes, retirement processes and many others. The more I understand them and how they can be continually improved, the better my life is. Indeed, by applying the same principles to may life that make a business successful, I have learned to improve my life and vice versa. Whatever affects my personal life affects my business life.

The task of “process understanding” is not an easy one. In fact, it is never ending. There is always more to be understood when studying a process. The major consideration is that you never have to be perfect. The more you understand the better things will get. We spend all of our lives engaged in process time activities. It only makes sense to look at what we are doing and try to find a better way to do it. What key processes affect your life? Which of these are you improving and which of these are you ignoring? Why are you ignoring them? What processes could you do more work on to improve? How could you start? Would it make a difference in your life? Then why not start now? Who could help you get started?

How much "Dead Time" do you have?

What does it mean when we say it is: “Dead Time?” One definition is: “Dead time is the time on a job lost by a worker without his fault.” A second definition deals with time that cannot be recorded between two events as measured by some type of electronic measuring device. Dead time for us personally seems to be the time in our lives when we cannot accomplish anything due to some problem or failure that literally stops time for us. In my life, dead time is the time just before I fall asleep or the time when I am waiting in traffic and cannot do any work. It is the time that it takes in the morning for my mind and body to start functioning.

Each of us has many examples of dead time in our lives. Some of us have more of it then others. Often, we try to find ways to make such dead time productive but it is not always possible to do so. Cell phones have enabled a great many people to use the “dead time” while driving to and from work to make important business calls or transactions. Some people make this “dead time” productive by playing book CD’s in their tape drives and using the time to learn something or to be entertained. We have a great many instances of dead time in each of our lives. Some of these times are foreseeable and inevitable. Some happen randomly and unexpectedly. Like, when you are taking a short ride and get stuck in a major traffic jam. You can easily lose an hour or so when this happens.

How much dead time do you have in your life each day? What do you do with your dead time? Are you able to turn it into some productive use? Could you use it to relax or even to meditate? Few of us do enough relaxing or meditating. Either of these could be a very productive use of time. Does dead time really have to be dead? It all depends on your creativity.

How much downtime do you have?

Downtime! How that one word strikes joy in our hearts. Historically, it is derived from a machine or system that is no longer up and running. Today, it means that your computer system at work has crashed and you cannot get anything done. When IT systems crash today, we are all in a quandary with what to do during downtime. Nevertheless, there is real joy during periods of enforced downtime. The opposite of downtime is uptime. When was the last time you heard anybody excited about uptime? As in, “boy, I hope we can have more uptime today!” Not very likely! Uptime is taken for granted since uptime is when things are running normal and we are expected to be creative, productive and industrious. We cannot goof off during uptime since the machines and computers are running and all systems are set on go. Thus, we go, go, go. We become like machines ourselves, except we cannot turn off between 9-5 unless we have lunch or a scheduled break. Downtime gives us a brief but unexpected break from our daily tedium.

We may all need more downtime in our lives. However, downtime is not promoted as a value or as something to aspire to. Have you ever heard of anyone negotiating downtime in their contract? Have you ever heard of a Union arguing for more downtime? Downtime is regarded as the enemy of productivity. Vacations, holidays, time off, sick days are all a form of “planned downtime.” However, many of us are too busy to take “planned downtime.” Some of us run and run until stress or illness forces downtime. The body takes over and says “enough is enough.” We all know people who never take breaks or who seem to always be on the go. Then the day comes when their system crashes and illness or stress puts them in bed or the hospital. Many of us do not take good care of ourselves to prevent stress and thus avoid “system downtime.”

Do you ever plan your own downtime or do you wait until either you or your computer crashes? What stops you from taking a needed rest or unenforced period of downtime? Are you really so essential to the job or activity that you cannot take a break? Can the world live without you for a day or so? Stress is a major cause of illness and most of us have too much in our lives. Perhaps if you plan your own downtime today you can look forward to your uptime tomorrow.

Are you an analog or a digital person?

Digital time versus Analog time. Have you ever thought that the world could be divided into two kinds of information? Analog is where the information is a continuous flow. Examples are the old 33 1/3 LP records. Watches with a sweep hand are another example of analog time. Now we have digital CD’s and DVD’s which are numerically encoded. Watches with a sweep and hour hand are more of a fashion item today and many of us wear digital watches. Even digital watches are being replaced by those who use cell phones for their time needs. Movies are now becoming digitized where they had been primarily analog. The new 3D movies use digitization methods for their effects. Of course, computers are the essence of digitization. Everything we do with our computers is based on bytes and bits.

Digitization is remaking our world. While analog signals once ruled the information world, today we are living in a digital world where information flow is ruled by numbers. Does it make any difference? Some people argue that the old type of records had better fidelity than the new digital records. Many researchers find that qualitative information (interviews, focus groups) is more useful than the quantitative information found in surveys, Gallup Polls and other numerical rating systems. There are pro’s and con’s to each system but there is little doubt that digital signals are replacing analog signals in our emerging global interconnected marketplace.

In terms of personal time, are you a digital or an analog person? Digital people see the world broken into discrete increments of time, like minutes and seconds. Digital people must multi-task to manage their time. They cannot stop moving from texting to emailing to blogging to tweeting. Analog people see the world as a continuous stream of activities and events. Analog people go with the flow and tackle tasks one at a time. The analog person will rely on the phone or voice mail to make connections to the rest of the world.

If you are a digital person, how do you think your view would be changed today if you thought like an analog person? Vice versa, if you are an analog person, how do you think the world would look today to you if you thought like a digital person? Can you switch perspectives or do you find it impossible to think in such a contrary manner? How do you think your children see the world? Do they see it as a continuous flow of action or as a series of discrete events? Can you see the difference it makes in how we view the world and how each generation responds to it?

Are you obsessed with being on time?

Late-Late-Late! We all know people who are late all of the time. Late to events, late to work, and some would joke, even late to their own funerals. It is easy to find excuses for being late and we could each name a dozen “excuses.” People who are chronically late would call these reasons and not excuses. To those of us who make a point or habit of being on time, it is very difficult to tolerate the lateness of others. We see it as inconsiderate, rude and thoughtless. We see it as preventable with some advance planning and foresight. Nevertheless, we don’t seem to be decreasing incidents of lateness in the world or changing those who are chronically late.

Maybe, those of us who are chronically on time are the real problem. Was the world really meant to be run by a clock? Maybe the punctual have capitulated while the “latecomers” are the real rebels. Fighting against the dictates of the almighty clock and the culture of promptness ushered in by our advanced industrial and digital society. Perhaps, the “latecomers’ are living time in a more natural manner where life is based on cycles and not on a clock. The punctual person is driven by the time of day and the time designated by a tacit contract. The meeting will start at 8 AM. Be there or be late. The latecomer is driven by their own necessities and by an inner clock: “It is still dark out;”
“I am too tired to get up yet;” “So what if I come late, it’s not the end of the world;” “I have more important priorities;” or “I don’t feel like rushing.” The punctual person is horrified by these excuses: “What, I broke my neck to get here on time and the meeting was cancelled.” Life is not fair to the punctual person. But what do we tell our kids about the fairness of life?

Do you suppose hell is a place where everyone must be on time or suffer even worse punishments? Hard to imagine what could already be worse than hell. What happens to the late comers in hell then? What about the punctual? Are the places in heaven guaranteed only for the punctual? Can you be punctual and still go to hell?

As you go through today, how obsessed are you with being on time? Is there a place in your life for “time cycles” and not clock time? What if you are late? What difference will it make? Can you be late and not feel obsessed? What does it mean to walk a line between obsessive punctuality and perpetual lateness?

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