Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Gift of Time

Time is the one commodity you cannot buy and you cannot make more of. To me, this means that time is our most valuable resource.

The role of the CIO to allocate their time to those people and projects most needing of attention.

Every day, I would really enjoy meeting with friendly, aligned and supportive stakeholders. I would really enjoy focusing on those projects that are proceeding flawlessly. However, my most limited commodity, time, is best allocated toward those stakeholders who are not satisfied and those projects which are troubled by politics, scope, or technical challenges.

Every day, my staff ask for help with budget issues, strategy clarification, and political questions. The CIO should never be the rate limiting step. I answer these questions within an hour of their being asked with either an answer or a definite set of next steps. This is a great use of my time.

Every day, my customers ask for new projects, new priorities, or new features. I answer with either a blog entry so that I widely communicate the answer, a personal email, or a set of next steps involving our governance committees to consider the request. This is a great use of my time.

Every day, I receive numerous requests to travel to give presentations to organizations both large and small. I'm always happy to educate, communicate, and collaborate. The challenge is the time involved in travel. Doing a conference call, webex, or video teleconference is a great use of time. Sitting in an airport for half a day because of a canceled flight is not a great use of time. I'm hoping our culture changes to the point that everyone thinks about the value of time and does more virtual collaboration.

Every day, I receive a 100 requests from salespeople for my time. Money is one thing you can always make more of. Time is limited. As I've said before on my blog, I will not grant my time to cold calling salespeople who email me about the wonders of their product. Stop trying. As needs arise I'll search the web for technologies and user experiences with them. I'll then contact you.

The reason that I mention this entire subject is that recently I reflected on the best gift for Father's day. Anyone can buy a tie, a CD on Amazon, or the latest gadget. However, the gift of time is more valuable. Here's what I did.

I had a Google Advisory Council meeting in Mountain View from 8a to 1pm. My parents live in Southern California. I asked my father to meet me at the San Jose Airport at 2pm and I picked him up in my rent a car. We drove together through the most beautiful places in the Santa Cruz mountains - Crystal Springs Reservoir/Filoli/Alpine Road, Highway 84 to Skyline Boulevard in the Santa Cruz mountains, La Honda, San Gregorio, Highway 1 to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and Pescadero. We had dinner at Duarte's, a 19th century restaurant which serves fresh artichoke dishes and homemade pie. We talked about life, goals, the future, family, and challenges. For 6 hours, we drove, talked, and turned off the cell phones. At sunset we returned to Skyline Boulevard (photo above) and played flutes together - my Shakuhachi and his Native American Flute. I then dropped him off at the airport for his return flight and I spent the night in San Francisco to attend an early morning Board meeting.

My daughter and I recently began playing the Native American Flute, so that we can have a family gift of time. My parents will join us on family vacation to Yosemite in August and we'll play music together across 3 generations.

To me, there is no more profound gift than time. If future Father's Days include the gift of time from my daughter such as a walk in the woods, kayaking a river, or playing a flute, I'll be completely happy.

Next time you ask how to organize your day, think about the value of your time. Think about the needs of your customers, staff, and family. If you think about your time as a gift and your most valuable commodity, I suspect your schedule may change. I know mine has.


Stu Parker said...

Wow. Is all I an say. I work at BIDMC and have been reading your Blog every so often when I have a chance, and can honestly say that you always have something insightful to say. I really enjoyed reading this Blog on "The Gift of Time"

Amy Christine Stiner RN, MBA, MPA said...

Thanks for this. My first dad died 20 years ago, and I remember wishing for more time. Then my "adoptive dad" was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer last August.

I told my company that I needed to fly home to spend time with him. When I got home, we raced in a golf-cart against a neighbour on a tractor--and won! (I let him drive even though he probably should not have been driving, considering the medications!) Two weeks later he passed away.

Yeah, it is all about the time.... Thanks again.

Bob Welsh said...

What a great post. I've been reading your blog daily since last November and I am amazed by your insight and your spirit. Thanks for sharing so much of your time with us. You eeven inspired me to create my own blog. Thanks again.

John Halamka said...

Thanks everyone for these supportive comments. I try to include the spiritual in my life to keep my perspective as to what is truly important in life.

Marc said...

This is going to sound weird, but it's a serious question: did you report your day in California as vacation time? If I were asked to spend the morning advising a company I didn't work for, I'd either say "no thanks, I already have a full-time job" or, if it was job-related, I'd at least feel an obligation to keep my cell phone on until 5 PM. How do you decide whether activities like this (i.e., in Health IT, but not a BIDMC project) are part of your job and how would you advise individuals in your organization (note: I don't work for you, but I do work in IT) to manage this in their careers?