Mar 18

The value of time

Very early on in my career, I spent a short time at a games company back in the early Playstation 1 days. Making games required long hours, it seemed, and people stayed at the studio until around 10pm every night. Anyone who dared leave early was judged as they left because it’s hardly fair to leave your comrades working, is it? You have to pull your weight.

But it didn’t take long to notice that most people spent a large amount of their day not working. They chatted about football and Ministry of Sound and DJs. They made lots and lots and lots of tea and others were out for cigarettes every half an hour. It didn’t seem entirely productive. And it was easy to see why. There was a mentality of: well, I’m working late anyway so I can have these breaks and I’m still working hard.

And that rendered the late nights pointless. They were working late for one reason – because a working late culture had crept in. The truth was that nobody really valued the time.

Good time management is essential. And for you to be good at managing time, you have to be aware of its value. Every minute has to mean something to you.

A culture of working productively is fantastic. One of working long is not the same thing. Which is why I’m sure you all know some studio somewhere that has its people working late most nights yet constantly misses deadlines.

All time must be assigned a value. It’s how we can manage development and it’s certainly how we can manage production – juggling stories, scripts, animatics, animation, sound, editing and more on multiple episodes at once. And if things go wrong, the values assigned to specific blocks of time must be reassessed and redistributed. When you have solved that problem and are back on track, you then reassign the values yet again so that you’re not spending time doing things that now aren’t needed. None of that happens if you don’t value time as a precious commodity.

You also have to be aware that the same activities can carry different values in different situations. For example, wandering around a house with a coffee can be essential think time for a writer. For a train driver, it means they have skipped work and there are a lot of angry people waiting on a platform somewhere.

The same rules don’t always apply.

So to achieve good time management and get stuff done, appreciate the value of time. Evaluate and reevaluate it. Never take it for granted and never just slip into the habit of using it up for the hell of it.

One last thing: it is also imperative that you don’t take the time of others for granted too. Value their time. If you send someone a work email on a Sunday, for example, and it doesn’t go frontloaded with an apology you’re effectively saying you don’t value their weekend time unless it’s about a project you are both working on together and have agreed to communicate on over those periods. Even if they are choosing to work, that’s their time (thank them for that later). Draft the mail and send it on Monday. If you do have your team working the weekend, feel bad about it. Really. That will help you get better at managing the situation to avoid it happening in future. The worst thing is that you start to take it for granted. Because when the value of time slips, so will effectiveness and productivity.

Time must be valued and treated as sacred for you and everyone else to stay productive. And if that’s not reason enough, keep in mind that it eventually runs out for all of us. You’ll want to feel you used it wisely.

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