While we have a wealth of technology in place to help our daily lives run smoothly at Q2Q IT, I enjoy nothing more than making a massive pot of tea, and settling down in a quiet corner of our Lancaster HQ to review what we – as a collective – have been spending our time on each month.

I often view our working minutes as currency, leaving the team to divvy up how they want to spend it each month – providing it’s used wisely. However, it’s important to highlight the difference between spending vs. investing when it comes to time.

Put simply, the notion of spending time on a task implies simply ‘getting it done’, whereas seeing your days invested in a project conjures up feelings of futureproofing or a quality output.

The scholarly view

Stephen Covey started the revolution of time management with his matrix of urgent/important and helping us to focus first on what matters most via 2D thinking. However, the flaw here was that prioritising doesn’t create more hours in a day – it’s simply allocating, juggling or borrowing minutes from elsewhere.

One of my favourite TedX speeches on this particular topic is from Rory Vaden (see below). Here, he looks at 3D vs. 2D thinking, and presents a new perspective on Covey’s theory, suggesting that ‘time management’ doesn’t actually exist – it’s more a case of ‘self-management’, as no one can control the ticking of the clock.

Any business owner worth their salt is aware of the multitude of tools available to aid efficiency, but often there’s no accounting for human emotion here. What a 3D approach aims to do, is add significance to the equation – including elements such as, how long the item is on your to do list, and the impact this might have.

Based on Covey’s principles – but with the emotional angle considered – Vaden suggests we should all follow these four basic steps when considering tasks:

  • Can I eliminate this? Give yourself permission to ignore the task, but if it really needs to be done, ask yourself…
  • Can I automate it? If so, invest the time up front to create a ‘return on time investment’ – similar to compound interest on your savings. But, if that’s not an option right now, consider…
  • Can I delegate this? You need to be ready for imperfection though, as the person you delegate this to may not do it as well as you! However, if there’s no one to delegate to…
  • Does is need to be done now? It’s okay to procrastinate! This may seem counterintuitive, but often if you put the task through the process several times it will eventually land on 1, 2 or 3 at the right time.

Rory sums up the Q2Q approach to ‘spending vs investing’ perfectly in his closing question: ‘What can I do today that will make the future better?’ He refers to people adopting this approach as ‘multipliers’ – meaning that time invested into doing something properly now will pay dividends in the future.

The real-life account

Put into practice, I use this question in our weekly internal customer review meetings – where the team discuss any recurring customer issues and look for patterns and clues to help unearth any underlying problems. From there, we decide on internal actions which might address the root cause of the difficulties.

In the world of IT support, fixing problems for customers is a huge part of what we do – but it’s how we do things differently that really counts.

At Q2Q we actively look to prevent problems – adding value to the customer proposition as well as saving us time in the long-run. We look to identify a permanent fix, as opposed to the sticking plaster approach which won’t prevent the issue from reappearing.

The team is always so busy, that even when we’re making small talk on the phone – before and after getting to the crux of the dilemma – it could be seen as detracting from time which could be spent fixing the problem.

However, at Q2Q, five minutes of chit-chat is actually us investing that time into the customer relationship and getting to know our clients. Something which pays us back several times over as the connection develops and trust is built.

How does it work away from the office?

I frequently translate this principle into my personal life too. For example, I gave up horse riding over a year ago following a scary incident that caused me to lose my confidence. Being very busy with family and running Q2Q, I delayed getting back into the saddle as I felt it was a frivolous use of my time – especially if I was going to spend the whole time worrying about a similar incident happening again.

However, I was really missing the horses – and the exercise – so I decided to approach it from a different perspective. I now view it as investing the time doing something that takes me out of my comfort zone and giving my brain a much-needed break from thinking about a million other things.

As such, the couple of hours a week I spend on the horse have massively benefited my confidence and given me the courage to try things I perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise done. Not only that, but it’s a good CTRL+ALT+DEL for the mind, as it’s really hard to think about anything else when you’re communicating with such an intelligent beast. I therefore view it as investing my time for a greater purpose.

So, during your next team meeting, consider if you’re going to be spending time discussing issues, or investing time in brainstorming how to solve, improve, or better still, eradicate them. Are you using words that suggest you’re heading for a solution, or simply thrashing out a problem and acknowledging that it exists?

Can you rethink how you spend some of your day, and view the time as an investment? What would you do differently if you approached it from this alternative lens?

While our bread and butter is IT support, if you’d like to chat about the unique approach we take to tech services at Q2Q, or simply invest some time in making connections with a SME owner, the kettle is always on at our HQ! Get in touch here.

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Technical IT Support illustration at Q2Q HQ Lancaster, Lancashire and the North West