O P I N I O N
Lack of time is good for you
Time limits tighten focus, propel you over challenging hurdles, and maximize your chances of success.
T ime. Somehow there is never enough of it. No matter how fast you go, time goes faster, leaving you anxiously behind. And yet, scarcity of time provides an invaluable asset that forces you to work quicker, better, and smarter.
A FORMATIVE LESSON ON TIME. I discovered the value of time pressure after surviving a graduate school rite of passage called the “Hebb Seminar.” Led by Donald O. Hebb, a premier psychologist and exacting professor, the course tested students for grit, tenacity, and ability to learn, quickly. The seminar required us to make three presentations on complex topics within assigned time limits of five, 10, or 15 minutes. Professor Hebb offered no forgiveness on the time. If you were tempted to stray past your limit, he’d wordlessly tap his pencil on the table when 30 seconds remained. No one dared to run over. For one assignment, I had 10 minutes to discuss the work of William James, a 19th century philosopher who wrote about practically everything. Even the sound of the topic triggered panic, but with only two weeks to digest acres of material, I couldn’t afford to freeze in fear.
Instead, I nervously armed myself with a pen, buried my head in the books, and went to work. Two weeks later, I stood in front of the seminar and delivered my speech in nine minutes and 45 seconds. I also learned a lot about William James. THE GIFT OF TIME PRESSURE. A leadership program colleague asked, “Which is most critical to business growth? Time, money, people, or strategy?” Answer: Time. After all, if you had an infinite amount of it, you could always achieve something. However, because you will never have infinite time, you have to manage it as your most precious resource. Limited time means focusing on what is essential to your mission, ignoring white noise, and keeping your eye on the prize. That is what I experienced in my graduate school seminar and in countless examples since.
See JULIE BENEZET, page 4
THE ZWEIG LETTER FEBRUARY 8, 2021, ISSUE 1378
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