Insights and opinions on Information Technology from George Tomko, a veteran CIO turned renegade consultant.


Time is Your Only Inventory- Selective Engagement Time Management

Tied up in meetings all day? Every day? If so, you are failing – somewhere – and may not know it.

Talking with a consultant years ago, he told me that “time is my only inventory”. Essentially, he was saying that “time is money”. Over the years since, I have considered different ways of looking at this concept. Since we are all here for a finite period, you could look at it as a statement that recognizes that time is an asset that is in limited supply.


Eventually, I considered how fungible time is, in this context, and extended the idea to “time is my only inventory and has a short shelf-life“.

In other words, it expires. It is not infinite and should be used wisely. But, no matter what you do, it is the ultimate “use it, or lose it” proposition.

Which brings me back to the first question at the top of this post: “Tied up in meetings all day?”

For most, the answer is “yes”. Much has been written about how to make meetings more effective, productive, shorter, so I am not going to take that up here. What I will state is the obvious: meetings are one of the greatest thieves of time; of our only ‘inventory’; of our most precious and finite asset.

The fact that we call it being “tied-up” should be a clue that we are, perhaps, being held against our will; would rather be doing something else; or are not having a wonderful time. A bit more seriously -by tying us up, meetings are  limiting our effectiveness and ability to take care of business. The gravitational pull of all the things that are happening outside of the meeting room are mind-numbing and degenerating to the meetings themselves. Distractions are everywhere, as all manner of devices are beeping, vibrating, flashing, ringing, and keyboards (or thumbs) raging to text or e-mail or otherwise engage some outside party. ‘Can you repeat the question’ becomes the most common response to questions raised in the meeting.

How does this happen in the first place? Scheduling over the top. This idea that forces outside of our control can swoop in and take our time, even double and triple book our time slots, has flat-out got to stop. This is where leadership has to control the ‘tone at the top’, not by an edict to stop all meetings, but through more subtle, rational, trusting, respectful, aspirational and inspirational means – a strategy of “selective engagement”.

Selective engagement (Google it) is primarily a concept use in geopolitics and foreign policy. Realism, practicality, strategy, leadership and priority are key foundational elements.

The best leaders I have seen know (or figure out) how to selectively engage their teams and the issues and opportunities that they are arrayed to pursue. They know how to set expectations, provide direction and not unnecessarily “tie-up” the entire staff to deliver a message to one person.

So, as leaders pull boxes of an organization’s time “off the shelf”, they need to consider that there is no such thing as restocking or back ordering. Our inventory of time is non-returnable and non-refundable.

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