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Time Is Money, Really?

Avinash Sethi
Avinash Sethi
Chief Marketing Officer, 
Innovize Tech Software
Everyone believes that time is money but I have yet to see companies that have a Time Accounting system like they do for Cash Accounting. This is quite intriguing and makes it clear that companies and even individuals do not take time as seriously as cash. This is ironical especially in today’s knowledge economy where individual time and team effort are acknowledged as the biggest driver of output.
Why this anomaly, where we track cash diligently but take time for granted?

One reason is that time is an intangible form of currency, and therefore one is not reminded of its importance every time you spend it (or more correctly, let it slip through). On the contrary, cash reminds you of its importance and value every time you spend. We are trained to regulate cash expenditure with caution.

Another reason is of denomination. Cash notes have a denomination printed on it. We can see the value of the paper note that we spend. We get a receipt if we use plastic (credit or debit card). The reminder prompts us to assess the value that we get in return – did I get my Rs. 1,000 worth of value from the product or service or experience?

Finally, unlike cash which one can run short of, time appears to be infinitely available. This is especially true of India - where the concept of eternal time is embedded in our psyche. Regret for lost time occurs only when it is too late.

Cash Is King, But Is Time the Emperor?

It is not surprising that we don’t quite know how much time was spent on actual work while in office. It is easy to spend one hour or more at the company cafeteria, playing table tennis on the office campus, or tracking India's batting team collapse and the latest scam on the web. That one hour has no way to remind us of its value. It could be worth $20 if that was a billable hour for a client, or it may be worth a million dollars if it results in some innovation. Who knows?

This "Who Knows" is precisely the problem. It needs to be corrected – especially in today's services oriented businesses, where time is more important than money (because ultimately, time drives output, which results in revenue). If the quantum and quality of time and effort is improved, then the financials will follow.

The Services sector accounts for more than 55 percent of India's GDP today. Time is the biggest resource, since it is the effort being put in by qualified/trained professionals that result in the end service. In manufacturing, machines convert raw material into usable products. They also consume time but most of that is machine time, and hence time leakage is not an issue.
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