About two weeks ago our friends gave birth to a baby girl. She was not supposed to enter this world until February. She arrived at 1.5 pounds (680.3 grams). The odds of survival at 23 weeks are around 17% per March of Dimes. In 2012, preterm birth affected more than 450,000 babies—that’s 1 of every 9 infants born in the United States. 1 out of every 9, that is staggering to me, but in reality that means there is a good chance that those of you reading this will not have experienced having the birth of a premature child. This is one of those experiences that unless you have lived it you cannot really understand the magnitude of it. Our friends little girl died on Sunday evening after her kidneys shut down. It is in the personalization of the moment, when you are the 1 out of those 9 that your world just stands still.

Life is interesting; traumatic events have the ability to draw us together. My wife and I have personally experienced having two daughters born prematurely. One of our daughters was born at the same weight as our friend’s daughter, 680.3 grams and our other daughter was born at just twice that weight 1133.98 grams or 2.5 pounds. The major difference was they were born at 28 weeks, a time when 5 weeks in the womb makes the difference between a survival likelihood of 17% and 90%. Time made a major difference in the case of these 3 girls.

When I stop to think about how time impacts us all I realize that I waste a lot of time. The other day I decided (as I often do) to try and be productive during my drive to work. I stole this term from author Darren Hardy, where he refers to the time he spends in his car listening to instructional CD’s or podcast as “Automobile University”. So on this day I browsed some TEDTALKS and came across David Grady’s November 2014 talk titled “How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings”. It immediately appealed to me because I feel like I spend the majority of my entire day, week and month in meetings. I listened to David tell a story about how much time we allow people to steal from us each day with meetings that are poorly planned and poorly ran. He suggested that rather than just automatically accept every meeting invite that comes into our inbox we should first review the agenda and understand the purpose. If there is no agenda or details, then we should tentatively accept the meeting. We should pick up the phone and call the organizer and respectfully ask what the meeting is about and how we can help them achieve their goal. A remarkable concept; rather than just going to a meeting where you walk out wishing you had those two hours back, we could actually pick up the phone and talk about the meeting purpose so we understood the value of attending.

If we were to place a value on our time as if it were the sole difference between the likelihood of a project being successful or failing, an organization making its margins or not, or a customer expectation being met, would our calendars look different? Would we take back control of our day, week, and month if we thought about how valuable time is. Would we invite less people to our on meetings? Would we stop the death by committee or the 50 people status calls? Would we have a more laser sharp focus to ensure our activities lined up with our goals, mission and vision?

Over the last two weeks when my friends were praying for the survival of their little girl. They were active in her care, advocates for her voice to be heard, their time spent was laser focused on one goal, survival. They were not distracted by important things that did not line up with their one goal. It is not to hard a stretch in our professional lives as leaders to do a self-check and ask am I using my most valuable asset for the betterment of my team, my organization, my family and my community? If not, what can I do to realign? We can influence the world around us by valuing our time. In the words of David Grady, “People just might start to change their behavior because you changed yours”.

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