Time Management: The Window of Opportunity

The value of any action is realized in a narrow window of time. Indeed, if the task is not done in time to realize the value, there is no point in doing it at all. Likewise, doing something far in advance also may not hold. For example, would you organize a bucket brigade after a house has been burnt to the ground? It is like closing the stable door after the horse has run away. Therefore, the value of an action depends not only what you do but also when you do it and how you do it.

Opportunity may knock on a door but it lies within a window – a window of time. How do you exploit windows of opportunity? Here is an analysis model to evaluate the window of opportunity and make the best of it.

First, a few definitions.

  • A window of opportunity has a definite beginning and a definite end, i.e. a definite start time and end time. It begins when conditions are favorable, e.g. when a new law goes into effect, when special sale begins at a certain store, when travel schedules coincide to bring influential people together. The window of opportunity ends when conditions become unfavorable, e.g. when another law goes into effect, when a sale ends or when planes depart.
  • In another article, I have explained the value of any task. To put it in a nutshell, every task involves an expense (cash outlay, effort, calling of favors) and yields a return (cash inflow, achievement, acquisition of brownie points). If everything cannot be quantified, set a (subjective) point system on a scale from 1 to 10 and see where the expense and return lie on the scale. The value of a task is the difference between the return and the expense. In order to determine what to do in order to exploit the window of opportunity, you need to make a list of things you can do, estimate the value of each of these responses, and pick the one that has the greatest value. If none of the responses have sufficient value, you may decide to do nothing. That is a valid response, too.
  • For each response you may come up with, there could be more than one way of bringing it to fruition. Let us look at two extreme cases for each – the quick way and the right way. The difference in value between these two extreme cases is the cost of quality, because, obviously, the quick way reduces the quality of the right way. When you evaluate responses, estimate the cost of quality for each response.

Once you determine the window of opportunity, determine what you can do to exploit that window of opportunity, evaluate each response and determine the cost of quality for each response, you can make the right choice and implement. The right choice may be:

  • No Action: There is no response that has sufficient value within the time available.
  • Quick Action: The right action may either take too long (exceed the end time of the window of opportunity) or not have sufficient value.
  • Right Action: This is the ideal situation wherein there is time enough to things right and yet gain sufficient value.
  • Quick followed by Right: The window of time is big but starts right away. Therefore, do something quickly to get the foot in the door and follow up with the right action to maximize value (i.e. eliminate the cost incurred due to poor quality).

While this is very technical and complicated, it is really very simple to put into action.

If luck is what you get when preparation meets opportunity then this is a powerful tool to be prepared to exploit opportunities. Create your own luck.

I have put a lot of information in a succinct manner here. I teach this material in greater detail in my Advanced Time Management course.

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