Time Keeps on Ticking into the Future

paradox clockTime influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world. Our attitudes to time and the way we use it, reveals much about our personality, attitudes and philosophy.

Do you race to beat the clock? Or do you have too much time on your hands?

What is Time?

Time? What is time and does it really exist? Linear, nonlinear time, eternal now, infinity…  How long or short can time intervals be? How has timekeeping evolved over the centuries? How do we measure time today? Why doesn’t time flow backwards? Why does time seem so variable?

The Time Paradox

Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd co-authored The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life. There’s a natural connection from it to Robert Levine’s earlier book A Geography of TimeIf you haven’t read these books then do so, as I gained much food for thought and insight from them.

Levine, devoted his career to studying time and the pace of life and his book is an enchanting tour of time through the ages and around the world.  He asks us to explore a dimension of our experience that we take for granted – our perception of time. He raises some fascinating questions.

How do we use our time?

Are we being ruled by the clock?

What is this doing to our communities?

What is this doing to our relationships?

What is this doing to our bodies and psyches?

Are there decisions we have made without conscious choice?

Are there alternative tempos we might prefer?

Perhaps, Levine argues, our goal should be to try to live in a “multitemporal” society, one in which we learn to move back and forth among nature time, event time, and clock time.

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo was the leader of the notorious 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment — and an expert witness at Abu Ghraib. Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being.

Central to  Zimbardo’s perspective on differences in time perspective is the consideration of the most relevant factors that influence a person’s decisions and actions at a given time.  An Overview of Time Perspective Types

Zimbardo says happiness and success are rooted in a trait most of us disregard: the way we orient toward the past, present and future. He suggests we calibrate our outlook on time as a first step to improving our lives.

For some people it’s only about what is in the immediate situation, what other people are doing and what you’re feeling. And those people, when they make their decisions in that format — we’re going to call them “present-oriented,” because their focus is what is now.

For others, the present is irrelevant.It’s always about “What is this situation like that I’ve experienced in the past?” So that their decisions are based on past memories.And we’re going to call those people “past-oriented,” because they focus on what was.

For others it’s not the past, it’s not the present,it’s only about the future.Their focus is always about anticipated consequences.Cost-benefit analysis.We’re going to call them “future-oriented.” Their focus is on what will be.

Any time perspective in excess has more negatives than positives.

Zimbardo says: Developing the mental flexibility to shift time perspectives fluidly depending on the demands of the situation, that’s what you’ve got to learn to do.

Philip Zimbardo: The Secret Powers of Time (10 minutes)

Time is an equal opportunity employer.  Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day.  Rich people can’t buy more hours.  Scientists can’t invent new minutes.  And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.  Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving.  No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.  — Denis Waitely

Time Management Approaches

The first lesson that I have learned from doing my contracted work is how to subdivide large, tough tasks into smaller, easily accomplished smaller chunks so it seems less insurmountable. Doing that lifts my spirit and increases my energy level.

Once I’ve decided what my “A” priority tasks are and subdivided projects into smaller chunks, I spend about 40 minutes an “A” priority task. Then switch for about 15 minutes to one of the chunks of a larger task. By scheduling time for both, I can make sure that what needs to be done gets done without feeling overwhelmed.

The second lesson was harder one to learn. I was a perfectionist who used to work until I dropped. I had to learn to take periodic breaks.

I can take a brief 15 minute walk around my property with my dog and return energized and with new ideas. I can also just flop into a deck chair and enjoy a 20 minute green tea break that will also result in an energy boost.  At least once during the day I have a quiet hour for meditation.  Related Posts: Top Twenty Time Savers and Pareto’s Principle: The 80/20 Rule

The hardest lesson of all for me to learn was rooted in perfectionism and a desire to please. I had to learn to say “no” when I had too much on my agenda. Read my comment in Have You Killed the Angel of Perpetual Giving?

Discussion

  1. Do you try to schedule as much as possible into the day?
  2. Do you spend your time working at your own pace, without pressure?
  3. Are you able to shift gears smoothly when required?
  4. Has the way you view time and where your invest your time changed over the years?