"Beat the Clock!” -- What you need to know and do to get rid of time pressure
This is Part I of a course initially delivered by weekly email. This part has six lessons, and the second is in the column to the right -->
You can use these links for navigation through the course:
Lesson 1 - What’s problematic about time?
Lesson 2 - What is time? Are there different 'faces' of time?
Lesson 3 - How do we normally experience time?
Lesson 4 - How do we experience time during peak performance?
Lesson 5 - How procrastination worsens the feeling of time flowing
Lesson 6 - Where does the feeling of time flow come from?
"Beat the Clock" Part II requires study and practice of Part I, has ten additional lessons, and is available at the Storefront: "Beat the Clock" course
Lesson 1 - Pressure is related to your level of involvement
Lesson 2 - The single best antidote for time pressure
Lesson 3 - Minding Counting exercise
Lesson 4 - Relieving Negativity
Lesson 5 - Turning time around
Lesson 6 - How Experience Shapes Up
Lesson 7 - Stop Time's Flow Instantly
Lesson 8 - Mastering Deadline Pressures
Lesson 9 - Healing Time and Pain
Lesson 10 - Finding the Eye of Our Whirlwind of Activities
Biography on Time
Dr. Steve Randall, author of this course, been doing research on time since 1977, when he started a nine-month intensive program studying and practicing exercises from a book titled Time, Space, and Knowledge by Tarthang Tulku. He gradually learned to change the way he experience time, and saw how most of us Westerners are stuck in a very unhealthy way of experiencing linear time. Time has fascinated him ever since.
Since 1985 he has developed the new field of inner time management (ITM), studying the spectrum of our actual experiences of time, and combining ITM with conventional time management (CTM). He finds that combining these disciplines is important, since for modern people in all but the most routine jobs, learning both CTM and ITM is necessary to optimize our lives both personally and professionally.
In 2011 Dr. Randall produced a nine-minute video called Got Time? The video depicts the habitual Western problems with time pressure and the feeling of not having enough time, identifies common ways of not dealing with the problem, and then suggests that there are ways to change our personal time (like a personal space).
Dr. Randall is one of very few people teaching how to directly handle time pressures with ITM. At this point he has written dozens of articles, several books, and taught thousands of people in hundreds of workshop and seminars in the US, Australia, and Africa.
The current "Beat the Clock" course in 16 lessons is based on seminars taught over twenty years with thousands of people. It includes a dozen exploratory exercises that are very effective for relieving time’s friction and relentless ﬂow. The course is also being offered by request at various work sites.
Lesson 2 - What is time? Are there different 'faces' of time?
There is event or physical time, clock time or measured time, and psychological or experiential time.
People use the word ‘time’ to cover (and confuse) several different meanings
Seminars and writing on time management and time mastery typically use one word--time--for different aspects of time. This leaves room for plenty of confusion about (1) the nature of our issues about time, as well as (2) the means we have for dealing with the issues.
For example, many books highlight the importance of challenging time limits; however, they usually confuse objective, event time and psychological time (see definitions below); and because the amount of event or clock time really is limited, there may be little or no sense of the possibility of changing one's experiential time in order to get things done more quickly.
To clarify our issues with time, it can be useful to identify three types or 'faces' of time:
Event time is the continual occurrence of physical and experiential events. The word event is used to describe something that happened, or is happening now, like getting up in the morning, the movement of the earth around the sun, feeding a pet, or noticing that you're hungry. What we hear and see on the TV and radio news shows is about event time.
“Time and tide wait for no man.” “We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours a day.” These statements refer to a kind of time that seems independent of us, a physical, historical, or evolutionary time measured by clocks and watches.
Conventional time management focuses on 'time use', trying to promote a sense of balance among the different types of events that make up our lives. But as we'll discuss further later, it does not deal directly with the feeling of time passing or slipping away--and this feeling is what bothers us.
Measured time is any of the ways we have of measuring event time. We measure length and distance in different ways--by means of rulers, yardsticks, and odometers in cars. And different cultures in the world measure event time in different ways in order to compare (how long it takes to run a mile, e.g.) and coordinate our activities (by scheduling appointments, e.g.). Modern cultures use clocks and watches, and subtract a 'start time' from a 'stop time' to figure out 'how long' something takes. But there have also been cultures that use the length of time it takes to cook rice as a way to measure 'how long things take'. Telling time is knowing how to measure time in your culture, knowing how much measured 'clock time' corresponds to the events that are happening 'now'. Most children's books on time are primarily about learning how to tell time this way.
Perhaps because American-European cultures focus on events in time and the measurement of events--rather than any other 'face' of time--time management in Western countries has become primarily a matter of choosing, organizing, and scheduling events, in order to produce more in a given period of measured time, and to decrease the stress we feel about time.
But is that enough? Although time-management seminar graduates may be able to accomplish more as a result of their training, there is growing recognition that they still feel like they don't have enough time. Some even feel that things have gotten worse. As time management guru Stephen Covey said, “Concerns about quality of life are just as likely to come from someone with a high level of [conventional] time-management training as from someone without it” (p. 31, First Things First). Focusing on 'time use'-- choosing, organizing, measuring, and scheduling events--apparently doesn’t adequately address our time pressures.
There may be additional approaches to handling the pressure. Stephan Rechtschaffen wrote in Time Shifting: "To most of us, time means clock-time, sixty seconds a minute, sixty minutes an hour, twenty-four hours in the day: unchangeable, inexorable clock-time. But if we can think of time in a different way, if we become aware that it contains myriad rhythms and that any individual moment can be expanded or contracted under our control, then I believe we can make time our servant—and in doing so, fill our lives with happiness and health to a degree most of us don't experience and cannot even imagine." (p. 3, Time Shifting)
Experiential time (or psychological, or inner time) includes all the different ways we feel or experience time. Instead of focusing just on events in time, on what we're doing, we would do well to also explore how things are going. Exploring how it's going, the actual quality or feeling of time, is the domain of inner time management (ITM).
Unlike measured time, experiential time is not abstract, but an essential component of our experience. We may feel time move quickly when we're having ‘a great time’. During some of the best moments of our lives, things seem timeless, with little or no feeling of time passing. On the other hand, time can really pressure and overwhelm us. We feel time ‘drag’ or pass slowly when we're having ‘a bad time’, or when we’re bored. And we feel anxious about time when it seems we don't have enough of it. This third face is probably the most important face for our happiness, although it's also probably the one that is least understood and most undervalued.
Not everyone does things at the same rate, rhythm, or speed. Within all the different ways we experience time, there is a characteristic tempo or speed, which we can call one's personal time. Like a personal space, our version of a private space that surrounds us, we have a personal cycle time that is typical for perceiving sensations and processing information. Heat, emotions, caffeine, drugs, and our habits affect this rate of everything we do.
Our personal time is instrumental in establishing a personalized view of reality, pervading and restricting experience and performance. "The temporal rhythm of human consciousness, geared to a particular sense of the rate at which time flows, is directly responsible for the knowledge that discloses a relatively stable world, within which the self appears, acts, and in turn can be acted upon." (p. 215, Love of Knowledge, Tarthang Tulku) This is truly like the 'beat of our own drum.'
The Dalai Lama said that there can be great variations in personal time. "Depending on how advanced your level of mind is, your perception of time changes. Something that ordinarily appears as momentary may appear very long. And as you're dying, there can be both normal time and this expanded time. As you shift to the subtle body, time expands. Consciousness is not tied down by the physical body. For the subtle body, things can move faster than the speed of light." (Dalai Lama, H. H. (1990). “The Experience of Change.” Parabola, vol. XV, No. 1, p. 10.)
As explained above, understanding how the three faces of time differ should help get rid of some of the confusion that most of us experience about time.
Following is an exercise to do occasionally during the coming week (before you receive the third email in this course), whenever you have a little while:
With a little practice, "You may be able to see a past and a future tinge to all your lived present moments. Each ordinary present has a subtle past-present-future structure* to it that provides a feeling of personal identity, continuity, and direction." (p. 174, Time, Space, and Knowledge)
*In "How Experience Shapes Up" [in Part II of this course] we discuss how our psychological time is fabricated by the mind.
In this little exercise especially note the words "past-present-future structure" and "provides a feeling of personal identity, continuity, and direction."
Next week's lesson: How do we normally experience time? -- Linear time, or "Western time"