"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 fourth 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?
If you cannot answer the following, you probably need Part II of this course:
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 4 - How do we experience time during peak performance?
What is the character of time during peak experience, or in the zone of peak performance?
In the last lesson, "How do we normally . . . " we considered the effects of the linear view on us, and looked at four aspects of activities done with this perspective of time. Now let's see whether we can get an idea for how this linear time scenario can change.
From your own experience take a few minutes to recall three projects during which you performed at your best for a while. What was it like to work optimally? What were the different qualities of those experiences?
Now see whether your examples fit the following four-part description of peak productivity, when the worker is in what might be called 'the zone' of peak performance.
1. Experience of time flow. During peak performance you're so absorbed in whatever you're doing that there's no awareness of time flowing. If you had to describe your experience of time, most likely (60% probability, based on reports from thousands of people) you'd say it was timeless. You might (with 40% probability) say that time was going very quickly, yet it wasn't making you anxious with its passing. Time certainly doesn't feel out of control, and you're not trying to race against it.
In general you don't feel a lack of time—you just concentrate on what you're doing, which is going very well. Only during breaks do you feel time flowing from past to present to future. You may occasionally plan and think about the deadline (if there is one), but this thinking doesn't cause much anxiety or pressure.
2. Well-being. There's very little sense of dissatisfaction; in fact you feel invigorated, whole, and happy with the way things are going. As you continue, you might occasionally think of the fact that the task isn't done, but this doesn't bother you. You're not worrying about not being done, nor are you looking forward to being done just because that will be a better time than the present. The important thing is that you're really involved in what you're doing--you're progressing and having a good time by being engrossed.
3. Effort. The activity may require mental or physical energy, but it doesn't feel stressful just because of that. It might even seem to be effortless in a sense, flowing with a momentum of its own. You may not feel separate from the activity. Like being in the eye of a hurricane, there can be a sense of presence and peacefulness even in the midst of quick or physically demanding activity.
4. Clock time estimation. Time seems very flexible and changeable, even unpredictable. Occasionally you check your progress and estimate whether you'll be able to finish on time. But you don't take these estimates very seriously, partly because time doesn't seem very real during this peak experience, and partly because you know these estimates proved inaccurate so many times before. There's a sense of everpresent opportunity and possibility: perhaps, for example, you'll get some insight on how the activity or process can be improved.
A Comparison of 'Normal' and Zone Perspectives
The following two perspectives do not 'mix'—at any moment only one perspective occurs. We are constantly choosing between perspectives such as these two, determining which are more likely to show up later.
Noticing or being aware of the linear experiential time as you go about your day will gradually decrease the rigidity of its structure, decreasing the pressure and anxiety you feel. During the coming week just try to be aware of the linear structuring of time when it shows up.
Again, as we saw in the last lesson, "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)
Next week: How Procrastination Worsens the Feeling of Time Flowing