"Beat the Clock!” -- What you need to know and do to get rid of time pressure
If you cannot answer the following, you probably need Part II of this course:
Use these links for navigation in Part I:
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?
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.
"Beat the Clock" Part II has ten more important lessons to get rid of time pressure and anxiety
If you cannot answer the questions in the lefthand column, you probably need Part II, available at the Store: "Beat the Clock" course package
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
Lesson 6 - Psychological time is a product of our conditioning
In our analysis of procrastination in the previous lesson, we found that it intensified the feeling of time flow by suppressing certain feelings or emotions such as confusion or pain. We might wonder whether all time stress is due primarily to the same process of avoiding feeling and pain. Do we have additional evidence to confirm this hypothesis?
According to psychiatrist Peter Hartocollis, the development of our varied feelings of time flow, time pressure, anxiety about time, etc., is a result of gradual, long-term conditioning:
"The experience or sense of time, and later the perception of time as an attribute of objective reality, is a function of consciousness. It grows along with consciousness, beginning with the differentiation of the self from the object world and the awareness that objects about oneself move or change. The baby's awareness of the flow of time and his own position in time's continuum is not, however, based on the cognition of external reality and movement as such, but on the perception of subjective reality in terms of tension-arousing, libidinal, or aggressive drives. What gradually establishes the sense of time as duration, and more or less coincidentally as temporal perspective, is the felt inadequacy of the self in terms of growing unpleasure and the awareness of the possibility that the need-fulfilling object—mother—may or may not come. . . . The sense of time as duration is more elementary, developing before that of time as future, past, or present." (Time and Timelessness, pp. 5-6)
Temporally separating intensifies time flow
So the experience of time passing, or flowing, seems to be fabricated during the momentary (or at least 'short') process of the self separating from painful or 'negative' experience. Understanding this and seeing how it occurs can be very helpful--even 'key'--in relieving and preventing time stress.
Here's an example of my (then) seven-year old son Dylan 'building up' a feeling of time flowing by avoiding unpleasant sensation. I was driving home from Yosemite National Park on a very hot day. My young son Dylan was in the back seat, and he was wiggling around trying to get comfortable in the heat. But he couldn’t get away from the heat. Then he said, “I can’t wait till we get home.”
He couldn’t physically escape from the heat, so he distanced himself ‘internally’ from it. Instead of just feeling it and not taking a position on it, he observed and took a point of view apart from the sensations, and then the sense of time passing grew stronger, leading him to say, “I can’t wait till we get home.”
He was imagining (projecting an image of) a preferable future time that was separate from the present. But thus distancing himself temporally from the heat intensified the unpleasant, slow feeling of time passing.
Tarthang Tulku describes the instantaneous temporal 'fabrication' of time this way: "The self [or a less-defined form of 'knower'] establishes itself [and time] and the [so-called objective] world that it knows by moving off-center, ‘beyond’ the point-instant of temporal [direct] knowledge. In one unified action it takes a position, posits a situation, and imposes meaning. The self finds itself ‘in the world’—its attention defines ‘there’ and ‘then’ and its vantage point locates ‘here’ and ‘now’" But while the self is positioned "'here' and 'now', it also views itself as persisting 'over' time." (p. 147, Love of Knowledge) We will examine this process much more fully in "How Experience Shapes Up," in Part II of this course.
So as we separate the self from our projection of 'objective reality', we also project our experience of time flowing or passing objectively. Thus self, objective reality, and time are all gradually developed aspects of our complex individual conditioning.
Other examples of developing psychological time flow
Here's an excerpt from Results in No Time (p. 38 ff) that provides two specific examples of how our sense of time passing is fabricated. This is a dialog between Michael and his teacher Jed:
The Habit of Time
Jed: “Timelessness is a natural perspective. Little kids have no feeling of time passing. We learn the habit of experiencing time a certain way, depending on which culture we grow up in. . . . Some Western cultures . . . for example, some Native Americans—don’t learn to experience time the same way as the rest of us.” (Edward T. Hall, The Dance of Life (New York: Doubleday, 1983), pp. 27-40.)
“This suggests that our perspectives of time are at least somewhat flexible.”
Michael leaned back and adjusted his napkin. “Do you have any idea of how
our sense of time passing is created?”
Jed: “I can give a couple of examples that shed some light on the process. My wife Becky and I were at the end of a wonderful weekend at a lake in Wisconsin. We had both slowed down to the point where we just timelessly looked out on the lake as the sun went down below a cloak of color. But she had to leave on a business trip that evening. After she packed her bags, we said goodbye. I felt very sad. But rather than deal with the sadness, I started thinking about when we’d be together again, a week later. As we put her things into the car I said, ‘I miss you already.’ And I actually did feel a bit as though she had already left. Time slipped by quickly as I unsuccessfully tried to savor the last moments with her.”
Michael: “That’s very much like the change from timelessness to linear time that I felt when [I procrastinated while] finishing my report a few days ago.”
Jed: “I think what happened was that I avoided the sadness, and then the repressed sadness energy showed up as my intensified feeling of time passing.”
Michael: “So the sadness was somehow transformed into a feeling of time?”
Jed: “I believe so. It seems that repressed energy like sadness doesn’t just disappear, it changes form.” (In addition, our feeling of space becomes more confining, and the sense of self seems more separate and pronounced.)
Jed continued: “Your example of procrastination is probably another good
example of how we create or intensify our SOTP.”
“Sorry, sense of time passing. Our group uses the phrase so much we abbreviate it to SOTP.”
The waiter brought their coffee to the table, and Jed continued. “Did you say that before you procrastinated you were timelessly involved in your report writing?”
Michael: “Right. I was engrossed, and there was no sense of time passing at all. No conveyor and no sense of past, present, or future.”
Jed: “Then what happened?”
Michael: “I realized that my favorite TV program was coming on soon, and decided to finish the job after the show.”
Jed: “What happened right before you started thinking about the TV show?”
Michael: “Not much. I got to a point in my writing where I was stuck.”
Jed: “How did you feel?”
Michael: “I guess I was confused.”
Jed: “So it’s possible that rather than feel confused, you got distracted and started thinking about the TV show.”
Michael: “I think you’re right.”
Then Jed summarized. “So in my case it was sadness, in your case it was confusion, but in either case there was some feeling that we didn’t want to feel and attend to. Rather than face the feeling, we started thinking about ‘the future’, a better future. And soon we ended up being anxiously aware of time passing in the background.”
“With a divided attention unable to fully appreciate what was right in front of us,” Michael added.
Jed: “Before you procrastinated, there was no SOTP at all. There was no conveyor belt at all, no feeling of past, present, and future. By procrastinating you created the conveyor of time, or at least intensified its flow.” (See the last lesson on procrastination.)
Michael: “So the energy of the feeling that we don’t like is pushed away, and it changes into the experience of time passing between past, present, and future?”
Jed: “Yes. The energy isn’t lost, it’s just changed to a different form.”
Michael: “Can you say more about this change?”
A Breakdown of the Centers
Jed: “We can look at it in terms of the head, throat, and heart energy centers. Avoiding the feeling of confusion creates an imbalance in the flow of energy through these three energy centers. (Tarthang Tulku, Kum Nye Relaxation, Part I (Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing, 1978), pp. 36-8. ) The energy flow through the heart center decreases, so we lose some contact with our sensations and feelings. As a result we no longer have the natural fulfillment of full contact with feelings of the heart.”
Michael: “So I don’t enjoy the TV show as much as I could?”
Jed: “Right. And in my example, I have little success appreciating the last minutes with my wife.”
Jed continued. “The energy flow through the head center increases, showing up as a lot of labeling and thinking about our experience, trying to live in our heads.”
Michael: “So I’m watching TV, but once in a while I think about getting back to my work.”
Jed: “And I am thinking about the next time my wife and I will be together.”
The waiter brought the bill to the table, and Jed picked it up and went on with his explanation. “The energy flow through the throat center, which is closely associated with our SOTP, becomes agitated. So we then have the experience of time flowing in the background between past, present, and future, with a dissatisfied self in the foreground seeking some kind of satisfaction.”
Michael: “Perhaps by watching TV.”
Jed: “A good example. The self reaches out for satisfaction, looking to other people to fulfill desires, or seeking out special things and activities. The self looks forward to things, but then has difficulty fully appreciating them.”
Michael: “So the commonly perceived structure of time is actually a transformation of energy that we don’t like.”
SOTP Stops Us
Jed: “And I would go so far as to say that that repressed energy is all that constitutes the common experience of time. The consensus of our research group is that the sum total of our SOTP comes from having previously resisted these energies.”
Jed put his credit card on the table and continued. “It’s quite a remarkable
creation. Something that feels so real, yet is fabricated one small feeling at a time.”
Michael: “That’s all there is to it? There’s no part of our SOTP that matches a standard external flow of physical time? Isn’t our internal flow somehow tracking a ‘real’ flow rate at which external events occur?”
Jed: “I don’t believe so. The idea of a fixed or constant rate for time is simply part of the linear view that we teach each other . . . . Scientists
have never discovered anything like a standard flow of time in nature." ("The flow of time is clearly an inappropriate concept for the description of the physical world that has no past, present and future.”Thomas Gold, “Relativity and Time” in The Encyclopedia of Ignorance, ed. R. Duncan and M. Weston-Smith (New York: Pergamon, 1977), p. 100.)
Michael was silent awhile. "That’s very interesting. I guess I’ve always thought that my SOTP somehow reflected the ‘real’, constant rate at which all events happen.”
Jed: "Yes, that’s what we learn. Then we go even farther and teach that if our SOTP doesn't closely match some imagined rate of events, it's faulty and ‘inaccurate’.”
Michael: “I know what you mean. We use the phrase ‘losing track of time ’to indicate a kind of negligence when our SOTP doesn’t ‘accurately track’ the imagined external flow of time.”
Michael recalled the previous point. “So the sum total of our SOTP is repressed energy from having resisted things.”
Jed: “And unfortunately it’s carried forward to whatever we’re doing. So I think we can say that our SOTP is a measure of how much we’re holding back from whatever we’re doing, how much we feel separate from an activity.”
Michael: “Is that another guiding principle?”
Jed: “Yes. ‘SOTP measures how much you’re separate from what’s happening.’ Another of the principles our research group has been using and testing. You can see another version framed in some of the offices around the Quint-Cities: ‘SOTP stops us.’ Whenever we find ourselves living out a scenario where time seems like a threat or a drag, the principle can remind us of other possibilities.”
Michael: “I guess it could remind us that our situation can be improved if we somehow move toward timelessness.”
“Yes.” Jed signed the charge slip.
Congratulations! You have finished Part I of this course!
Ready for more? For Part II go to the store!