Read ‘The Structure of Time’

Time Management

On one of my recent trips to Europe, I decided to go to Spain to visit some friends. One group of friends lived in the south, where it is mostly sunny all year and people live a relaxed type of lifestyle. The other group lived in the capital city, where everyone always seemed to be rushing to get somewhere. Even though both groups of people were from a similar background (they were all Spanish), I found some astounding differences in the way they experienced the passage of time.

The first group I visited, in the south, seemed to be a bit careless about timing. Being fifteen minutes to half an hour late for a meeting didn’t seem to bother anyone. Having to wait was not a problem for them at all. It was almost embraced as part of every experience. Moving from one place to another would involve multiple stops to say ‘hello’ to a friend at the bakery or stop to admire the sunset. People just seemed to have a lot of ‘time to spare’.

After leaving the south and arriving in the capital city, it seemed as if someone had pressed the fast-forward button on a TV remote. Everyone was in a hurry to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’; people used expressions like ‘time is of the essence’ and being even five minutes late to a meeting was seen as rude.

The difference between how these two groups of people experienced time left me so curious.

Have you ever wondered how some people experience five minutes as a long time, while to other people, two years is a short time?

The Structure Of Time

Today’s article is all about people’s ‘time lines’.

A ‘time line’ is a metaphoric description of the way we perceive the passage of time, manage our memories, and create our future plans. Time lines are contextual, though; they will vary from one activity to another. For example, you would be unlikely to carry the same ‘time line’ at the office as the one you would use while on holiday. When you are waiting for important news to arrive, five minutes seem to take forever to pass. In other circumstances, you might not mind waiting in line at the supermarket for five minutes.

Time, like every other human experience, has a structure, and exceptionally effective people are aware of how they represent and use time depending on the context they are in, and they make good use of these differences.

Furthermore, they are not only aware of how they represent time but also how those around them do. As Steve Jobs once said:

“It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time”.

This article is meant to teach a couple of ways to change the way you represent time in a variety of contexts. Imagine wanting to be more patient, or to set goals for the future, or even to reduce the discomfort associated with a memory.

Let us go back to the basics. Change the way you have been representing a memory (visually, auditorily, kinaesthetically, or any mix of them) and add or take out one representational system to find out what happens to the quality of the memory.

Or you could change one or more sub-modalities. Make your future ‘brighter’ and pay attention to how you feel about it now. You can even make unpleasant memories more comfortable by changing the size and quality of the images while you read this.

Remember, it’s all about the structure of our representations, so next time you’re thinking about how to manage your time, be aware of how you are representing it and if a structural change could be useful for that context.

Are you aware of how you experience time? The best way to test this out is experientially, so go out there and take your next step towards Exceptional Effectiveness. Next time you’re in a situation, be aware of how you represent time and ask yourself if representing time that way will bring you the results you are after.

Start small at first and see it for yourself. It will change your life, just like it changed mine.

Remember, this is practical advice, not just another theory, so do go out and try it, and let me know how you went.

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