A Peak Performance weblog

Script for the workshop (see http://www.tskassociation.org/mastering-linear-time.html )

Title slide

This short seminar introduces the Mastering Linear Time workshop, and points out some limitations of traditional time management. It also introduces the full range of benefits possible with time management and time mastery, and introduces some principles and a few methods that can be useful for mastering time. If you’ve taken conventional time management (CTM) workshops, you’ll probably find that little or none of this seminar is covered by those workshops, in spite of the importance of this material for practical time management and for optimizing our well-being.

Slide 2

Here’s a preview of what we’ll cover.  We’ll briefly explore linear time, that limiting feeling of time flow that we learn when we grow up in Western cultures. Then we’ll look at the very different experiences of time present when we’re in the so-called ‘zone’ of peak experience or peak performance. We’ll see how these different experiences are examples of personal time, or psychological time, in contrast with two other types of time, clock time and physical time. Personal time is the way an individual experiences time, whether flowing, timeless, or otherwise.  Then we’ll briefly look at some limitations of conventional time management.  Most important is that CTM assumes that time really does flow, which makes it impossible to get to the source of time pressures.  CTM can help us accomplish more, but in the process it often adds stress to our lives.  CTM also doesn’t adequately deal with interruptions, time wasting, procrastination, and the feeling of urgency. We’ll also see that with methods of CTM and ITM there’s a wide range of possible ways of relating to time–many different levels of mastery of time, and time stress. We’ll do a short inquiry exercise to look at our personal time, and see whether between any two moments, we can perceive additional moments.  This is actually a very simple, yet effective way to open up the constrictive way we habitually experience time. We can experiment a bit more with personal time and see how it changes while watching the second-hand of a clock while doing a special breathing technique used in Tai Chi and some other martial arts. We’ll look at an example of how our feeling of time passing is created and strengthened. Finally, we’ll review additional resources that are available to you.

Slide 3

Here’s one image of how we relate to time. Can you relate to it? It depicts what is now sometimes called time poverty, the feeling that you don’t have enough time.

What do you see here?  Time feels like it’s out of our control, and we feel anxious, even desperate, because we don’t have enough of it.  It seems that the passage of time is independent of consciousness. It doesn’t matter what you think, feel, or do, or how you look at time, time doesn’t change. We may feel somewhat helpless, and think we can only adapt to this ‘reality’.

Slide 4

Can you relate to this?  What do you see here?  Struggling against deadline pressure?

Slide 5

Here’s another image of time.  What do you think this depicts?

Linear time is a term to describe time that seems to move linearly like the horizontal conveyor belt in this picture.  The belt seems to move at a constant, unchangeable speed between past, present, and future rooms in our experience.  Linear time is the usual way that most adults in the West experience time. As time passes in a linear and directed way from one moment to another, we are positioned now, in the present.  We spend time by putting tasks, our activities, in equal-sized containers.  What we can accomplish seems limited by the size of the containers on the conveyor.

Slide 6

What are the effects of the experience of linear time? Seeing time linearly causes us to struggle and race against time.  All the images we saw involve struggling vs. time.  Our work is effortful and stressful; time has a kind of built in friction.  Physician Larry Dossey said, “Many illnesses—perhaps most—may be caused either wholly or in part by our misperception of time. . . . I am convinced that we can destroy ourselves through the creation of illness by perceiving time in a linear, one-way flow.” (Larry Dossey, M.D.)

The last point here is that, as indicated by the conveyor image, what can be accomplished is limited by the size of the containers, seemingly by the structure of time itself.

Slide 7

Here are a few questions for you to consider.  We’re not looking for right or wrong answers here, just a description of your experience.  First, do you think that time always flows? Or not?  If it seems to always flow, does it flow at a constant rate?  Or do you think that the flow can somehow be changed?

Slide 8

Let’s consider a few more questions, this time about the so-called ‘zone’ of peak experience or peak performance.

When deeply in love, what’s your experience of time or timelessness?   In deep meditation, what’s your experience of time?   When doing your best work, what’s your experience of time?

About 70% of people say there’s timelessness; 30% say time goes fast, but without friction or lack of control.

Slide 9

Here are some quotes from athletes and meditation teachers about the experience of time during peak experiences.  “There is a common experience in Tai Chi . . . . Awareness of the passage of time completely stops.”  (p. 47, ITZ)

[football player John Brodie:]  “Time seems to slow way down . . . . as if I had all the time in the world . . . and yet I know the defensive line is coming at me just as fast as ever.”   (p. 42, ITZ)

Tom Seaver:  “As Rod Gaspar’s front foot stretched out and touched home plate, in the fraction of a second before I leaped out of the dugout . . . my whole baseball life flashed in front of me . . . .”  (p. 47, ITZ)

Note that conventional time management workshops don’t usually discuss these peak experiences.

Slide 10

Here are some quotes about the experience of identity during peak experience.  Auto racer Jimmy Clark said, “The car happens to be under me and I’m controlling it, but it’s as much a part of me as I am of it.”   (p. 32, ITZ)

Another quote: [When judo is practiced properly,] “You will become one with him.  You and your opponent will no longer be two bodies separated physically from each other but a single entity . . . .”  (p. 32, ITZ)

Slide 11

This diagram is from my book, Results in No Time [p. 16.]

At least from the few quotes we looked at, it’s probably clear that peak experiences are quite different from our ordinary experiences.  To summarize the research I’ve done on peak performance and the ‘zone’, I’ve drawn a number of dimensions in this circle, including #11 representing time and timelessness. The ‘zone’ of peak performance is represented by various valued qualities of experience at the center of this diagram.  Our ordinary Western experience is depicted on the periphery.  Ordinary experience is the range of experience that conventional time management presumes.  Despite the small font, you might be able to see that dimension 11 shows timelessness as an aspect of the zone, whereas ‘linear time’ appears on the periphery.  Dimension 6 on identity shows “self” on the periphery, compared to “ownerless happening” and knowing in the center.

Slide 12

The circle diagram on the previous slide focuses on how best to experience, independent of what we do; it applies to anything we do.  It attempts to present the essence of peak performance, not just ‘best practices’ that are limited to specific industries, and not just character traits that are not truly characteristic of peak experience.  Focusing on the way we do things seems to be the most essential key to self-actualization and improving our performance.

According to Maslow, “Self-actualization means experiencing fully, vividly, selflessly, with full concentration and total absorption.” (pp. 43-4, FRHN)  So self-actualization is complete involvement in what is at hand.  Then in terms of the circle diagram of the zone, we might say that mastery in life is like moving from the periphery to the center of the circle, increasing involvement whenever we can.  We might define continuous improvement as increasing involvement, moving toward the center whenever possible.

Slide 13

Typical CTM workshops only use one word for different aspects of time. We need some clarity about the different kinds of time.  Here are some descriptions.

Physical, or 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, or noticing that you’re hungry.

A second face of time is symbolized by the faces of clocks and watches, different tools for measuring ‘event time’. Different cultures measure event time in different ways.  These measurements allow us to compare and coordinate our activities.

The third face of time is the one that is probably most important for our happiness, although it’s also probably the face that is least understood and most undervalued. Here we will call it personal or psychological time, though it might also be called experienced time. It includes all the different ways we feel or experience time. 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. We feel time ‘drag’ or pass slowly when we’re bored, or having ‘a bad time’. We feel anxious about time when it seems we don’t have enough of it. Our feeling of time passing (FTP) sets up familiar problems: time pressure, anxiety, overwhelm, and the feeling we don’t have enough time.

Rather than measuring or mirroring an ‘external flow’ (which scientists haven’t found), our FTP is just the aggregate result of resisting past negative experiences.  A composite of repressed energy, the FTP is independent of external physical events and speeds. In other words, our feeling of speed and time pressure is a product of past resisted experiences, and not a measure of current external forces or events.

A very important part of personal time for Westerners is called linear time, a sense of horizontal time flow among past, present, and future that moves at the same unchangeable speed for all of us.

Finally, though it’s a kind of lack of any feelings of time passing, timelessness can also be considered a kind of personal time.

Slide 14

Have you studied time management? What does time mgmt focus on?  Events and tasks?  Since American-European cultures focus on measured time and events in physical time, time management in Western countries has most often become simply a matter of choosing, organizing, and scheduling events.

If you studied CTM, did you find that it sometimes made you more nervous or anxious or pressured about time? Although time management seminar graduates have been 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, and some feel like things have worsened.

If you studied CTM, do you no longer have time pressures?

CTM usually presumes that time flows independently of us.  Does CTM assume that time is external, outside us, independent of our consciousness?  Yes, most seminars say something like:  “We all have the same amount of time.”  End of story.  No mention that there are different types of time, nor that there are different ways to experience time.  So peak experience is ignored.  CTM focuses only on that lowest-quality, pit-performance domain of human performance on the periphery of the Circle.

Slide 15

In discussing the improvement of fourth-generation time management training over the third generation, time management teacher Stephen Covey said, “Concerns about quality of life are just as likely to come from someone with a high level of time management training as from someone without it. . . . the fundamental problem remains . . . . This requires a paradigm and an approach that is . . . a fundamental break with less effective ways of thinking and doing.”     Stephen Covey

But Franklin-Covey’s training presumes, and is built on top of the linear time paradigm, and so it still doesn’t handle the basic friction of time passing.  However, CTM training doesn’t need to presume the linear time view and limit time management’s possibilities and usefulness.

Slide 16

So CTM doesn’t directly handle the basic pressure and anxiety of time flowing, nor does it define or clarify different types of time.  To my knowledge, the only course that focuses on transforming our experience of linear time is Mastering Linear Time from the TSK Association.

[ See http://www.tskassociation.org/mastering-linear-time.html ]

But what can CTM do?  It addresses what we do, not how we do things.

CTM can help us plan and identify goals and priorities, break down projects, schedule, track progress, coordinate resources, and deal with procrastination.

Slide 17

Most people will need CTM skills to optimize their productivity and well-being, and to reach the higher levels of time mastery.

Here are the steps for mastering conventional time management:  1. Clarify and write down your long- and short-term objectives in major areas of life. Keep the objectives current.

2. Break projects down into doable tasks. Update project plans as necessary.

3. For all identified tasks, set priorities and estimate the time required so that you’re aware of what’s important and when things are scheduled.

Slide 18

Here are additional steps for mastering conventional time management:

4. Schedule periodically and create to-do lists and calendars with scheduled tasks and appointments

5. Do the tasks, focusing on top priorities, and doing things in the time allocated (except for unexpected changes).

6. Periodically ask Lakein’s question: “What is the best use of my time right now?” Change tasks as appropriate.

Whenever it’s useful and appropriate, you can learn these skills in Mastering Time 103, available at http://www.manage-time.com/103Frames.html

Slide 19

Here are some limitations of conventional time management.  As mentioned earlier, CTM doesn’t directly handle time pressure and the feeling that we don’t have enough time.  On the contrary, by leaving the underlying linear time flow untouched, it presumes that a certain level of pressure is a natural phenomenon that we must adapt to.

CTM can’t adequately describe time wasting. It usually simplistically categorizes tasks on the presumption that they either have inherent value or lack it. But with the possible exception of those things we’re doing but don’t really want to be doing, time wasting can’t really be defined in terms of specific tasks. Not addressing how we do things keeps CTM from recognizing different levels of functioning, with different degrees of wasting time.

CTM also can’t adequately describe interruptions, which are not always ‘bad’.  Not addressing how we do things keeps CTM from recognizing different possibilities for being interrupted, some of which aren’t disruptive.

CTM seminars sometimes emphasize distinguishing what feels important vs. what feels urgent or pressing.  Urgency is a feeling that seems to be an aspect of linear time’s momentum, which, again, is not directly addressed by methods of CTM.  Although we can categorize things as urgent or important, this does little if anything to reduce the momentum associated with the task.  However, with appropriate methods, the sense of urgency can be directly lessened.

Slide 20

Here’s the third slide on how to master time.  In addition to using the methods of CTM, to master time we need to continually monitor how we’re doing things.  We can use the idea of different levels of involvement, which might, e.g., be defined in terms of awareness, concentration, and energy, and try to deepen involvement whenever possible.  You can use the question, “Am I completely involved in what’s at hand?”  Or, “Am I timelessly involved?”  (This question about doing things right corresponds to Lakein’s question about whether you’re doing the right thing.)  Specific ways of improving involvement (in whatever terms it’s defined) can effectively handle procrastination, time wasting, interruptions and disruptions, urgency, etc.

Slide 21

Progress can be measured in two ways.  Birds need two wings to fly–they can’t fly with one wing. One is not more important than the other; they’re both necessary. Similarly, it seems that to measure progress in life, we need to periodically consider two questions. One question is, “Am I doing the right thing?” A second one is, “Am I doing things right?”

Another way of stating the first question was provided by time management guru Alan Lakein: “What is the best use of my time right now?” (How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein. Signet, New York, 1973, p. 96) Most of us have numerous tasks and objectives that we wish to accomplish. Among all these things, what is best to do right now? Occasionally asking this question is very important. This conventional time management (CTM) question helps us clarify what to do.

Another way of stating the second question is, “Am I timelessly involved in what I’m doing?” This inner time management (ITM) question helps us clarify how to do things. It asks whether we are doing things in an optimal, timeless way. People report that in peak experiences of all kinds, there is no sense of time flowing in a way that feels out of control. So it’s helpful to ask “Randall’s question” periodically: “Am I timelessly involved in what I’m doing?” If not, if we’re not totally involved, or if we feel time passing in a way that has even a slight bit of pressure or anxiety, there’s room for improvement in both productivity and well-being.

Slide 22

With methods of CTM and ITM there’s a wide range of possible ways of relating to time–many different levels of mastery of time, and time stress. Six levels appear here and on the next slide.

0. Struggling Against Time

Time is outside us, and we race and struggle against it. We are victims of pressure, overwhelm, and anxiety, thinking that it’s normal and unchangeable.

1. Wondering About Ways to Relate to Time

Our relationship to time has loosened up, and we’re wondering about the possibilities. We no longer feel consistently pressured and anxious.

2. Seeing Time As An Ally, Not an Opposing Force

We’re beginning to see how our experience of time is created, and are able to transform some time pressure and anxiety by various methods.

Slide 23

3. Allying with Time

During breaks, we’re able to reduce time stress by 50%. We see different levels of time and how they’re related.

4. Empowering Time

While working, we can reduce time stress by 50%. We are aware of subtle pointings, including a self-other duality, that can lead to linear time experiences. The Time, Space, and Knowledge Association offers courses that can help reach this level.

5. Abiding in Time

We never let time stress get established. We abide in the peaceful, yet energetic eye of our whirlwind of activities.

Slide 24

Now we’ll take a look at psychological or personal time, which is not addressed by CTM.  Like a personal space, we have a personal time that can be defined as the length of clock time it takes us to process a bit of information. This varies but we don’t usually pay much attention to it.  It’s like a frequency of awareness, similar to the flashing light that projects movies. We can learn to speed it up and slow it down, opening up new levels of performance and well-being.

Slide 25

We can do a little inquiry exercise to explore our personal time.  We talk about moments all the time, but how long is a moment?  How long is your moment?  At any time this could be different for all of us.  Make a mental note about how long this seems.

Now, between any two of such moments, see whether you can perceive additional moments, perhaps by just noticing what’s there, perhaps by relaxing while somehow turning up the speed of your awareness.  Continue this experiment for a minute, seeing whether you can perceive additional, possibly subtle, moments between any two moments.


OK.  What happened?  Did you find something you might call “moments between moments?”  Did your experience of time change in the process?

Slide 26

We can experiment a bit more with personal time and do an exercise to see how it changes.

Usually looking at a clock causes some anxiety.  Does it have to? If you can relax while watching the clock, you can probably stay relaxed in nearly any situation.

This clock watching exercise directly balances the throat energy center, where imbalance seems to produce pressure and anxiety about time.  It also balances left and right brain hemispheres, as shown by research in applied kinesiology.

Set up your environment so that you have five minutes when you won’t be interrupted or distracted.  When the timer on the next slide starts, just relax and watch the timer’s hand move. Breathe easily, gently, and smoothly through both nose and mouth, with the tip of your tongue on the upper palate just in back of your front teeth.  As you continue, see if you can let the breath become more and more even and continuous, without breaks or jerkiness–this is important. Evenness and continuity of the breath is reflected in the clarity and peacefulness of awareness.

Slide 27

This is the timer slide.

Slide 28

During the clock watching exercise, did the sense of time pressure and anxiety decrease?

Did the feeling of time change? If so, how?   Did every minute seem equally long?

How were pressure and anxiety related to the flow of time?

You can practice this way of breathing as often as you can remember it. After a month or so, your whole energy level and sense of balance and relaxation will probably change.

Slide 29

Having occasionally known the freeing timelessness of peak experiences, we might very well ask, “What is it that keeps us from having more peak time experiences?” This question can be answered in several ways:

First, our cultures in the West confuse physical time, measured time, and personal time, providing only one word for ‘time’.  They implicitly teach that we should always feel time flowing (or we’re ‘losing track’ of time).  This makes it difficult to facilitate peak experience of any kind.

Second, very few people are teaching direct methods to optimize our personal time.   Numerous meditation techniques evoke a sense of timelessness, though they often try to just ignore time’s passing rather than examine exactly what time is.  However, numerous direct practices are offered by the TSK Association to understand experientially what time is and transform it.

Third, Western cultures implicitly teach that turning away from, or even suppressing any kind of ‘negative’ experience is normal and natural.  However, when we turn away from ‘negative’ experiences, the experience of time passing arises and is strengthened. An example of how this occurs is discussed in the next slides. Repressing or suppressing the energy of ‘negative’ feeling transforms it into a stronger sense of time flowing, whether it seems to flow more slowly or more quickly.  Relating to experiences as ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ (where ‘positive’ is understood as the opposite of ‘negative’) is only one of numerous possibilities.

Slide 30

Infants don’t seem to have a sense of time passing.  But we start learning to avoid some feelings quite early on.  According to the psychiatrist Peter Hartocollis (in Time and Timelessness, pp. 5-6):  “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.…What gradually establishes the sense of time as duration . . . 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.”

Slide 31

Let’s take a look at how our feeling of time passing is created and strengthened. Here’s an example from Jed, the ‘optimal worker’ in my book Results in No Time:

“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. . . . 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.” (pp. 38-9)

Slide 32

In summary, there are two types of time management.  CTM is used to determine what we want to do by organizing, prioritizing, scheduling, etc.  But CTM usually presumes a SOTP and the linear time paradigm.

ITM helps optimize the way we do things by increasing our involvement in whatever we’re doing:  We can move to increasing levels of involvement:  (1) holding back from doing something; (2) resigning ourselves to doing something; (3) getting into it; (4) being involved; (5) being preoccupied, engrossed, or absorbed.

Slide 33

Although Western cultures still believe that a sense of time passing is ‘normal’, the pressure seems to be growing stronger and stronger.  In this time of accelerating change and increasing time pressure, it’s becoming more and more necessary to change our perception of time. Time management teachers Hunt and Hait wrote, “Many corporations are aware that they need to alter how they perceive time and its relationship to personal satisfaction if they mean to remain competitive.”

Dr. Rechtschaffen wrote, “Shifting rhythm is essential not only to physical and mental well-being, but also to improved productivity.  A good many management consultants believe this as much as I do.”

Slide 34

Here’s a list of resources available for time management and time mastery:

Training Seminars include:  Mastering Linear Time, Organizing Your Life-Time, Taking the Pressure Out of Deadlines,  Beat the Clock , and Turning Procrastination Around.

Coaching is available for individuals and groups—take advantage of a free, half-hour needs assessment interview.

Many publications are available:  Two books, Flow, Glow, and Zero, and Results in No Time, numerous articles on time management and time mastery, cassette tapes, email newsletters, and two websites, http://www.tskassociation.org and http://www.manage-time.com.  If you have any questions, or want more information email steve@manage-time.com


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