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Monitoring Real-time Engagement to Improve Emotional Intelligence

  • What can we do to control or ‘regulate’ our varied emotions without having to ‘stuff them?  Is there a way of learning to better regulate our feelings while on the job?
  • Can we monitor and chart our moment-to-moment engagement in order to be aware of emotions in real time?  Might this provide a more effective (real-time, rather than via postmortem surveys) way to define and ‘use’ engagement in order to improve emotional intelligence and other inner resources?
  • Does defining engagement in this way more readily allow individual employees to take responsibility for improving engagement?

Call center performance management

Consider a scenario in which a call center customer service representative (CSR) named John just received a performance review stating that he became upset too often with his callers.  His manager requested that he undertake some kind of program to improve the quality of his customer interactions.  He consulted with his Human Resources department and talked to a representative named Angel.

Angel suggested bringing more awareness into John’s interactions with callers with a training program called a Quality Improvement Challenge (QIC).  She said that research showed that simply being more aware of certain aspects of the call would gradually provide more control of emotional reactions.

John was willing to give the QIC a try, and asked what they needed to do first.  Angel said they needed to determine some objectives that would satisfy John’s manager, so they undertook the first step.

1. Determine the object of the game you want to play. 

After some discussion, Angel and John came up with a conventional goal (with some ordinary external objective) of delivering good customer service phone responses (GCSRs) to 30 callers / day over the next month.  That was considered good productivity in the organization.  And they came up with an experiential goal (an objective to change something in one’s experience) of a maximum of 3 negative emotional responses (ERs) to callers per week over the next month.

Angel then checked these goals out with John’s manager, who decided that–if met–the two goals would show sufficiently improved emotional control during John’s calls.

2. Build a playing field scoreboard. 

Angel and John met again to discuss how to play and score John’s Quality Improvement Challenge (QIC).  Angel said that for each of the two objectives determined, they needed to define specific performance variables with a set of values that each variable could take on.

The conventional GCSR goal was easy.  John could simply tally how many good customer service responses he delivered through the day, aiming for at least 30 / day.

The customer service emotional response (CSER) goal was more complicated.  This was to monitor and decrease negative emotional responses by being aware of and counting the different emotional ‘events’ that John experienced during work hours.  Angel said that to monitor ‘negative emotional responses’,  John needed to determine what kind of experience he thought would constitute a ‘failed call’.  He replied that it could be feeling some kind of “emotion out of control” during a call.   Angel said, “OK, then the occurrence of such “emotions out of control” would be counted and charted for CSER during the day.”  She then asked what other kinds of related experience would be likely to occur.  John said that although he would consider them normal experiences rather than failures, related experiences would be an “emotional current” that would last a minute or two, and an “emotional spike” that would last only ten seconds or so.  (It’s important that the employee own this choice, and make sure it will work for him; this should not be imposed by management.)

Angel said that those three CSER performance values–emotional spike, emotional current, and emotion out of control–should cover one end of the spectrum of possible experiences, and then she asked about the other end of the possible spectrum of emotion.  After some discussion, they decided on “equanimity” and “balance,” neither of which had any negative emotional component, but represented a kind of “even keel.”  So the resulting spectrum of CSER performance values was:   equanimity, balance, emotional spike, emotional current, and emotion out of control.

Angel said that these values were probably sufficient to get started on the Challenge, though it was probable that John would discover others after he started.  (These personal discoveries are desirable and very common as one gains experience and learns how to be aware more closely of what’s happening moment by moment–ABC–awareness brings change.)

Angel suggested that these CSER performance values should be recorded on a chart whenever they occurred during the day.  She knew that this would ensure that he would pay extra attention to his experience–and any emotion, in particular–as he worked; and that whatever we can be aware of by means of charting, we can eventually understand, control, and change. (Again, ABC.)  She said that the real value of this kind of graphing is to become aware of opportunities for improvement and to be able to track the trend of his emotional experiences. (That is, the ‘accuracy’ or particular shape of the graph is secondary to the awareness built.) Many people found it helpful to make notes in a ‘running journal’ at the bottom of their chart as they think about their experiences.

The simple chart they designed for the CSER goal included work hours of the day labelled at the top, and possible CSER scores (values) on the lefthand side, with a clean chart to be used for each day’s scoring.  The daily chart, or scoreboard, looked like this:

chart3-1

After every call, if John had no emotional blowup, he would add to the tally of good calls, going for 30 / day.  And after every hour of work (marked by a countdown timer), he would recall his experience of the hour, and mark the chart appropriately.

3. Play and keep score over the time period chosen.

For a few days John worked, paid attention to his emotion-related experience, and found that he had plenty to enter on his chart, with quite a few emotional spikes and undercurrents.   But after a few days his feelings seemed to settle down, with fewer spikes and undercurrents.   He relaxed into his work a bit more, and less frequently looked forward to ‘better times’ (breaks, weekends, and vacations, e.g.) as he worked.

Toward the end of the first week of his Challenge, John began to see that he could refine the playing field and the scoreboard.  One time he noticed he was getting a little judgmental and ‘short’ with a caller.  During the following call he noticed he was feeling arrogant. So he added “feeling judgmental” and “arrogance” to the performance values.  They seemed useful as warning signs that he was getting close to an emotional reaction.  (Awareness sets up a kind of ‘radar’ for emotional responses on the ‘horizon.’)

The next day he came to work in a bad mood, and tended to neglect details in his calls.  So he added “emotional mood” to the values.  Finally, he noticed how “excitement” and “frustration” and “anxiety” tended to lead into emotion, so he added those to the chart.  John found this gradual discovery and refinement of his tracking process, and the tracking itself, quite interesting.  (This is typical of the curiosity and fulfilling learning done during a self-actualizing activity such as this.)  He felt he was learning something helpful on the job, but something that was also useful for his personal life.  Here’s the chart resulting from the first week:

chart3-2

Thus the initial spectrum of CSER performance values chosen was:  equanimity, balance, emotional spike, emotional current, and emotion out of control.   The final spectrum of performance values was:    equanimity, balance, excitement/frustration, anxiety, emotional mood, feeling judgmental, arrogance, emotional spike, emotional current, and emotion out of control.  This spectrum was not judged as complete, accurate, or ‘in the right order’, yet was viewed as more than sufficient for the purposes of making the desired changes.

4. When the time period for the game is over, determine whether you won and review what you learned in the process.

At the end of John’s first game (one week), in his opinion his emotional balance seemed a little better.  He felt a little more relaxed and confident, and his feelings had settled down, with fewer emotional spikes and undercurrents.  He was actually somewhat enthusiastic about continuing the challenge during the coming week. And his scores for both objectives showed that he won the first week of the Quality Improvement Challenge.

During the second week’s game, John was generally more upbeat and even somewhat joyful some of the time.  It seemed that this game was providing an opportunity to be aware of, and quickly drop all the tendencies he had to get upset.  He was becoming aware of finer and finer mental agitation and frustration.  (It often happens that the type of mental events changes in an awareness exercise such as this.)  This seemed to keep anything from really building up into a ‘real problem’ that would have to be dealt with in any of his old psychological ways.

Summary

With persistence with the way of attending to and charting predetermined performance values illustrated in this example, one can very reliably improve emotional intelligence, including the intensity and frequency of various types of emotional ‘events’, as well as the feelings of balance, joy, and equanimity in one’s emotional life.  What allows this technique to ‘work’?   Awareness of one’s moment-by-moment experience.  Timothy Gallwey’s books on the ‘inner game’ of life argued that simple awareness of some process–such as one’s tennis backhand stroke–was sufficient to bring significant change.  This method provides a more effective (real-time, rather than via postmortem surveys) way to define and ‘use’ engagement in order to improve emotional intelligence and other inner resources.

Questions to Approach the Zone

  1. Are you applying effort or control to something that feels separate from you, or does your activity seem to flow effortlessly “by itself?”
  1. Do things feel familiar, somewhat predictable, or even habitual, or does each new moment, along with all that appears in the momentary scenario, seem spontaneous and fresh?
  1. Are you looking forward to being done with the work, or are you currently fulfilled within your work-in-progress?
  1. Do objects and events take up space and appear to be separate and dispersed, or are do they seem intimately connected in and even as one space?
  1. Is there a private space or personal world that feels separate from everything outside, or do inner and outer, subjective and objective appear to be inseparable facets of the same undivided space?
  1. Is there a sense of self that stands apart from experience and externals, or do you feel identified with, or absorbed in, what is happening?
  1. Is knowledge simply something that you or others possess or lack, or is there a sense of being intimately part of what’s around you, knowing things that are happening ‘from inside’ them?
  1. Is knowledge only identification, categorization, judgment, and detached observation, or also an illuminating clarity merged with the subject being explored?
  1. Are there divisions among your self, mind, body, and personality, or is there a natural sense of wholeness, fulfillment, and satisfaction?
  1. Are you driven by a need or a desire for pleasure, or is everything being found to be immediately and inherently fulfilling?
  1. Do you notice a feeling of time flowing in the background, or are you timelessly involved?
  1. Does reality seem solid, fixed, and substantial, or does everything seem somewhat fluid or dreamlike?

The Full Range of Human Experience

Levels representing the full range of human experience

What is the full spectrum of states possible for human beings?   Is there a comprehensive catalog of states?

So far, the only candidate I’ve seen for a clear English description of the full range of human development, with its incredibly varied views, perspectives, and focal settings, is Tarthang Tulku’s series of books on the Time, Space, and Knowledge (TSK) vision.  These books describe three main levels of human functioning: “As an organizing principle for an inquiry into time, space, and knowledge, it can help to think in terms of three different levels.  The first level starts from our common, everyday views of how these facets of our being operate.” (p. xxix, Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space) The third level is an enlightened state that we might compare to the zone described in Chapter One. A second level, an intermediate level that occurs during our development from the first to the third level, is also described in the books. The following section has a summary of these three levels, drawn from the six books of the TSK series: Time, Space, and Knowledge (1977), Love of Knowledge (1987), Knowledge of Time and Space (1990), Visions of Knowledge (1993), Dynamics of Time and Space (1994), and Sacred Dimensions of Time and Space (1997).

Before we examine these levels, let’s take a look at why Tarthang Tulku describes them in terms of time, space, and knowledge.  According to the author, “Time, space and knowledge are the most basic facets of human experience.”  (p. xv, KTS)  “We are partners  with space through physical  existence,  partners  with  time through actions, and partners with knowledge through awareness. Though these three facets of being may be neither  ‘absolute’  nor  ‘ultimate’,  they  constitute  the ‘stuff’ of our lives—starting points for an inquiry that can transform our being.”  (pp. xx-xxi, LOK)

Focusing on time, space, and knowledge–rather than the self–affords a new approach at the outset.  “Conventional  knowledge  today  focuses  on  the  self: what  the  self  needs,  what  it  understands,  what  it  is capable of. Suppose that we shift this focus, looking in a more neutral way at how our being functions.” (p. xiv, SDTS)  “When we place these three factors—space, time, and knowledge—at the center of our being, something quite remarkable happens. Knowledge comes into its own, informing experience and existence in a very powerful way.” (p. xv, SDTS)  “The starting point for such transformation is to investigate time, space, and knowledge in our own experience, challenging the restrictive ways that we have learned to think of them.” (p. xvi, SDTS)

Now we examine the characteristics and limitations of level one.

Summary of level one

This is the ‘normal’ way we are and operate after our ordinary Western conditioning is complete.  This level is sometimes also called the ordinary level:*

Time is divided into moments and seems to flow linearly and out of our control, from past to future, at a constant rate. Within this flow we are limited to occupying a kind of ‘moving spot’ that we call ‘the present’. We seem to ‘have’ time, yet sometimes feel like we’re running out of time, and can’t stop the relentless flow that causes us anxiety, friction, overwhelm, and pressure.

Space is seen as an indefinitely extended ‘nothing’, with distance felt between things within space. We and things feel substantial, independent, and persistent, ‘occupy’ different locations in space, have size, volume, edges, and an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’.  We have a kind of private mental, or personal space, but this seems less ‘real’ than physical space.  Personal space seems independent of others and other things, and yet seems to change somewhat, depending on our feelings and connections with others.  Our experience of space can feel restrictive, confining, and pressured, rather than open and free.

Our knowing or ‘seeing’ is limited to a particular ‘thinker’ position or ‘point of view’, with a felt separation or ‘distance’ from what is known.  Knowing and knowledge usually seem to be located primarily inside our heads and minds.   An act of knowing takes some time, and involves directing knowing from its source ‘here’  toward distant objects and events.  We collect experience and information by these acts of knowing, and build up models, systems, and theories.  Very often our knowing and perceiving is inaccurate and biased, depending on our unresolved emotional difficulties (conditioning) and current desires and fears.

We believe we are the independently capable selves felt at the center of our lives, the selves that apparently are responsible, do the thinking, make the decisions, and sometimes have problematic conditions.  We believe and feel we are the central character in the ongoing story of our lives unfolding against a backdrop of time and space.

*footnote:  first level is ordinary level considered in light of further possibility

Summary of level two

‘Timing’ occurs as a succession of experiences in the same ‘spot’ or ‘field’, rather than establishing an extended `world out there’. Things, places, and processes become appreciated as being very fluid. Subject and object alike are seen as projections of the underlying energy of second-level time.

The ‘quantity’ of second-level ‘space’ is indeterminate.  While objects and the observer are distinct and independent, they are also known as interdependent and co-referring. There’s an increase in personal freedom, less psychological pressure, and greater physical relaxation. All going from place to place which validates the picture of a spread out world, actually occurs as a succession of ‘timed out’ experiences in the same ‘spot’.

Knowing is not so much a possession, but a luminous, transparent `attribute’ of experience and mental activity through which ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’ jointly emerge together with dichotomies such as ‘subject’ and ‘object’, ‘observer’ and ‘observed’.

Summary of level three

Different times are not linked, in a way that irrevocably separates them, by their respective positions in an infinitely extended temporal series. The ‘series’ is a fiction. There is no ‘going’ and no separate places. It is as though all the friction in the world were removed.

While all familiar things are separate and distributed over ordinary space, delineated partly by differences in position, they are all intimately connected insofar as their Great Space dimension is considered. Space is not contrasted to objects, and `distance between’ becomes meaningless. All existence and experience is like an apparition.

We develop a mode of ‘seeing’ which is not limited to a particular position or ‘point of view’ at all, dissolves the ‘distance’ between knower and known, is not a meaning but is unlearned or nonlearned learnedness, and which is beyond the concern for ‘getting’, approaching, or defining.

This brief depiction of level three from the Time, Space, and Knowledge vision is consistent with the depiction of what is called the zone. And it’s worth noting that here also we find no complexes, personality, or identity, much less conditions like  emotional upset, doubt,  and separation that are common with level one.

Three ways of experiencing a feeling

To see more clearly how these three main levels of functioning are related, we can depict what happens as you change the way you relate to a particular feeling from a first-level to a third-level way.  Although any feeling could be used, in this example, let’s take the example of a feeling of pain in the shoulder.  The pain is presumed to be the same energy in the descriptions of all three levels–it is the way the pain energy is experienced, or the overall view of the energy, that is different.

One: At level one, our usual way of experiencing, the pain is usually labeled, often as something negative, and is experienced as located in a particular place in the body, in this case in the shoulder.  You, identified as the self, are not merged with the feeling, but are related to it as a feeling that you have.  Your experience of time is linear, flowing relentlessly in one direction. Space is experienced as extending in three dimensions.

Two: At level two, the feeling is not experienced as so clearly locatable as in the first way of experiencing. The feeling is in the same physical location, but one experiences the boundaries of the feeling to be more open or less definite. There may be a shifting back and forth from seeing the feeling as negative, to relating to it as simply neutral energy. One senses the surrounding space differently—not so extended, more open, less fragmented, and less container-like. Similarly, the sense of oneself as the observer of the feeling is more spacious. Rather than an intellectual way of relating to the feeling, there is a simple, nonverbal observation or sensing of it. There’s also a sense of time slowing down.

Three: At level three, there is simply the pure energy of the feeling, with no labeling, and no identification of location in the body. There is no feeling of oneself as an observer separate from the feeling.  Awareness is merged with the feeling-energy, which is not experienced as negative. There is no sense of time passing, and no experience of space as a container for things and events. Space is simply nonextended openness that accompanies and permeates the feeling.

The biggest misconception in time management

I found this post on a discussion forum on the web:

“The idea of “Time Management” is one of the biggest misconceptions of all.  There are only twenty-four hours in every day and we can’t stretch or shrink time.  Thus we can’t ‘manage’ time, we can only manage ourselves in relation to the time we have.  Time is unique because it is finite.  Time is the only resource that must be spent the instant it is received.  Many people miss the point about effective time management.  Good Time Management techniques will save you at least one hour a day and maybe more, but the real question is; what will you do with the extra time?”

Perhaps the main proposition here is that (1) time management is a misconception because (2) there are only 24 hours in a day and (3) we can’t stretch or shrink time.   But if we all have 24 hours in a day, what do we mean when we say “I don’t have time!”?  Obviously we’re not talking about clock time, but we are expressing something. And if time “must be spent the instant it is received,” what do we mean when we say time management can “save you at least one hour a day”?  So I agree that there is considerable confusion in the way we talk about time and time management.

For sure, our Western cultures teach that when we talk about time, we usually mean physical time or its measurement, clock time.   And perhaps the only way we can change physical, or event time itself is to travel near the speed of light in some kind of rocket.    So, yes, in the sense that we don’t (except during space travel) change physical time itself, we do not ‘manage time’.

But does time management only work with physical time?  Besides clock and physical time, there is also psychological time, inner time, felt time, experiential time, or a number of other terms pointing to another, inner type of time–time as feeling or experience.

This third face of time is probably the most important for our happiness, although it’s also probably the face that is least known, least understood, and most undervalued. Here I will call it felt or experiential time. Felt time 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 slow down or even seem timeless, with little or no feeling of time passing. On the other hand, we feel time ‘drag’ or pass slowly when we’re bored, or having ‘a bad time’.  Thus some times seem ‘long’ and others feel very ‘short’.  And we feel anxious about time when it ‘goes too fast’, or it seems we don’t have enough of it–even though we all have the same 24 hours a day.  Thus the sense of time flowing or passing is actually very flexible, not fixed and limited like physical time.   Experiential time is clearly very changeable–it even seems to disappear ‘sometimes’!  So although there are only 24 clock hours in a day, might there be a possibility that we can learn to stretch or shrink felt or experiential time?

But then again, why would we want to?  We Westerners gradually and implicitly teach our children that time is linear, like an invisible conveyor belt that moves horizontally at a constant and unchangeable speed between past, present, future ‘rooms’ in our experience.  (This image is from anthropologist Edward Hall, The Dance of Life, pp. 78-9.) The trouble is that seeing time linearly causes us to struggle and race against time. Our work is effortful and stressful; time has a kind of built in friction.  In modern times “it feels like our lives have turned into a grueling race toward a finish line we never reach.” (Jay Walljasper, former editor of Utne Reader)   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.”

So the mental and physiological habit of linear time–although ‘normal’ in many cultures–is bad for our productivity, health, and well-being. Yet conventional time management usually sees linear time flow as ‘normal’, presuming  that  the  river  of  time  really  does  flow between past, present, and future, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.  CTM just tries to make the best of things within the limitations of the river of time, offering  us  different  ways  to  swim  as  we’re  swept  downstream  by  the current.

To my mind the biggest misconception in CTM is that time flows linearly, and we need to somehow just adapt to this flow.  Scientists have never found any flow ‘out there’ in reality.  “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.) It’s just an unhealthy mental and physiological habit taught as we grow up in different cultures, and we can learn how to gradually break the habit.

This is where the new field of inner time management (ITM) comes in. Rather than the usual CTM focus on what we want to do, ITM provides methods to directly optimize how we do things, especially our moment-by-moment feelings of time passing.  Its ‘goal’, if we can call it that, is to change our ordinary linear way of experiencing time passing, along with related troublesome feelings—including ‘overwhelm’, time pressure, frustration, boredom, time poverty (the feeling that we don’t have ‘enough time’), anxiety about time, and ‘hurry sickness’–to the timeless state of peak performance.

Research on peak experience and peak performance shows that these experiences are timeless, as well as optimally productive and fulfilling.  According to Dr. Larry Dossey, “In total immersion in a task, whether listening to lungs or weeding vegetable gardens, time is abolished. It stands still.”  (Dossey, Space, Time, and Medicine, p. 34)  According to Stanford business professor Michael Ray: “If you pay attention at every moment . . . you become more efficient, productive, and energetic, focusing without distraction directly on the task in front of you. Not only do you become immersed in the moment, you become that moment.”  (Hunt and Hait, The Tao of Time, p. 67)  Time management instructors Hunt and Hait wrote: “When we live in the now and are totally absorbed by the activity at hand, we become our most positive and productive selves. . . . Engrossed in the now, we slip effortlessly into a no-boundary place in time and space, a timeless dimension where energy abounds and time is irrelevant.”  (Hunt and Hait, p. 66)

So there can be tremendous value in the new field of inner time management (ITM) whereby we can learn to stretch or shrink felt or experiential time–a discipline Dr. Stephan Rechtschaffen called Time Shifting (1996, Doubleday).  For more information about ITM, see http://www.tskassociation.org/time-movement.html    So, time management doesn’t change or manage physical time itself, but there is a type of little-known inner time management that focuses on our experience of time, taking as its goal ‘movement’ toward the timeless zone of peak performance.

“Unfortunately, the poor use of our time does not make us fat, and so its effects are less visible.  That may be why the problem has not yet been given national priority. Nevertheless, it can make us as sick as overeating.  Ulcers, heart attacks, and cancers are created in the furrows of stress . . . . In a sense, this situation is much more serious, because many more people suffer from stress than from obesity.” (Servant-Schreiber, The Art of Time, p. 31)   “The misuse of time in today’s society should lead to a ‘time movement’.” (Rechtschaffen, p. 226)  “Unless we consciously learn to control time in our lives, the stress we suffer will only get worse. . . . Until we learn to control time consciously, our lives will continue to speed away from us . . . .”  (Rechtschaffen, p. 14)

Managing, Producing, and Evolving by Actualizing Values (MBAV)

Summary

No matter what we individuals do in life, it has two aspects, our ongoing experience, and the recording of our intentions, goals, and actions. As a shorthand analogy to a sporting event, we might call these two aspects of the ‘game of life’ the experiential field and the scoreboard.

To facilitate progress toward personal and organizational goals, each individual can define performance values to measure his/her involvement along one or more dimensions of the experiential field. As we act to accomplish our goals, we can then periodically measure these values as a way to evaluate and drive our progress.

Then, assuming that individuals periodically make suitable redefinitions of their performance values, the following two practices should optimally drive and sustain long-term individual and, for those involved in organizations, organizational progress–including simultaneously improving productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity:

(1) The primary practice, related to the experiential field:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the field as often as one can, while:

(2) Acting and keeping one’s scoreboard “at the back of one’s mind.”

Introducing the Issues Addressed

Employees and management alike suffer from the lack of a vision and operational method of optimal work which truly provides and actively fosters a natural meeting ground for both personal fulfillment and corporate results, and which inspires people toward peak performance, self-actualization, and optimal well-being.

We can inquire first, whether there actually is a balanced, general vision of Optimal Work. If so, instead of the modern preoccupation with bottom-line results, it would ideally balance concerns about productivity, product and service quality, and employee well-being and work capacity. And if it’s truly general–applicable to any person, environment, culture, and task–it cannot be defined in terms of organizational structures, management styles, employee habits, and best practices or processes.   Though such a vision can’t prescribe specific practices or processes, perhaps it could tell us how best to do processes and practices by defining a set of possible experiential “performance values” and tracking our progress within this set.

Second, we can inquire how workers can best motivate themselves, or be motivated.  Besides the usual external carrot-and-stick management methods, there is the inherent drive for self-actualization described by Maslow.  Are there ways for individual workers to set up a challenging atmosphere centered on this perennial, intrinsic drive? If so, how can management establish extrinsic organizational goals and yet support this intrinsic drive? Might it even be possible to foster a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and organizational results that has real potential for breaking through the typical employee distrust of management’s motives?

INTRODUCING THE WORK GAME, THE SCOREBOARDS, AND THE POSSIBLE MOVES

No matter what we individuals do in life, it has two aspects, our ongoing experience, and the recording of our intentions, goals, and actions. As a shorthand analogy to a sporting event, we might call these two aspects of the ‘game of life’ the experiential field and the scoreboard.

I propose that to optimally facilitate progress, each individual should maintain a scoreboard that represents progress toward both personal and organizational goals (determined as described in step 1 below), and should then focus on one’s experiential field while making different possible ‘moves’ of increasing involvement defined by performance values measured along one or more dimensions (this will soon be explained further).

IN THE WORK GAME, WHERE SHOULD WE FOCUS?

In a typical organization the primary emphasis is on productivity and the bottom-line Outer gameboard goals (step 1). Sometimes there is a secondary emphasis on quality.  Very seldom is there even the simple recognition of the importance of the natural process of trying to deepen our concentration and involvement in the experiential field when we try to improve performance.

Emphasizing results on the scoreboard can negatively affect employee well-being. By focusing on results without a balanced attention to their well-being (which can be measured on the experiential field) employees may produce a great deal during a long work crunch, yet burn out in the process.  It’s clear that focusing on results, often touted as a kind of overall ‘best practice’, does not guarantee optimal employee well-being or even long-term productivity.  As Kenneth Blanchard asked in Managing By Values, when you’re playing tennis, what kind of results can you expect if you keep focused on the scoreboard–measuring profit or ‘results’–rather than the ball?  (Blanchard, p. 49)

However, with a set of experiential performance values (defined in step 2), you can drive balanced, overall personal and organizational progress–including improving quality, and employee well-being–if everyone focuses on increasing their own engagement/involvement on the experiential field (see “What Guarantees Optimal Productivity and Well-Being?”  http://www.manage-time.com/involve.html ) rather than focusing on the scoreboard, productivity, or the bottom line, all of which are lagging indicators.  In the preceding chapter we saw how measuring involvement provides immediate feedback to drive progress.

For clarity in this article we can distinguish two types of involvement, behavioral and inner. Behavioral involvement is measured in terms of a person’s actions, or observable behavior. For example, one might join a group concerned with the disarmament movement.  This type of involvement is often noted in black-and-white terms–that is, you’re either involved in a movement or you’re not. Most of the literature on involvement or engagement uses this behavioral meaning (for example, see dictionary.reference.com).

However, use of the word involvement in this article often refers to inner, or experiential involvement, which is measured by the degree to which one is fully preoccupied or experientially absorbed in whatever is at hand. It focuses on change in one’s inner experience. While inner involvement is also often seen in black-and-white terms, it can instead be defined and used as a work performance measure that varies along one or more dimensions of the experiential field (discussed in detail below).

Outer involvement behavior, such as attending meetings, is often accompanied by ‘moves’ or changes in inner involvement, but these two aren’t always congruent: people can just ‘act the part’: “talk the talk” outside, but still not “walk the walk” inside. For a significant contribution, ‘inner’ buy-in is necessary, mere behavioral compliance is insufficient.

EXAMPLE OF HOW IMPROVING INNER INVOLVEMENT DRIVES PROGRESS

To clarify what inner involvement is and how it changes at transition points, and perhaps to see how numerous the possibilities are, you can examine this account of an extended work period during which involvement increases gradually for some time, then decreases a while. Increasing involvement is defined in the case of this example simply as “a more complete integration of the experiential aspects of the work scenario;” decreasing involvement is “greater disintegration of experiential aspects of the work scenario.”

I have a speech I need to prepare. There’s a feeling of dread. It’s Monday, and the speech is to be delivered Thursday. It takes considerable effort to even think about getting started on the script. I need to get it done, but I don’t want to. I could avoid the feeling of dread and the task of speechwriting, but I’m not going to be that irresponsible. So I allow the feeling to be there, and begin to make notes about the talk. The sense of dread gradually dissipates.

I visualize myself speaking a few days from now, at a point along a linear time line that extends from here in the present to Thursday. I feel time flowing strongly and relentlessly in the background. There’s pressure and a subtle sense of anxiety attending the flow of time. I could focus on the deadline up ahead and the feeling of time slipping by, and make myself more anxious, but I decide to let go of these unproductive concerns and focus on the work. The pressure and anxiety about the deadline gradually subside as I turn toward the work a little more.

After I get more of an outline for the talk, it begins to feel like writing this speech is a kind of ‘thing’ that I have to do, something very separate from me, almost forced upon me. I notice my feeling that it’s being imposed from outside. There’s a tendency to take the idea at face value, to believe it and react to it. But from another perspective it’s clear that no one is forcing me to do this. It’s my decision. As this becomes very clear, I relax a bit and think about what to do next.

Although the task is no longer just an idea to me, I still experience the work from outside, as an observer who is not “into it.” The papers feel distant from my body. I am aware of a lot of other objects in the room, as well as other things that I have to do in the next few days. My energy is somewhat scattered. The subject-object split and the scattered energy are recognized as signs that there is an opportunity for more involvement in the scenario. I could see these experiences as being normal, but from past experience it’s clear that they are common, yet not ‘normal,’ and if I take them as being realistic for this kind of work, the work scenario will not improve.

I write down some more ideas that I want to present, visualize myself giving the speech, and check the list to see what is missing. I write down a few more ideas. I feel a little puzzled about the order of these ideas. There’s some momentum to write more ideas down as well as a draw to examine the confusion. I know if I simply rush to put more ideas down, I may miss something important. I face the confusion, and soon realize that a couple of the topics would be better at a different place in the talk.

Things begin to flow a little more easily. Although time is not passing so strongly from past to present to future, more work ‘events’ seem to be occurring every minute, as if some other kind of momentum was accelerating. I reorganize the list, then read the list from beginning to end, once again visualizing giving the talk. At this point I am considerably more involved in the work. I am not aware of other projects I have to do, or other objects in the room. I am not an observer separate from the work. In fact, there is only a slight boundary that is sometimes felt between my mind and body and the papers. When I am thinking, I am often not aware of any objects at all. The quality of thinking is different also, not so much like ‘I’ am pushing the thoughts. Although a bit of effort is required on my part, the thoughts and the work seem to flow somewhat by themselves. And this is not just a feeling, I’m getting the work done more quickly. The insight about rearranging topics clearly came on its own, with no volition on my part. My feeling of time has changed considerably. Time has only a subtle flow apart from me and the work. I feel very little anxiety about time passing toward the deadline.

Now the writing really takes on a life of its own. Ideas come easily, and insights are frequent, surprising me again and again. The material seems completely original. The process is creative in the sense of presenting material that seems new and fresh, not arising from any apparent source. I experience wonder and awe at the process and the accuracy and value of the content written. I feel good about being able to participate in this process. Periodically there are little bits of pride that arise as I congratulate myself on my improved progress. I have thoughts about rewarding myself by taking a break. There seem to be more points at which these interruptions and others are noticed. I could take a break, but I know I would miss the strong flow of the work and the fulfillment I am experiencing, let alone the opportunity to get so much done so quickly. It is also realized that congratulating myself on ‘my’ progress doesn’t make much sense, since it doesn’t feel like ‘I’ am the source of the flow. These distractions are noticed and disappear very quickly.

There are no noticeable feelings of anxiety, fear, or pressure. Nor is there a feeling of time passing. I am not aware of objects in the room, nor of the work as a ‘thing’ or project. There is little felt separation between ‘my’ mind and the thinking and writing being done.

At some point, I get confused about the message I want to get across in the speech. There’s a strong tendency to avoid the confusion, and a pull to continue the momentum of the work and figure out what to write next. My mind starts to wander, and I look at the clock and realize it’s almost time for my favorite TV show. I know this is the best time to do this work, but pretty soon I’m thinking about how I might be able to finish my work after the show is over and during my free time the next couple of days. Yes, it seems possible! I think I have enough time. With some subtle anxiety lurking in the background, I procrastinate, put my work aside, and begin to watch the show.

The flow of work has stopped and time slips by quickly again. While I’m watching TV, I’m slightly anxious, subtly aware of what time it is and how much time I have till the end of the show, when I’ll return to my work. Watching television is not a flowing experience now, nor is it as enjoyable as I’d hoped it would be. My mind is divided between the show and being aware that I really want to do my work. I am self-consciously watching TV here in the present, feeling anxious and guilty about a job waiting for me in the future. My experience is divided into present and future, into an anxious self and the relentless flow of time. Besides anxiety, I also feel guilty or pressured about not getting the job done. The scenario is complicated, with my awareness divided, time partitioned into present and future, strongly ambivalent feelings about what’s happening, and a persistent sense of separation between myself, the TV, and my work.

HYPOTHESIS:  THE BEST APPROACH TO OPTIMAL WORK IS . . .

In the previous section, we concluded that work progress naturally results from (1) noticing the transition points where your (inner) involvement could either increase or decrease, making the scenario either more simple/integrated or complicated/fragmented, and then (2) making a ‘move’ in the direction of increasing involvement. This is the natural way that we improve productivity usually without even thinking about it.

This leads to a hypothesis about the best way to drive progress.  Presuming that there is sufficient organizational support (mostly management understanding and trust) for the environment described below in steps 1 and 2, the following work practices should optimally drive and sustain both long-term individual and organizational progress–including simultaneously improving productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity–in any culture and environment:

(1) The primary practice, focused on the experiential field:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ as often as one can (a process defined as continuous improvement), while:

(2) Working and keeping measures of one’s progress and goals (the scoreboard) “at the back of one’s mind.”

The significant presumption of the hypothesis is that the ‘inner’ playing field and the scoreboard are not separate, but related parts of our larger reality in which moves on the inner, experiential field drive both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ progress.  Although most people in most cultures and in these times have become preoccupied with the outer world, this statement redirects the emphasis and says that the inner field is essential–outer results somehow follow directly from inner progress. In the book Peak, Chip Conley confirms this: “I came to realize that creating peak experiences for employees, customers, and investors fostered peak performance for my company.”

This approach to optimal work constitutes a version of what might be called Managing by Actualizing Values (MBAV), similar to Blanchard’s Managing by Values approach, for which it’s stated, “When we keep our eyes on consistently operating our business by aligning with our core values, the scoreboard does in fact take care of itself!” (Blanchard, p. 49)

We could reword it this way:  Actualizing values drives inner and outer progress.  When people perform at their best, their attention is primarily on qualities of their immediate experience of working, or on what could be called inner performance values–they are not preoccupied with measuring or tallying the products and services they are producing or delivering.  As Blanchard says, when people do their best, “all of their attention is on what they’re doing . . . . The results just seem to flow from this focus of energy . . . . Lots of companies seem to watch only their scoreboard–-the bottom line.” (Blanchard, p. 3)

Three steps are suggested for implementing this Managing by Actualizing Values approach.

STEP 1: SET UP THE OUTER, GOAL BOARD BY DETERMINING PERSONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS AND PRIORITIES.

Each person identifies and prioritizes his or her personal and organizational goals using common time management practices (For example, see conventional time management (http://www.manage-time.com/103Frames.html  on the Results in No Time website at www.manage-time.com).  This action is initially done, and updated periodically when useful, by every individual in the organization, whether manager or individual contributor.

One should not start with an organization’s mission alone, which just limits possibilities at the outset.  Any organization is just part of a much larger whole, and the MBAV goal here is to improve performance in life in general, not to limit oneself to only personal or corporate goals.  Anyway, any effort to keep corporate and personal goals separate is artificial and confusing at best–our personal lives affect our corporate lives, and vice versa.

Organizational goal-setting may be done privately by management, or more publicly with (external) involvement or participation by other employees. The organization must at the very least, somehow clarify and periodically update its goals and mission, and pass this direction on to all employees.

These goals then are up for adoption by every individual employee–and it’s still up to the individual to decide whether to adopt them.  In some cases there may be personal ethical or moral objections.  In Managing by Values, Blanchard says, “a company  creates  a motivating environment for its people–one in which  employees can  see that  working  toward  the  organization’s  goals is in their  best  interest.” (Blanchard, p. 23) However, presuming that this is in fact the case can be misleading or even dangerous, and personal freedom and integrity takes priority over trying to accommodate an organizational decision that one doesn’t put faith or credence in.

Personal goal-setting may be done privately or in a group setting.  Ideally an organization will provide time for identifying personal goals.  Doing so demonstrates management’s understanding of the close connection and interrelationship of personal and organizational goals, as well as support for, and trust in the efficacy of MBAV.

STEP 2: DEFINE A RANGE OF INNER INVOLVEMENT IN TERMS OF EXPERIENTIAL PERFORMANCE VALUES.

As discussed in my article “What Guarantees Optimal Productivity and Well-Being?” (http://www.manage-time.com/involve.html, with a shorter version at https://stevrandal.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/boosting-productivity-quality-and-well-being) inner, experiential involvement in the current scenario is directly proportional to employee well-being, productivity, and quality of product and service. We could symbolize it this way:  I ~ W*P*Q.  Thus tracking and improving experiential involvement is both an indicator and a driver of all aspects of progress.  In addition, unlike other measures of progress defined in terms of specific results, services, or production processes, the natural practice of tracking involvement–however it is defined, as discussed below–has the important benefit that it can be used not only while focusing on any task, but also as you switch between tasks, or even when there is no apparent task at hand.

Inner involvement is operationally defined as a measurement of one or more dimensions, with each dimension having a set of work-process or performance values that are experientially possible during a work period.  For this step, each individual should specify his/her personal set of performance values to be used to measure inner progress at work, and if desirable, during other times as well. There are many ways to do this—your choices will probably depend in part on your own personality, goals, and religious or spiritual disciplines. Consider the core values that, for you or your organization, will guide and shape the way you fulfill your purpose.  Whatever your selection, how you define engagement or involvement will determine what your suggestions are for improving them.  Your definition will also determine whether truly continuous improvement can be fostered using the performance values—some specifications do not provide sufficient granularity for continuous improvement.

As a first example of how to do this, one’s performance level can be measured very simply along a single dimension by choosing one of the following seven ‘values’:  (1) avoiding, (2) holding back, (3) being resigned to doing something, (4) getting into it, (5) being involved, (6)  being absorbed, (7) being completely engrossed. Then at work you can periodically recall your recent experience as if you were viewing a videotape replay, determine which of these five performance values best fits your experience, and then look for ways to improve. Using these values provides a rough measure of involvement.

A second way to track engagement: define it as a combined measure of three dimensions, awareness (A), concentration (C), and energy (E) (See Tulku, 1994, pp. 120-129).  You can assign numbers from 0% to 100% for each of the three dimensions, and use the average of the three values for the combined measure of involvement.

Third, you could estimate involvement as a combined measure of three dimensions of integration, energy-flow, and spaciousness:  a high degree of involvement can indicate an experiential melding of objects and individuals, an effortless yet powerful flow of events, and a sense of openness pervading the entire work scenario. A low degree of involvement could mean that individuals and objects were strongly felt to be separate, intense effort was required to get small things done, or the work scenario had a heavy or inert feeling.

Fourth, for fine granularity and precision, you could (a) define engagement as a combined measure of the twelve dimensions defined in an article on the zone published in the Jossey-Pfeiffer Bass 2007 Annual.  These dimensions or aspects of the zone approximate irreducible aspects of peak experience.

Then (b), as in the second way to track engagement above, chart the rise and fall of these twelve factors throughout the day by periodically considering the following questions that contrast various aspects of ordinary work from peak performance:

1. Are you applying effort or control to something that feels separate from you, or does your activity seem to flow effortlessly ‘by itself’?

2. Do things feel familiar, somewhat predictable, or even habitual, or does each new moment, along with all that appears in the momentary scenario, seem spontaneous and fresh?

3. Are you looking forward to being done with the work, or are you currently fulfilled within your work-in-progress?

4. Do objects and events take up space and appear to be separate and dispersed, or are do they seem intimately connected in and even as one space?

5. Is there a private space or personal world that feels separate from everything outside, or do inner and outer, subjective and objective appear to be inseparable facets of the same undivided space?

6. Is there a sense of self that stands apart from experience and externals, or do you feel identified with, or absorbed in, what is happening?

7. Is knowledge simply something that you or others possess or lack, or is there a sense of being intimately part of what’s around you, knowing things that are happening ‘from inside’ them?

8. Is knowledge only identification, categorization, judgment, and detached observation, or also an illuminating clarity merged with the subject being explored?

9. Are there divisions among your self, mind, body, and personality, or is there a natural sense of wholeness, fulfillment, and satisfaction?

10. Are you driven by a need or a desire for pleasure, or is everything being found to be immediately and inherently fulfilling?

11. Do you notice a feeling of time flowing in the background, or are you timelessly involved in something?

12. Does reality seem solid, fixed, and substantial, or does everything seem somewhat fluid or dreamlike?

However you define your involvement system, it would probably be helpful to compose some questions to help determine your current performance level and the direction for progress.

For a particular individual, the transformational efficacy of a set of values depends on the individual’s level of development. What’s good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Consider relating to one’s work using average performance values limited by inculcated experiential strictures (see https://stevrandal.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/whats-the-zone-of-peak-performance/ on my blog).  An individual who is experientially separate from the work action, and who experiences the flow of time from past to present and future, has ‘room for improvement’ in the transition toward peak performance values. Because the spectrum of fitting values is broad, the MBAV approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational and practical purposes.

If, because of your growing insight and realization, you periodically make appropriate revisions of your personal definitions of involvement, these performance values could gradually approach the irreducible, core values of the ‘zone’ of self-actualization.  By thus improving the precision with which you observe the workflow, you will have the granularity of feedback necessary to directly approach peak performance.

Besides helping to empower every individual worker, centering our approach to peak performance on increasing involvement relieves management of the effort involved in carrot and stick methods of motivation. These methods depend on repeatedly filling individuals’ lower-level needs (such as approval and security), which can only be temporarily satisfied.   In contrast, the motivation toward self-actualization does not seem to die out.  As Andrew Grove pointed out, “Unlike other sources of motivation . . . self-actualization continues to motivate people to ever higher levels of performance.” (Grove, pp. 163-4) Thus he suggests that “Our role as managers is . . . to . . . bring them to the point where self-actualization motivates them” (Grove, p. 168)

Another huge advantage of this MBAV approach is that there’s no need to persuade or convert anyone (including managers, who often “don’t have time for” this kind of approach) to adopt a particular set of values, practices, beliefs, or disciplines. The method allows and even fosters people’s own current religious or sectarian (e.g., time, space, and knowledge—values ‘unoffensive’ for scientists and engineers) definitions of performance values on the experiential field. Organizational developers don’t need to adopt and implement another foreign program. It’s sufficient to clarify what is already in place within each person, to point out how it can serve as the basis for managing by actualizing values, and to trust and support everyone’s progress. Then this approach can serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and corporate results, and has real potential for breaking through the common employee distrust of management’s motives.

STEP 3:  IN ORDER TO OPTIMALLY DRIVE PROGRESS IN PRODUCTIVITY, WELL-BEING, QUALITY, AND WORK CAPACITY, CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVE INNER INVOLVEMENT.

The following two work practices should simultaneously optimize and sustain long-term individual and organizational progress–including productivity, quality of services and products, worker well-being and work capacity–in any culture and environment:

(1) The primary practice, focused on the Inner board:   Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the field of experience as often as one can, while:

(2) Working and keeping one’s goals for the results scoreboard ‘at the back of one’s mind’.

About practice 1:  Make increasing-involvement ‘moves’ in the experiential field as often as one can.

Although as we grow older, most of us become preoccupied with the outer world, to win the overall game of life, we need to focus and master our play on the inner, experiential field.

I made some arguments discussing step 2 above to support this statement, but can I really prove this to anyone?  I doubt it.  Though my arguments might be convincing, certainty about the efficacy of driving progress via increasing involvement will probably come only from validating it in your own experience.  That was certainly true for me.

To try it out, view your experience as a kind of playing field where you are the only player. The object of the game is to approach peak performance by driving inner involvement–in whatever way you have defined it–as high as you can.

To do this, as you work, occasionally notice where you are in the range of performance values you defined in step 2.  Are you experiencing ‘lesser’ values, or does your process currently exemplify the values toward the center, towards what is sometimes called the ‘zone’ of peak performance?   Use the questions you wrote in step 2 to determine the level of your involvement, and the direction for improvement.

If it seems there is no restriction or limitation, no opportunity for improving our work process, you can simply enjoy things and go on.  However, it’s often easy to identify a limitation on complete involvement in the work scenario. There seem to be countless opportunities for most of us to improve the degree to which we are absorbed. As we deal with those that are obvious to us, before long it seems we are naturally presented with possible transition points that are more subtle.

If you are aware of a performance value that is low, do whatever you can to change it to a central value.  For example, if energy is a dimension that you’re measuring by a percentage value, and your estimate was 40%, do something to increase your energy level.

On the other hand, sometimes people will define dimensions in terms of ‘values’ representing feelings, such as the level of anxiety about time passing.  Then you can simply attend directly to the feeling for however long it persists.  By noticing these feelings consistently and persistently–whether  focusing only on these feelings or simultaneously continuing to work–you can eventually dissolve  the obstacle clouding  the fuller and more frequent appearance of central values in experience.

It could be helpful for motivated individuals to meet periodically (even if only around the tea/coffee pot or dining area) and discuss obstacles and insights–our experiences are often very similar and it can be helpful to share how we deal with them. Participants might also practice various ‘noticing’ exercises designed especially to break up the limitations keeping us from deepening our involvement.  Management’s support for such meetings would be influential.

About practice 2:  Work and keep one’s goals for the results scoreboard “at the back of one’s mind.”

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, this approach to Optimal Work constitutes a version of what might be called Managing by Actualizing ValuesWhen people perform at their best, their attention is primarily on qualities of their immediate experience of working, or what could be called inner performance values.  And although they naturally and periodically recall their tasks, objectives, and priorities as they work, they are not preoccupied with measuring or tallying the products and services they are producing or delivering.

CONCLUSION

In order to optimally drive progress in productivity, well-being, quality, and work capacity in any culture and environment, the primary focus should be to continuously improve inner involvement, which is defined as a measure of one or more dimensions of values that are experientially possible and measurable during a work period.  While experts in organizational development are usually preoccupied with dynamics and methods of outer or behavioral involvement, the most important, deterministic aspect of all forms of involvement is ‘inner’, or experiential–without this, behavior is meaningless and robotic.

There are many effective ways to define inner involvement.  The utility of one’s definition will clearly depend on two important factors.  First, it depends on the ‘fit’ or congruence of performance values chosen–by each individual–with the individual’s personality, goals, and religious or spiritual values and discipline.  Without a significant degree of congruence, the individual’s well-being and performance will suffer.  If the organization imposes values that conflict with those of the individuals–even if it considers those values worthwhile, innate, natural, divine, “best values,” empirically validated, or obvious–there will be conflict and overall progress will surely suffer.  Ideally, management will be willing to trust the discovery of efficacious and naturally motivating values by each individual.

For a particular individual, the transformational efficacy of a set of values also depends on the individual’s level of development. What’s good for most people may not help a peak performer, and vice versa. Therefore, the MBAV approach recognizes that each individual is, and should be, the final arbiter of which values to use for transformational or practical purposes.  In addition, this method allows an evolution in definitions of involvement when appropriate–and with the average person this does happen occasionally.

As stated earlier, a huge advantage of this is that there’s no need to convert anyone to a particular set of values, practices, beliefs, or disciplines.  It’s sufficient to clarify what is already in place within each person, to point out how it can serve as the basis for managing by actualizing values, and to trust and support everyone’s progress.  Then this approach can serve as a genuine meeting ground for personal fulfillment and corporate results, and has real potential for breaking through the typical employee distrust of management’s motives.

In addition to congruence of performance values chosen with the individual’s personality and preferences, efficacy of each individual’s definition of involvement depends on the approximation of these same performance values with what to some people are presumed (and to other people are credible, or self-evident) essential, core, irreducible,  or ‘zone’ values of what has variously been called peak performance, self-actualization, self-realization, or enlightenment.  Managing by values is probably effective because of the focus on values instead of results, but its efficacy also depends on what values are used, and how they are used.

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) national web site used to state: “Although there is an intellectual construct called high performance work, it does not have a common definition.” However, a definition of optimal work can be drawn from common descriptions of peak experience by Maslow, Murphy and White, Csikszentmihalyi, and Tarthang Tulku, among others.  From their works and many more by other researchers and writers we can piece together a vision of the zone and use it in our measurements of involvement during work. This foundation is currently available. Shared and irreducible attributes of cross-cultural peak experience can help provide the direct experiential–not theoretical or behavioral or results-focused–basis for continuous improvement, moving us toward realizing the zone and increasing engagement/involvement whenever possible, and managing by actualizing values at the deepest levels.

References

Blanchard, K. (1997). Managing by values. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Grove, A. (1983). High Output Management. New York: Random House.

Maslow, A.(1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking Press.

Maslow, A. (1962). Toward a Psychology of Being. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

Murphy, Michael H. and Rhea A. White (1995). In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports. New York: Penguin Books.

Conley, Chris (2007). Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow.  Audio recording of his book.   Recorded Books.

Rao, G. P. (2010).   Humanising Management: Transformation through Human Values. New Delhi:  Ane Books Pvt. Ltd.

Rao, G. P. (2009).   “Remaking Ourselves: Transformation through Human Values,” an article.

Randall, S. (2007).  Exploring the ‘Zone’ of Peak Performance. An article on pp. 171-96 of The 2007 Pfeiffer Annual: Annual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

Tulku, Chagdud. (1993).  Gates to Buddhist Practice.  Junction City, CA:  Padma Publishing.

Tulku, T. (1994).  Mastering Successful Work.  Berkeley, CA:  Dharma Publishing.

Tulku, T. (1977).  Time, Space, and Knowledge:  A New Vision of Reality.  Berkeley, CA:  Dharma Publishing, p. 93.

Time Management Doesn’t Work — And What to Do About It

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

Essential Time Mastery — script for a short seminar on YouTube

The seminar/movie is on YouTube at:  http://youtu.be/sGqV6KViRuw

Here’s the script for the seminar, by slide.

Slide 1:

This short seminar introduces essential definitions; inquiry about the zone, personal time, and the source of time pressure; and two powerful methods that can be useful for mastering time.

Slide 2:

Typical conventional time management (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. Event time is what we hear and see on TV and radio news shows.

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. (For examples illustrating this, watch the longer introductory time mastery seminar that you can sign up for at  http://www.tskassociation.org/got-time-introduction.html  )   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 3:

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 4:

Research shows that  time pressure and anxiety accompanying linear time, the habitual Western perspective of seeing time flowing linearly, is one of the greatest sources of stress for most people. Dr. Larry Dossey wrote, “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.” (Space, Time and Medicine, Larry Dossey, M.D., Shambhala, Boston & London, 1982.)

What is the source of time pressure?  Most CTM seminars don’t even seriously ask this question. But if we know the source, we can probably handle it better. Here are some common candidates for the factors involved:

My boss

A deadline itself

A plate (to-do list) that’s too full, or a lack of clock time

Technology

Likes and dislikes, attitudes

Disorganization and confusion about what to do

Unclear priorities

Lack of an effective scheduling system

Here are two uncommon candidates:

Chemical imbalance

Imbalance in one’s energy flow.

My research indicates that the last six of these factors do affect time pressures, and that the most important of these factors is the last one, an imbalance in one’s energy flow. This imbalance seems to be primarily an aggregate result of past emotional residues.  Rather than measuring or mirroring some ‘external time flow’ (which scientists haven’t found), our FTP is typically the result of repressed energy, completely independent of external physical events and speeds. In other words, our feeling of speed and time pressure is typically a product of past ‘undigested’ experiences, and not a measure of current external forces or events. So full schedules and modern speedy technology  are not the problem.

Slide 5:

The gradual process of developing and strengthening the sense of time passing can be expressed in terms of three primary human energy centers:

Some feeling rises to awareness. But rather than feel the feeling, and allow it to dissipate and dissolve, we turn away from it. The feeling is repressed or suppressed and we lose a measure of confidence as well as a bit of the natural fulfillment that accompanies being fully involved in our energies. The energy of the heart is lessened and we feel somewhat pressured.

Excess energy flows to the head and a sense of detached self-consciousness intensifies as our thinking skips about the separate past, present, and future rooms in our experience.

Energy in the area of the throat, which is closely associated with time, becomes agitated as we become anxious and more aware of time passing. We feel a bit more helpless; time becomes more threatening, a greater enemy. Thereafter there’s a more dissatisfied sense of self trying to seek satisfaction through various objects and activities.

Slide 6:

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/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 7:

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, In The Zone (ITZ), Murphy and White)

[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 8:

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 kind of 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 9:

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 10:  timer

Slide 11:

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 12:

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

For a free 45-minute movie on mastering time, sign up at http://www.tskassociation.org/got-time-introduction.html

For a complete Mastering Linear Time workshop, see:
http://www.tskassociation.org/mastering-linear-time.html

Coaching is available for individuals and groups—take advantage of a free, half-hour needs assessment interview.  For more information, email   steve@manage-time.com

Other available publications:  Two books, Flow, Glow, and Zero, and Results in No Time, numerous articles on time management and time mastery, two websites, http://www.tskassociation.org and http://www.manage-time.com, cassette tapes, and email newsletters.