Last week I took members of my group coaching program through a master class on time management. It wasn’t your usual take on time management strategies though. You know the type I mean; where you learn to prioritize, delegate, defer, systematize, get productive and all that. I love productivity hacks, systems, apps and such things more than most (and will be covering some of these in an upcoming class) but this one literally was about time management.
More specifically, it was about what I call time mastery; managing yourself and your perception of time. While productivity and efficiency is all about what you are doing, time mastery is more about who and how you are being. Unless we take care of the being side of things, efficiency improvements will always fall short. Have you noticed, for example, that all the tools, tricks and time management strategies we have nowadays have just made us more busy than ever?
So what’s the secret to this time wizardry? How can you make the most of all the tips and tricks and hacks you’ve picked up to make the most of your time? How can you continue to do more and achieve more in business and life without running yourself to the ground?
It’s not voodoo but the first thing to understand is that time isn’t real. Einstein told us this – “Time is an illusion.” He even described its purpose as being “so that everything doesn’t all happen at once.”
Physicists have come up with various ways and means of proving this but they use very sciencey words. I have no idea what those words mean and it does my head in thinking about it, but I trust them when they say that everything is happening all at once. The universe is apparently a massive cosmic soup where all possibilities exist all at once.
The trust in the physicists isn’t just blind faith. It’s based on experience. At night when I look up at the stars, I see light that left a star many years ago. That light travels vast distances (light years in fact) before little ol’ me looks up and sees it blinking away in the sky. For all I know that star no longer exists but I wouldn’t know till many, many years from now when the light stops arriving. So I’m literally seeing the past and the present now. Wizardry indeed
A physicist would probably roll their eyes at the explanation but it’s enough to convince me that Einstein was onto something (which must be a great relief to Einstein). So my interpretation of his statement, that time is there to make sure everything doesn’t happen at once, is that time is a tool of consciousness that we use to have experience, i.e. so we can witness and be part of all those things that aren’t happening at once.
People who have near death experiences (NDEs) describe a different type of experience, where they find their awareness in multiple places at the same time and even in multiple times at the same time. Anita Moorjani in a book about her own NDE, “Dying To Be Me” gives a great description of the timeless realm when she died (almost) from cancer. More evidence that time isn’t as linear as we think and that there is more happening now than just ‘now’.
Of course that’s all well and good but that doesn’t stop the clock ticking does it? The rent is still due this Friday, the Fedex driver will be here any minute to pick up today’s dispatches and you’ve still got a client deadline you are pushing to meet at 4pm. Well, Einstein also said that though time was an illusion, it’s a very convincing one indeed. Amen to that.
So while we may not have much control over the rate at which a clock ticks, we do have total control over our perception of it. This is where time mastery kicks in. Where it needs to kick in in fact because without it, all the productivity and efficiency hacks and traditional time management strategies do is create even more stuff to pile on top of a preconceived idea of time. We go from busy to even more busy.
Behind every reaction we have to a time based event, a delivery commitment, a payment due date, a client deadline, or even boredom, is a story or a preconceived idea about time itself. Time is running out, there isn’t enough time, I haven’t got time, I didn’t have enough time, I’m having a good/bad time, times are tough, this is taking way too long… (Yeah, sorry ’bout that. We’ll be done soon :-).
These stories and preconceived ideas are partly a result of collective agreements we all have about time, and partly the result of our own stories that we’ve made up about time based on our past experiences.
Collective agreements? Best way to explain it would be with an example. Up until 1954 the four minute mile was considered by most to be an impossibility. That was the collective agreement of the time. In 1954 Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile and came in at 3 minutes 59.7 seconds. Less than two months later that record was beaten by John Landy. Within the next five years, 22 people broke the four minute mile with the record standing at 3:56:5 in 1959. Thus the collective agreement about how far someone could run in four minutes changed to the point that it just doesn’t even make the news any more.
Collective agreements like this and our own stories have a huge influence on how we perceive what’s possible for ourselves. But as we’ve seen, collective agreements can change. And stories are just, well, stories, and we can certainly change them.
So I’d invite you to take part in the homework assignment I set my group coaching clients. It’s real simple but I promise it will be an eye opener.
For the next two or three days, notice all the thoughts you have and words you say about time – I’m running out of time, I’m too busy…, I won’t have time to…, I had the best time…, I can’t wait till xyz happens…, I have to hurry up or I’m going to be late…, and so on. You can keep a count if you like or you can just notice it. Either way, you’ll be amazed at how many time based thoughts and words you actually have. And that’s just the ones you notice.
In becoming aware of these thoughts, notice how many of them are ‘good’ (i.e. make you feel better) and how many are ‘bad’ (i.e. make you feel worse or stressed). Any thoughts that you’d consider neutral can be counted as ‘good.’ Don’t worry about ‘fixing’ the thoughts, it’s purely an awareness exercise at this point so just observe them.
I won’t prejudge the outcome but notice also if there is an imbalance between the two. Even if there isn’t an imbalance, just observe how many ‘bad’ time thoughts you have. What difference would it make to your experience and how much more efficiently could you operate if you had fewer of those or if those thoughts or perceptions were more positive?
Which brings us to the second stage of the homework. For the following two or three days, notice again the thoughts you have related to time. This time around, when you do notice a bad thought, make a conscious effort to turn it around.
This isn’t about kidding yourself or glossing over the situation with positive thinking. It’s about taking the edge off it by telling yourself a different story. Take the drama out of it by changing your perception and expectations. Step back and take a broader perspective so you can see how unimportant it might be in the big scheme of things. It may make no difference to the overall outcome of the situation but I guarantee it will make a difference to the experience.
Don’t be surprised if it does make a difference to the outcome though. Solutions to problems may suddenly come to you. Unexpected resources may suddenly appear. And yes, miracles may even happen.
This is time mastery. Instead of being at the mercy of time you can make little adjustments here and there that totally change your perception of it and make your time management strategies much more effective. Would that be useful for you and your business? Does the idea of playing with this sound like fun? I’d love to hear if it strikes a chord so please leave a note in the comments below.
Thanks for taking the time to read this by the way.
PS – If you could do with some extra support in your business ventures, my group coaching program might be just the thing you need. It’s designed to help you make more profit in less time so if you’d like details, drop me a line and we can set up a time for a chat to see if it’s a fit for you.
I've been self-employed since I was 19 (and that was quite some time ago) and have owned manufacturing, service and consulting businesses ever since. Every business goes through stages and each stage in each business needs a different strategy to flourish and prosper. I can teach you about the stages and the strategies to shortcut your success.