Thursday, March 30, 2017

Proposal for a University Department for 'The Study of Time'


by Rick Doble


Today circular repeating time (right)  is being replaced with 
linear time as the digital clock on the left shows.

Time is the most used noun in the English language according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. This is probably true for most other languages as well. 

Time is critical to everything we do as individuals, as nations, and as human beings who inhabit the Earth. Consider: On your gravestone will be your name and the date you were born and the date you died. Time is that important.

There are, however, distinctly different ways of dealing with and understanding time in countries and cultures around the world. Further, time has been understood quite differently throughout human history. While the physics of time is fascinating, the critical area of concern for us as homo sapiens sapiens is the human experience of time -- as our experience and our ability to understand time is crucial for our survival as a species.

Because the human experience of time is so important, I propose that there should be departments at a number of universities for 'The Study of Time'. I find it odd, that while science is forging ahead with significant studies on a variety of topics from brain studies to climate change, there are virtually no university departments for The Study of Time.

I have a Master of Arts in Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am a great believer in the importance of academic studies because they can focus on important issues and guide the discussion and inquiry with professional rigor. But this kind of work is not being done by universities, as far as I can see.

These departments should NOT be about the physics of time such as that of Einstein and the theory of relativity, but instead time as we humans experience it from 9-5 on workdays, during time off on weekends, from New Years to New Years year after year and from generation to generation.

Yet there are few studies about the many different aspects of time other than time and motion studies for factories, i.e., studies only for commercial purposes. 

A search of the Internet revealed that there are two principle centers for the study of time:

The Centre for Time at the University of Sydney in Australia

The International Society for the Study of Time
This society was founded by J.T. Fraser who almost single handedly mapped out areas of time that should be investigated.

In addition I found only one university course that is currently being taught about the human experience of time, yet even so it is only offered every other year during the fall semester:

Course Listing:
KULH1112 - Fast Forward -The Cultural History of Time: Texts, Things, and Technologies
The University of Oslo
Course content: In the course we will focus on time as a cultural and historical phenomenon and explore how experiences of time have changed throughout history, mainly in the Western world. 


Our understanding of the passage of time, plus our human perception of the future and what to do about it, may determine the fate of our species. 

A good example is climate change or global warming. If climate change happens quickly it will be hard to adapt; if it happens slowly, then we could learn how to cope and make plans to deal with, for example, rising sea levels. The amount of time we have and the time needed to understand climate change and to build technologies that deal with climate change is pivotal for the survival of the human race. But just as important is the time it will take to develop the political will on a global scale that can deal with the consequences and modifications of our fast moving (there's that time thing again) technology that has led to climate change in the first place. Humans can handle day to day, month to month, and year to year time quite well. However, longer term time demands are problematic. 

I believe that a comprehensive study of time as outlined below will yield answers. This study will begin to reveal how humans relate to time and consequently how important issues can be framed that take this relationship into account.

However, coming to terms with climate change is only the most urgent aspect. There are many other ways that an investigation of our relation to time could affect life-styles, cultures, businesses, commerce and a sense of well-being for the individual. 

Yet we often lack the most basic vocabulary. I have proposed, for example, that we think of 'hard time' as time that is unforgiving and irreversible such as the death of a parent or a car accident and 'soft time' meaning flexible time that can be changed or managed such as going to the store today or waiting until tomorrow. There are quite a few aspects of time that need to be explored such as terminology. These can work toward developing a sophisticated understanding that will make us more aware of how time operates and also make us better able to work with time and to be more comfortable with time demands.


The following 10 areas of study could be included in such a department -- with examples of essays from my blog DeconstructingTime:

Modern Time Technology: 
This area of study would include the increasing accuracy and standardization in the keeping of time along with the coordination of time and how these have affected human societies. It would also include a study of new technologies that can record time related events such as photography, film and music and how these have changed the human relation to time.

How Photography Changed Time: Part 1

How Photography Changed Time: Part 2

The Environment & War Technology

A Revolution in Time

Today time is exact worldwide, 
since Internet time is synchronized to an accurate atomic clock. 

Language and Symbolic Thinking: 
This area of study would include how concepts of time are part of all languages and how those concepts differ. It would also include how cultures share symbolic structures for a shared understanding of time.

How Our Concept of Time Is Embedded & Derived from Our Language

The Human Revolution: Symbolic Culture

Virtual Human Meta-Time

Prehistoric and Ancient Timekeeping: 
This area of study would include how time was marked and understood in the past.

The Ancient Manipulation of Time: Part 1

The Ancient Manipulation of Time: Part 2

Computing the Winter Solstice at Newgrange:  Was Neolithic Science Equal To or Better Than Ancient Greek or Roman Science?

Winter Solstice Celebrations: Roman Saturnalia and Modern Christmas

The neolithic Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland was able 
to determine the time of the winter solstice 5000 years ago. 
The passageway was carefully designed to align 
with the rising sun on the day of the solstice.

This area of study would include how each culture teaches its children about time during the education process.

School's Most Important Subject: Time

This area of study would include how business affects and changes a culture's relation to time.

Modern Time: Time as a Commodity

The Individual: 
This study would include an understanding of how the human psyche deals with time demands, especially time on and off the clock.

Choosing Your Personal Time-Style

The Future: 
This area of study would include how human societies make predictions about the future and then make decisions based on those predictions to build and plan for the future.

The Protective Bubble of Civilization

Global Warming & The Future: Part 1

Global Warming & The Future: Part 2

This area of study would include how the human brain has a unique sense of time unavailable to other animals.

Animal Senses Compared to the Human Sense of Time (my most popular essay)

Art and Sport: 
This area of study would include how various art forms and cultural forms use time.

Games & Time

How Culture Plays With Time

This time lapse series shows the motion of a baseball pitcher. 
Time and motion is at the heart of sports' contests.

The Nature Of The Human Sense Of Time:

Time & The Human Sense of Duration

Continuity & Time

Patterns & Memory

New Terminology About Time


The above areas of study are, of course, merely suggestions. Each department would need to decide how it would organize it's field. 

The above linked essays were derived from my blog: 

See the 3 Year Index for these blogs divided into categories:

But isn't the Department of History about time you might ask? In a word, no, not at all. History is about events and the sequence of events. History does not generally deal with the nature of time itself. History will be important in my proposed department but it will be a history of how humans have understood and dealt with time. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How Our Concept of Time Is Embedded & Derived from Our Language

How Our Concept of Time Is Embedded & Derived from Our Language


For words are to thought what tools are to work; 
the product depends largely on the growth of the tools.
Will Durant, History of Civilization: Part 1

letters from the world's languages
Some letters from the world's written languages. This is the Wiktionary logo.

Words and language are the primary tools a culture uses to conceive of time and to manage, plan, and communicate time. Embedded in every language is a concept and a structure of time that is understood by each individual but that is also shared by the culture as a whole.

In each language, in virtually every sentence, a kind of time stamp or time code is implied, such as verb tenses which vary from culture to culture and language to language.

I do not think that we as a species would have the power to manage time -- which I believe is the key reason we humans have become the dominant species on the planet -- without these time tools. We are the only animal that can place a number of events in sequence both in the past and in the future. This is because we are the only animal that understands the concept of *when*: when in the past, when in the present, and when in the future. 

See my blog about the unique human sense of time
which has recorded 3000+ views and downloads:
Animal Senses Compared to the Human Sense of Time

Language is a set of symbols invented by humans. Without these shared symbols, a tribe or group of people could not work with time because they could not plan or coordinate their activities. Without these shared symbols, we would be lost in time. Without this ability to navigate in time, our cultures, our civilizations, our inventions, our way of life would be impossible.

The key point is that language allows each one of us to manage time and also allows us collectively, in a coordinated manner, to navigate in time. 

New Year's Eve -- New York City, Times Square
New Year's Eve at Times Square in New York City. A collective celebration of time.

This blog is about the human experience of time. If we want to understand that experience, we need look no further than our language and how it is used -- e.g., the expressions -- to understand that our basic concept of time is part and parcel of the language we have all learned from an early age. 

But each language and culture has a different understanding of time. Perhaps through a study of time contained in all the world's languages we could gain an overall understanding of the human relation to time and how we can best work with time to insure the future survival of the human species.



In the next hundred years or so climate change will radically affect our planet, our cultures, our way of life and our survival. Understanding how we relate to this looming future involves our understanding of time and what we must do now to prevent even worse consequences in the future -- as well as planning for things that appear to be inevitable such as sea level rise.

For example, one of the very few universities that includes a Study of Time,
The Centre for Time at the University of Sydney in Sydney Australia, offered the following conference about the future of humanity:

An interdisciplinary conference on the relationships
between time, personal identity, and the future of humanity. 
Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, Grindavik, Iceland: 6th-8th July, 2015

Despite being aware (and reminded on a frequent basis) of the difficult future we face (both as individuals and as whole, including future people) if we don’t curb our consumption, our numbers, our carbon footprints and so on, in general we tend to fall back into our old ways. This is despite the fact that the future people might include ourselves and our family and offspring. Why is this? Is it not deeply irrational? Why do we privilege the now (present selves) and discount the future (and future selves)? Of course, there has been much work conducted on impulse control, self-regulation, temporal discounting and on the identity over time of selves, but rarely are these approaches brought together in the study of the pressing problem of humanity’s future. Time is deeply entangled with the problem, and so this conference aims to bring together researchers from a diverse set of fields, all engaged in some way with our behaviour over time, our stance towards time, or the nature of time in the universe, to think of new ways of integrating knowledge both to get a better grasp on the sources of humanity’s projected problematic future, [ED: my emphasis] and to possibly serve up some initial strategies for resolution.


From the moment a child is born he or she hears words: that of the doctor, the mother, the father, the nurses, the brothers and sisters. Although the child cannot speak, it is surrounded by language. And when the infant starts to speak, this is seen as a major step in the child's growth. 

Book for teaching the alphabet to children
This French book was created to teach children the alphabet and the French language.

All your life you are immersed in words and speech. Language is so much a part of us, we forget that it is a uniquely human invention of symbols about things -- but also symbols that describe a shared imagined time structure. 

With language we can move back and forth in space and time such as the party we went to last week or will go to next week or talk about a place we know that is miles away. With the aid of language we can move in our minds forward and back instantly from home to office or to our vacation spot. I believe this virtual world each one of us has is in part a by-product of language. 

See my blog:
Virtual Human Meta-Time

We are all immersed in language, or perhaps more accurately, blanketed by language. Language gives us the power to talk in generalities, such as about trees in general. It allows us to engage in abstract thought. It gives us the power to share our thoughts and plan and coordinate our activities. Yet language also confines and limits us.
We do not realize what tremendous power the structure of an habitual language has. It is not an exaggeration to say that it enslaves us through the mechanism of s[emantic] r[eactions] and that the structure which a language exhibits, and impresses upon us unconsciously, is automatically projected upon the world around us.                                                         Korzybski (1930)           
If we want to understand obtain an overview of how the human animal understands time, then the various concepts and structures that are built into our many languages is a good place to start. While all of this could be a fascinating academic study -- it also has immense practical value such as how to plan for global climate change and how to prevent further damage as I said earlier. 


While language can be about things, generalities and ideas, it is always about time. Virtually every sentence you speak has a time stamp or a time code. Something did happen, is happening right now, will happen in the future.  Language is quite good at pinpointing events on a thread of time, a timeline, both past, present and future by specifying 'when'. 

Take this simple sentence:

When I finish this project this afternoon, I will be done for the day.

This is a ordinary sentence that no one would have trouble understanding, but embedded in it is a very sophisticated sense of time. 

Lets take it apart:

When: This is the key word -- as I have said we are the only animal on the planet that can work with different points in time.

When I finish this project this afternoon: This means that finishing this project is in the future

I will be done: This is the most intriguing phrase because it means that in the future, the future project now completed will be in the past

done for the day: The future project now done and in the past means that in the future when you have completed your task, your work for that day will be completed.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE: Now that we have parsed this sentence, there is one more aspect to it. This sentence was spoken to someone, lets say a colleague. What this means is that the colleague can now understand your moment in time and also plan and coordinate his or her activities based on what you communicated. 

No other animal on this planet can conceive of such a thought other than we humans.

Diagram of sections of the mind relating to concepts and language
This 1840 wood engraving showed the mind/brain with a number of compartments or sections, many of which were created by language.


The built in 'time code' is an essential part of our communication which has shaped our conceptualization of our world. It is now believed by some that this time code is basic to all languages.
Some linguists working on Universals of semantics, such as Anna Wierzbicka and Cliff Goddard, argue that there is a Natural Semantic Metalanguage that has a basic vocabulary of semantic primes including concepts such as TIME, WHEN, BEFORE, AFTER.  [ED: My emphasis]                                    
Thousands of languages have evolved for tens of thousands of years, possibly hundreds of thousands of years. Assuming that concepts of time were/are a part of all of these languages, this points to the importance of time in all human societies.

"There are roughly 7,000 languages spoken and signed around the world, and these languages have been evolving for at least tens of thousands of years, if not many more..." 

For example, a comprehensive study of creation stories and myths, such as Genesis in the Bible, concluded that all of them included an understanding of time -- and this understanding was conveyed in the language of the culture in the telling of the creation myth.
In addition to reveling or expressing essential elements of particular cultures, creation myths, when compared, reveal certain universal or semi-universal patterns or motifs. The first and most important of these is the fact that the creation myth always expresses the given culture's, and, by extension, the overall human place and role in time and space; in the world and the cosmos. [ED: bolding is my emphasis]                                                                         David A. Leeming, Creation Myths of the World - An Encyclopedia

Illustration from the Mexican Creation Myth
A page from a description of the Mexican creation mythology.


Although each language contains a concept of time, various societies and cultures which speak the same language may view time differently. 

Logo for the Elgin Watch Company in the USA, 100 years ago
Promotional logo of the Elgin National Watch Company in the United States 100 years ago. The logo combines Father Time (derived from the Greek God Chronos) holding an Elgin watch along with his traditional sythe and an hour glass at his feet. But for a modern touch an airplane floats in the sky.

Example from a trip to the Bahamas:
My wife and I took a trip to the Bahamas some years ago. When the locals asked us how long we were staying, we would say we are leaving on a plane in a few days. Always, when we said this, the locals corrected us and said "You HOPE you are leaving on a plane in a few days." So even though the Bahamians spoke English their understanding of time was quite different from the US concept.

In the modern world today there are a number of distinctly different ways of relating to time. See the following article for an explanation of different contemporary time relationships.
Linear, Flexible, and Cyclical Time: Analyzing Time in Cross-Cultural Communication, by Sana Reynolds, PhD, Association of Professional Communication Consultants 
In addition to conceiving of the flow of time differently, some cultures conceptualize time in an entirely unique manner. This is especially true with hunter-gatherer societies and indigenous cultures. For example, the "traditional Hopi way of experiencing time as tied closely to cycles of ritual and natural events, [ED:is quite different from] the Anglo-American concept of clock-time or school-time." In fact many cultures see time as cyclical (sunrise returns to sunrise, the seasons repeat each year) rather than linear as we do in the west. 
NOTE:This is not to suggest that the modern view or western view of time is superior -- but rather that time can be understood and shared within a society in a variety of ways. I suspect that the modern world could learn a lot from these less technological cultures.
For a totally different way of understanding time, consider the Lakota American Indians who lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota. 

The nomadic Lakota believed that different areas of the Black Hills were connected with the sun's path as it moved through different constellations, which in turn indicated the time of year. Over a year's time the Indians moved around the Black Hills according to these beliefs. So the landscape of the Black Hills became, in a sense, their calendar and was a way of keeping track and in harmony with time and the seasons. The constellations, the different areas, the seasons all had names -- so their sense of time was shared and communicated via their language.

What makes their case particularly interesting, though, is the added dimension of timing. Cosmic harmony is preserved by being in the right place at the right time and performing the appropriate rites. The terrestrial world is connected to the spirit world both in space and time, and the key to this connection is the sky. Not only are places in the landscape associated with particular asterisms, but the time to be there is prescribed by reference to the sun’s passage through the stars.                                                                                                                Clive Ruggles, Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopedia of Cosmologies and Myth


Languages not only work with time but also contain a metaphor for viewing time. In the west this concept tends to be spatial such as "back in time" or "the future is ahead of us."  

However, in the Stanford University study entitled How Languages Construct Time by Lera Boroditsky, time was seen quite differently in a number of ways across various cultures.

Across the studies cited here, people in different cultures or groups have been shown to differ in whether they think of time as stationary or moving, limited or open ended, as distance or quantity, horizontal or vertical, oriented from left to right, right to left, front to back, back to front or in cardinal space east to west.

This study went on to say:
The findings reviewed in the first four sections above demonstrate that the metaphors we use to talk about time [ED: meaning as part of our language] and other cultural factors have both immediate and long term consequences for how we conceptualize and reason about this fundamental domain of experience. How people conceptualize time appears to depend on how the languages they speak tend to talk about time, the current linguistic context (what language is being spoken) and also on the particular metaphors being used to talk about time in the moment.                                                                  

Lera Boroditsky, How Languages Construct Time


A current brain study implies that from the earliest development of speech, language contained an understanding of time. This study looked at regions of the brain that were activated when using language or tool-making and found that the regions were the same. This suggests that time was a crucial component for both language and tool-making because language was needed to conceptualize time and to communicate and coordinate with others. This understanding of time was crucial to tool-making since a tool was made for a specific purpose which required forethought. Making a tool required planning along with a number of skills that needed to be done in a certain order. And then in addition these finished tools needed to be available at the appropriate time such as for a hunt or for a harvest.

The study is entitled: Language and tool-making skills evolved at the same time

This study of brain activity has shown that: 
"The same brain activity is used for language production and making complex tools, supporting the theory that they evolved at the same time.
"Dr Georg Meyer, from the University Department of Experimental Psychology, said: "Our study found correlated blood-flow patterns in the first 10 seconds of undertaking both tasks. This suggests that both tasks depend on common brain areas and is consistent with theories that tool-use and language co-evolved and share common processing networks in the brain."
The study went on to say:
"Darwin was the first to suggest that tool-use and language may have co-evolved, because they both depend on complex planning [ED: e.g., a complex understanding of time] and the coordination of actions but until now there has been little evidence to support this."
See this report: Language and tool-making skills evolved at the same time 

In the late 1700s Benjamin Franklin put forward the key idea of man the toolmaker.
Man [is a] tool-making animal.
Quoted by James Boswell in The Life of Samuel Johnson, April 7, 1778 (1791).

While the idea of 'man the tool-maker' has been questioned recently because chimpanzees were found to use rudimentary tools and even crows use sticks as tools, the notion is still profound. While humans may not be the only animal that uses tools, I believe we are the only animal that makes tools that in turn are used to make primary tools such as a bow and arrow. Or to put it another way, we are the only animal that can plan and execute a complex process that requires many tools and materials to make the final tool and many steps which must be done in a certain order.

Basic stone age tools used to make other tools; these tools used to shape stone.
The caption of this photo reads: Tools Used In Shaping Stone
i.e., tools used to make other tools.
The photo is from the History of Inventions, by the United States National Museum.
Numbers 1,2,4,5 are tools from the Stone Age; the others are from the American Indian and Alaskan Eskimo indigenous cultures 100 years ago

The recent study cited above finds that the same areas of the brain are activated when using language or making tools. Since complex tool-making requires considerable thought about tools used to make tools, the use of various materials, and the order of steps in the process, it seems likely that language and its concept of time was an integral part of both making tools and passing that information on to succeeding generations.


Here is a description of one specialized tool used just for making an arrowhead. Making the arrow, the bow and bow string required many more tools, materials and steps.

"A billet is a specialized tool designed for making arrowheads. 
It is cylindrical and usually made from hard wood or antlers." 

Here is a recent article about a study at the University of Tuebingen as reported by the DailyMail in the UK.
Researchers from the University of Tuebingen say that...making the bow [ED: in Paleolithic times] took 22 raw materials and three semi-finished goods (binding materials and multi-component glue) as well as five production phases. Further steps were needed to make the complementary arrows, reports the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.Other primates such as chimps are able to use tools, but complex processes such as making bows are beyond them. 


"Time" is the most used noun in the English language according to the 
Concise Oxford English Dictionary --  which attests to its importance. I assume that it is also the most used noun in many other languages as well.

#1. A concept of time appears to be fundamental to all languages.

#2. It seems quite likely that our understanding of time and our ability to work with, manage, navigate and coordinate time comes in large part from language.

#3. In addition it seems likely that each society's particular understanding of time is a direct reflection of the specific language that is spoken -- and that the time structure/metaphors in each society have been created by that language.

#4. The conception of time will be different from language to language and culture to culture.

#5. If we want an overall understanding of how humans relate to time, a study of the world's languages is a good place to start.


When I was eighteen I saw the movie, The Miracle Worker. The story was about the blind, deaf and dumb Helen Keller who suddenly comprehended language after having lived in a kind of primeval darkness all of her life. 

In the key scene her tutor, who had been unable to find a way to communicate with Helen, splashed water on her hand while spelling out the word water on the other hand. All at once the intelligent Helen 'got it' and the world of words, the world where everything had a name, opened up for her. And it was one of those moments for me as a movie goer when chills ran down my spine -- to see a person step from an inner darkness into light. 

Here is what Helen said about that experience:
Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness...and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!

A few years ago, writing for this blog, I read what Helen had to say about time when she went from being wordless to knowing language. The following is from her 1908 autobiography The World I Live In.

(This is an edited composite of things she said)
Once I knew only darkness and stillness.
My inner life, then, [ED: before language] was...without past, present, or future.
It was not night—it was not day. .      .      .      .      . 
But vacancy absorbing space, 
And fixedness, without a place; 
There were no stars—no earth—no time—

When I read these words, I realized that before Helen understood language she had no sense of time. And after she understood what language was about, that every object had a name for example. But in addition she also understood the concept of time past, present and future -- and that each object existed in time.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Choosing Your Personal Time-Style

Choosing Your Own Personal Time-Style


This blog, now in its fifth year, has been about the human experience of time. And there is nothing more personal or, I would suggest, more important than crafting you own individual relationship to time. 

This particular blog-post is about finding your own 'time-style'. It is also about making you more aware of time demands that the society and family put on you. Plus it is about making you more aware of your own feelings. If you can take  control of how you function in relation to time, you will feel better about your life.

This modern digital display of time (left) reinforces the notion of linear time, time always going forward, unlike this circular clock with hands (right) that emphasizes the repeating and cyclical nature of time.

Each society thinks its understanding of time is correct and absolute. But this is not true. Although each culture must live with time as a fact of life, there are many different ways of both thinking about and relating to time, i.e., time-styles. See the AFTERWORD part of this blog-post for descriptions of how other cultures deal with time.


From the time we are born, we are indoctrinated with and held accountable to an understanding of time. 

In the United States, for example, we are expected to 'be on time,' to 'save time' for important things, to not 'waste time', to manage our time wisely -- time, after all, is money. Time is considered something you own: if you have 'got time' you might go to a party, for example. Virtually everyone from parents to teachers to coaches to bosses to co-workers will express this same understanding of time. Everyone assumes this is simply the reality of time -- and like it or loath it, that is how time operates. 

A traditional time card system for employees to log in 
and log out of work by punching a time card.

However, this is not true. Different societies have quite different concepts of time and different ways of functioning. 

Nevertheless once you realize that your own society's concept of time is not written in stone, you will still need to meet people's expectations about scheduling. If you have a job, you should be on time and not be surprised if you are reprimanded for being late. But work is 40 hours a week, so 72 hours a week (after 8 hours sleep a night) is yours to do as you please. 
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Steve Jobs 
Your relation to time has a lot to do with how you feel about your life. It will affect your marriage, your work, your sense of worth and your sense of who you are. If you feel rushed and over burdened, then you may have a negative view. If you can do things at a comfortable pace, you will feel more at ease. While there are many things you cannot control, there are many things you can. 

I believe there is a simple relationship between your sense of self and time: how you spend your time, which includes time spent in your thoughts, is who you are.

"I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become."
Oprah Winfrey
 In the United States and other industrialized countries, people are encouraged to go, go, go -- or "live life to the fullest by doing more." Energy drinks, such as the one pictured here, encourage people to keep going non-stop.


Perhaps the best way to illustrate what I mean about time-styles, is to give you specific examples from my life. 

I realized that if I could live inexpensively I would not have to earn as much money and I would have more time for my marriage and my art work -- the two things that were most important to me. The more I could do by myself such as car repair and heating with wood, the more money I could save and the more independent I could be. Also when I did my own work I avoided taxes -- because instead of earning money that I paid taxes on and then hiring someone or paying the oil company, I simply did the work myself. In a sense I was paying myself.

Knowing how to save money gave me more independence as well, because the time I spent buying used items or comparison shopping or doing repairs was time I did not need to spend at a job. Car repair is a good example. Not only did I save money, but also time as I did not have to wait at a repair shop or find a second car while my car was being fixed. And if my car broke down on the road, I could often figure out how to get it back running. Since I was living far out in the country at the time, this made a lot of sense. 

As for earning a living, I started a business as a freelance photographer and I also taught independent photography classes at night. I made a point of being prompt and prepared for all my work but freelancing gave me the flexibility to decide which classes I would teach and which jobs I would accept.

➜Short Overview Of My Own 'Time-style'
  • Live cheap -- e.g. buy things used, learn a number of diy skills, comparison shop 
  • Teach independent photography classes at night
  • Take freelance jobs and conform to the time demands of any job, which would be short term so it would not be too disruptive
  • Never promise to do a job that I could not fulfill as agreed -- be reliable, on budget and on time
  • Work on my art during the times I was not earning a living
  • Have time for activities with my wife
My method for saving money was so complete, I co-authored a book entitled Cheaper published by Random House about my methods:
Cheaper: Insiders' Tips for Saving on Everything 


One of the successful people interviewed on the program RoadTrip Nation that airs on PBS made the following point: When you work hard to achieve a goal and you succeed, there can be a kind of let-down because what do you do now, what do you do next? His point was that when you achieve something, don't immediately rush into doing the next thing but instead relish the moment of success. He further added that learning to relax and enjoy that moment was a discipline in itself.

I found this quite interesting as I have always tried to take a day off when I got a job I wanted, won a prize, got a book published, got my degree in college, had an art exhibit etc. And I highly valued that moment of success in and of itself. It was like hitting a peak note in a song or a central chord in a symphony. "Aha," I would think, "I did it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but for now I can say I have reached a place I wanted to reach." 

Relaxing in a hammock by the sea.

Learning To Put Aside Your 'Checklist Clock'

Whether we realize it or not, each of us in the developed world carries around what might be called a 'checklist clock'. We are constantly referring to this checklist from minute to minute and as a result checking off what we just did, concentrating on what we planned to do at that moment or will do later -- often living a distracted life that seems a bit empty. 
While this is necessary for the time you are 'on duty', learn to turn that clock off when you are 'off duty' and learn to experience the now moment, that wonderful sense of time we all had when we were children. While planning and scheduling and doing your work are important, it is also important to regularly be 'in the moment' to lead a fulfilling life.

"Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life." 
William Faulkner


I have a friend who says he has two time-styles: fast and slow. When he is working, he is all business; when he takes time off, he relaxes completely and there is no schedule. He is comfortable with this and it seems to fit his personality.

I have another friend who likes to work hard and play hard -- which seems to fit her personality. 

However, I have other friends who always seemed rushed, out of time and with more things on their list than they can possibly do. They complain a lot and feel they are under too many demands.

It is up to you to find your own time-style -- and while there will always be things that you must do that you would prefer not to do, you can learn to gradually shape your life so that it roughly matches your particular time-style.

Understanding your time-style can become a guideline for your life. It is a goal you can aim for -- but often outside demands will take over. Nevertheless, you can learn to navigate the demands in your life so that they begin to be in-tune with your own personal time-style.


➜The Myth Of 'Having It All' In The United States

In the United States we are often told the myth that we can 'have it all': a good marriage, a healthy family, an exciting career and enough money. But this is a myth. Barbara Walters once said that everyone wants a marriage, children and a career but you only get two out of the three. Not a simple choice -- but probably realistic. And even if you do achieve 'having it all' you will probably be too tired and stressed to enjoy it. 

Timers like this 5 second counter make us intensely, 
if not uncomfortably, aware of the passage of time.

➜Your Expectations

Be aware of your expectations. They are powerful and set the tone for how you view your life and your path in life. If you set them too high, you will always be disappointed. If you set them too low, you may not be able to achieve what is possible. Try to be realistic and flexible. As you gain more experience, reset your expectations accordingly.

➜Your Time-style May Change As You Age

I think that an individual's time-style can and will change during different periods in their life. When I was in college I loved being around lots of people both in class and late at night in coffee shops, along with working in a group on a class project -- and all the various time demands these required. Now that I am much older, I usually prefer to work alone and do not like being interrupted. 


The tens of thousands of ads we see in the United States each year (and I assume in other countries) have one overall message: buy something better, do something better, never be satisfied. The Lowe's hardware and building supply store has the slogan: "Never Stop Improving." In other words the message is you should never be content but always striving toward the future and always be a bit dissatisfied with the present. So the 'now moment' is devalued, as is your enjoyment of it. This is a perfect example of linear time in a culture (see more about linear time in the Afterword).


When I was at boarding school, I had no control over my schedule and I rarely got enough sleep. I had to be in chapel every morning at 8 o'clock. The first class was at 8:30 AM and I never did well in a class scheduled for that hour. When I went to college, I learned how to pick classes that met at later times. I never took a course before 10 AM and I made sure I got at least eight hours sleep at night. My grades improved and I was on the Dean's list the entire time. 

Listen to your body. It will tell you if you are stressed, anxious, comfortable, getting enough sleep, rested, on edge or out of tune with the things you really want in your life. Men in particular are taught to ignore these physical signals -- to 'be a man'. Forget that. Instead learn to listen to the pleasure and the pain of your body as it will guide you. 

New Research Shows High School Students Don't Get Enough Sleep

It turns out that probably none of us got enough sleep when we were in high school. This happened because our culture had fixed ideas about how teenagers should be conditioned. We were expected to go to bed at 10 PM and get up at 6 AM -- eight hours sleep. BUT studies now show that teens need to go to bed at 11 PM and get more than 8 hours of sleep. This means that they should not get up until 8 AM. This is not coddling, this is good sense as it brings the human biological needs in line with the needs of the culture. The culture will benefit because students will pay better attention and be more willing to do work. And it might reduce the well known teenage rebellion tendencies as well.

High school students taking a lunch break between classes.

Findings From Recent Research

These recent studies (cited next) have shown that teenagers operate on a different clock than adults. Teens who are allowed to go to bed later and get up later perform much better in school. So what I did with my college course load -- when I had control -- turned out to be intuitively correct. This is a good example of following your intuitions about your own personal time-style and sleep needs.

Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence -- meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.
Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights. 

Research shows that teens need eight to nine hours of sleep at night, as compared with eight hours needed for adults. However, they are not getting enough sleep. A recent study at Drexel University of students aged 12 to 18 found that "20 percent of those studied got the recommended eight or more hours of sleep during school nights with the rest getting less than eight hours. The average sleep for U.S. adolescents is seven hours..." A study of Rhode Island teenagers found that "85 percent were chronically sleep-deprived and accumulated a minimum 10-hour sleep deficit during the week. Forty percent went to bed after 11 p.m.; 26 percent said they usually got less than 6.5 hours on school nights." Thus, sleep deprivation in teens is causing a growing concern among researchers, educators and parents. 

Personal Note

This new understanding about teens and their sleep needs is quite personal to me. One of my best friends at boarding school kept oversleeping in his senior year and was eventually kicked out for that reason. A brilliant and thoughtful student, being thrown out of school affected him for the rest of his life.


"New York Minute"
It appears to have originated in Texas around 1967. It is a reference to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers' lives. A New Yorker does in an instant what a Texan would take a minute to do. 

New Years Eve at Times Square NYC.

"It ain't over 'til it's over."
Yogi Berra 

"Time You Enjoy Wasting is Not Wasted Time"
Don't beat yourself up over activities that are generally not what society considers to be worthwhile. If you're enjoying yourself and if it's making you happy, the time is well spent. 

Steve Jobs holding the iPhone 4.

"And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it."
Steve Jobs

"No one is busy in this world. It's all about priorities." 

"Slow Parenting" (a phrase in the Urban Dictionary)
The movement to raise children with less pressure, more free time to play. Anti helicopter parenting. 

"We need to have two time skills:
one by the clock
the other off the clock"
Rick Doble


Susan Reynolds writes that today in the world 
there are three basic time-styles:
  • Linear: These cultures "view time as a precious commodity to be used, not wasted" -- as in the United States (also Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, and Scandinavian societies)
  • Flexible: These "cultures...view time as flexible [and] are reluctant to strictly measure or control it." (Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Greeks, Arabs, and Latinos)
  • Cyclical: "In cyclical time cultures, however, time manages life, and humans must adjust to time. In these cultures, time is neither viewed as linear nor as event/person related, but as cyclical, circular, repetitive. " (Asian, African, Native American)
The above is quoted from the following website
Linear, Flexible, and Cyclical Time: Analyzing Time in Cross-Cultural Communication
By Sana Reynolds, PhD 

Relaxing on the beach.

The Sense Of Time In Different Cultures
quoted from The Exactly What Is Time Website
  • Future-orientated cultures: tend to run their lives by the clock, such as the United States
  • Past-orientated cultures: like that of India, for example, are much more laid back
  • Present-orientated: cultures like those in France that see the past as gone and the future unsure
  • No time orientation: The peaceful Hopi tribe of Arizona, USA, as well as some other Native American tribes and other aboriginal peoples around the world, have a language that lacks verb tenses and their language avoids all linear constructions about time. 

Another Definition Of Linear Time Vs. Cyclical Time
  • Time is non-linear, cyclical in nature. Time is measured in cyclical events. The seasons are central to this cyclical concept.
  • Time is usually linearly structured and future orientated. The framework of months, years, days etc. reinforces the linear structure.
The above was quoted from the following website: