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: 

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