Every species has its specific moment – the least amount of time it is capable of perceiving. For humans this time is 1/18th second.
If a reed vibrates more rapidly than that you hear it as a single tone. Eighteen taps to the human skin per second feel like continuous touch. Eighteen pictures projected per second look like one picture.
For the fighting fish that moment is 1/50th second.
For a snail it is a 1/3 to 1/4 second.
Our perception of how swiftly or slowly time is passing is also highly subjective.
On some occasions it seems to crawl along with the hands of our watch barely moving. At other times it races by, something most usually experienced when we are completely absorbed in an activity or task.
Personality and lifestyles also play a role in our subjective perception of time and this, in turn, influences our ability to manage both time and stress effectively. You can discover your own attitudes towards time by noting which of the four profiles below best reflects your own outlook:
I prefer a quiet life free from too much pressure. I like working at my own pace and adopt a fairly relaxed approach towards deadlines. My view is that if something doesn’t get done exactly on time, does it really matter? I am seldom on time for appointments or especially well organised.
Getting together with friends or going to a party is very enjoyable for me. I often act on impulse and may not always think through the consequences of my actions sufficiently. I would sooner behave spontaneously than plan every detail of my life. I prefer a job with plenty of variety where I can see the results of my work fairly fast.
I prefer to organise my life carefully and favour routine to variety. I am careful about my diet, take regular exercise and carry medical and life insurance. I think through my actions carefully before proceeding.
I enjoy working to tight deadlines and pride myself on my punctuality. I am generally well organised and work best under pressure. I admit to having difficulty relaxing and enjoy facing a variety of challenges. I tend to arrive for appointments on time but at the last minute.
You will probably find that more than one of these profiles, based on the work of Dr Philip G Zimbardo of Stanford University, applies to you on different occasions. Few people fit into neat pigeonholes. Nevertheless, your first response should reflect which of four styles of time management is likely to have most appeal.
So what do each of these profiles reveal about the way people manage their time?
PROFILE [A]: PRESENT FATALISTIC – People with this approach tend to believe that: “If things don’t get done on time I don’t worry about it.” They delay everything as long as possible, and have difficulty making decisions.
PROFILE [B]: PRESENT HEDONISTIC – Regard enjoyment as one of life’s more important pleasures and do things that feel good without much thought of the consequences.
PROFILE [C]: FUTURE ORIENTATED – Buy life insurance, plan their day and take responsibility for deadlines. They are most likely to be careful of their diets, exercise regularly and have medical checks.
PROFILE [D] TIME PRESS – Maintain tight deadlines and are preoccupied with deadlines. If you have difficulty getting along with some of your colleagues or clients, it could be because your attitudes towards time conflict. For instance Time Press people can find the casual attitudes of Present Fatalists extremely irritating – and vice versa.
Putting Time to the Test
The following test will help you identify your own attitude towards time
For this you need a digital watch, or one with a sweep second hand. Without looking at your watch estimate the passing of one minute. While doing so sit quietly and avoid counting the seconds. When you think a minute has passed, check your watch.
What Your Result Reveals
Time elapsed less than 55 seconds
You are a victim of “hurry sickness” and the less time that elapsed the more serious is your condition. Symptoms of “hurry sickness” include:
Never having enough time to meet all the demands on you.
Feeling angry and frustrated by delays, however unavoidable.
Attempting to do everything at the double.
Greater difficulty winding down when you are at home or on holiday.
Inability to relax generally. Impatient when dealing with people, or working in cultures, less fast paced than yourself. Leaving things to the last minute. While you hate to be late, you hate even worse to be early! Needing a “deadline high” to motivate you.‘Hurry sickness” is linked to several health problems, including high blood pressure, ulcers, strokes and heart disease. Sufferers tend to act impulsively, set themselves impossibly tight deadlines, drive too fast, and make poor decisions. You can learn how to combat this common threat to health and happiness by following the relaxation, sensualisation and breathing exercises which I describe on my web-site.
Time elapsed 55 – 65 seconds
Although you do not, generally, suffer from “hurry sickness” there will be occasions when you experience some of the symptoms described above. Relaxing after a day’s work, or while on holiday, should not prove too difficult for you. Nor will unavoidable delays cause you too much stress since you are, usually, able to adopt a fairly relaxed approach to hold ups. But this laid back attitude does not necessarily mean you always manage your time efficiently! You may still complain there are too few hours in the day to accomplish all you want or need to achieve. You may also feel that life is unbalanced with, for example, too much time being taken up by work at the expense of family or social life.
Time elapsed 66 – 90 seconds
You have a relaxed approach to the passing of time, and dislike having to race against the clock. The greater the elapsed time, the less likely you are to suffer from the symptoms of “hurry sickness” described above. You are not especially concerned about meeting deadlines and prefer to reflect rather than act impulsively. You hate having to rush and tear, preferring to leave in good time for appointments whenever possible.
Go Watchless for a While
Spend a morning or afternoon without your watch. Choose a day when you do not have any tightly scheduled meetings but are free to organise your time more or less as you wish. If your current workload makes it impossible to find any morning or afternoon that allows you such freedom from the tyranny of time, try to find at least an hour or so when you can take this test. Having done this complete the following statements:
1] When not wearing my watch, I felt:
(a) Much less in control of my workload. (b) Somewhat less in control of my workload. (c) Neither more nor less in control. (e) Somewhat more in control.
(f) Much more in control
2] When not wearing my watch, I felt.
(a) Much more pressured. (b) Somewhat more pressured. (c) Neither more nor less pressured. (e) Somewhat less pressured. (f) Much less pressured.
3] When not wearing my watch, I felt:
(a) Much more anxious. (b) Somewhat more anxious. (c) Neither more nor less anxious. (e) Somewhat less anxious. (f) Much less anxious.
4] When not wearing my watch, I felt:
(a) Much more stressed. (b) Somewhat more stressed. (c) Neither more nor less stressed. (e) Somewhat less stressed. (f) Much less stressed.
5] When not wearing my watch, I felt: (a) Very uncomfortable. (b) Slightly uncomfortable. (c) Neither more nor less in uncomfortable. (e) Fairly comfortable.
(f) Very comfortable.
6] When not wearing my watch, I got:
(a) Much less work done than usual. (b) Somewhat less work done. (c) Neither more nor less work done. (e) Somewhat more work done. (f) Much more work done.
Score by awarding 5 points for each (a) response; 4 for a (b); 3 for a (c); 2 for a (d); 1 for an (e) and 0 for an (f) giving a possible maximum of 30 points.
Score 20 – 30 Habit and routine play a considerable role in your management of time. Reflect on why you do certain things at certain times of the day. Is this pattern imposed from outside or one you have the ability to alter? If the latter, then consider ways in which your schedule might be changed around, adjusted or modified in some way to improve the management of time. One productivity enhancing technique is to “batch” similar tasks together rather than at different times during the day.
Score 10 – 19 Habit rather than effective time management is exerting a certain amount of influence over the way your workload is currently being organised.
Score 0 – 9 You do not seem to be overly pressured by the constraints of the clock. This is a good basis on which to develop more effective time management procedures.
No matter what your score, this exercise helps point you towards more natural work rhythms while increasing your awareness of the role that time plays in your life. Over the next few days try and rearrange your daily routine. Here are a few suggestions for ways this can be done. Your ability to implement them will, of course, depend on the amount of freedom and flexibility you enjoy at work.
If possible, arrive at work earlier or later. Quiet periods before others arrive, or after they have left, can prove highly productive since interruptions are reduced or eliminated. Take lunch at a different time. Eating out earlier or later means a faster service and less stressful congestion. Even eating sandwiches at a different time and in a fresh venue can be relaxing. Try and reschedule some meetings.