Is time a clock, a calendar? Is time an agenda, a schedule? Is time something that we spend, waste? Is time on our side?
Our view of time is heavily conditioned by the language that we speak. If you compare the view of time across various cultures, you find that some cultures treat time as a measured resource, while others seem to measure time by the seasons or rituals, and other cultures view time as a fabric of story and images.
Because our view of time is so closely tied to the words we use to describe it, perhaps it is easier to redefine time as experience itself. We know from our experience that time travels in cycles or seasons. Many phenomena in nature come and go. We also experience birth, growth, and death. Perhaps we can think of time as change itself.
The first step to gaining a flexible focus on time is to free ourselves from the tyranny of a single cultural perspective on time. This doesn’t mean throwing away our calendars and clocks, but rather recognizing that this is not the only way to look at time.
A new kind of action list
The next time you make a To Do list, even as you arrange the items in order of priority, think about how arranging items in a sequential list already assumes that they are separate, and cannot be accomplished at the same time. That is an assumption that you may not want to make.
By arranging your items spatially on a Mandala Chart, you already have a framework that enables you to examine the items in terms of categories and relationships. This arrangement changes not just our view of time, but also of the items themselves. Instead of being a stack of things to do, like an inbox of paperwork, arranged on a Mandala Chart they become factors or variables that can be arranged and multiplied to create various results.
Think for instance of a networking event. How different your experience and results will be depending on the venue, the people, your attitude and purpose in attending.
Therefore one way to leverage your time is to arrange the elements of experience on a Mandala Chart, and to view the elements as variables you can arrange and combine as you like. This is already closer to the way we actually experience things, but you can influence the results and maximize the possibilities by doing it consciously.
Time frames in motion
Another way we experience time is – as frames in motion, such as in movie or video. The frame rate is the number of frames per second (fps) used in video, television, and movies, and it is typically 24, 25, or 30 fps, though some formats 50, 60, or more. A slow motion video of a bullet penetrating a wall may run as many as one million frames per second, slow enough for the eye to follow, but still frighteningly fast.
Many professional athletes and martial artists report seeing things in a slower time frame, as if they had more frames per second, and more time to respond to the motions around them.
Likewise, to a person inexperienced with that type of motion, the ball may seem to come so fast that you don’t even notice it until it strikes you, as if you had fewer frames per second and less time to respond.
At world class levels in sport, the ball may actually move faster than human reaction time could allow for response. The fastest speed recorded in men’s tennis for a serve was Andy Roddick, at 155 mph or 249.9 kmph. In motor sports, vehicles travel much faster than that, and yet with occasional exceptions, drivers manage to maneuver in this time frame. Skill, experience, and flexible perception enable athletes to respond with timing that goes far beyond fast reflexes.
Likewise, you can leverage your time by enriching your experience and deepening your engagement in experience.
Valuing your time
Perhaps the most powerful way to leverage your time is to value it as life itself. I wrote about this in a separate article called Oceans of Opportunity, suggesting that we think of time as a fluid force like water, which can be directed, contained, and channeled. We are all given equal access to this force, but how you use it determines whether you sink, swim, or surf.
If you treat time as a valuable substance, then you will not waste it. If you respect other people’s time as you do your own, you will begin to understand and find ways to leverage time, to save time, and to buy time.
Seasons of Time
One of the best metaphors for time is that of the four seasons, which is familiar even to people who live in climates which don’t have four seasons. The cycle and energy of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter give us a perspective on time, a reminder of change, of coming and going. Download the SEASONS MANDALA as a reminder.
It is worth reading and reflecting on the verse from the King James Bible translation (1611), Ecclesiastes III, which reminds us that time is everything:
3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
3:2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3:3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
3:5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
3:6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
3:7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
3:8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
This was recorded in the 1960s by The Byrds as Turn! Turn! Turn!, the classic Pete Seeger song written in 1952, and its message is timeless as time itself.
—William Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.