sebastian lochbronner

The impact of time on our work and productivity.

Thanks to Einstein we know: "Time is relative". And most of us would claim: "relatively scarce". Checking the time every day usually tells us one thing: the abundance of tasks cannot be accomplished in the short time.
July 17, 2020

Thanks to Einstein we know: "Time is relative". And most of us would claim: "relatively scarce". Checking the time every day usually tells us one thing: the abundance of tasks cannot be accomplished in the short time available. Stress, deadline pressure, discomfort.... Everyone knows the resulting feelings. They all have one thing in common: they are unpleasant. But what can be done about it? After all, everyone should be in the same situation, so why is there no known collective solution? One thing is certain, creating more time does not work. Changing one's own attitude towards time, on the other hand, does.


Which time type am I?

Some slave away around the clock, others meticulously track every task, and some don't seem to be affected by the lack of time at all. Although the valuable commodity of time does not differ, the different time types do quite significantly. In the article "How to Be More Productive by Hacking Your Perception of Time The evolution of time management in 5 stages and 3 epiphanies"by Dr. Adam Bell talks about 5 different phases or types.

Type 1: The Time Slave

One is not the master of one's own time. No matter how inconvenient the rhythm, all one's own activities, above all sleep, are adjusted to one's obligations. The resulting deficiencies are enormous. Shift workers in particular often suffer from disturbed sleep rhythms here, to name just one consequence. From my point of view, the human body cannot endure this state for long without health consequences. No matter what you can do for your own time perception - the top priority should be to leave this unhealthy state. In order to be able to determine more about one's own time, many introduce a well-known tool: Time tracking.

Type 2: The Time Tracker

Many self-employed people will know it - if you are responsible for your own time management, you want to make the most of it if possible. So it's only natural to measure your own time allocation in detail. Identifying weaknesses, exploiting potential, eliminating time wasters - that all sounds very sensible at first. But what remains? The feeling of squeezing maximum effectiveness / productivity out of every free minute cannot go well in the long run. If there's anything to learn from this phase, it's this: Consciously deal with your own time and view it as a precious commodity that should be used for the things that you personally consider important. What should never come out of this is the mutation into a time-tracking machine. Especially creative activities suffer enormously from the idea that every free minute has to be used usefully. What follows from phase 2 is a relaxation:

Type 3: The smart time divider

The smart time divider divides the upcoming daily tasks into small pieces, which are then tackled one by one. A break is taken between each unit. For example, using the Pomodoro technique: 25 minutes productivity, 5 minutes break. Sounds a lot more relaxed than Type 2, which might have filled the 5 minutes with something else. As Bell writes in his article, this technique works very well for one person and not at all for another. Negative consequences could be, for example, the interruption of one's own workflow, which then only gets rolling again after the 5-minute break.

If you're struggling at first, varying the work-break ratio can help. For Bell, this is where the Ultradiane rhythm remedial action. This is based on the body's own rhythms and feels more natural for many. There is also an article on this by Brad Buzzard entitled "Avoid Burnout and Increase Awareness Using Ultradian Rhythms: Circadian rhythms' lesser know cousins may hold the key to a more fruitful day".

Book Tip: Who is interested in the Sleep rhythms the book "The Circadian Code: Sleep restfully, lose weight, be healthy." recommended by Satchin Panda.

Back to Bell: he has discovered a 90 to 20 rhythm for himself, with which he has achieved the best results. That is, 90 minutes of "activity" and 20 minutes of rest. What can you do in those 20 minutes? Examples are walking, physical exercises, meditating, listening to music, etc.

But the journey to a new sense of time should not be completed with the third type, as a burdening time pressure still gnaws at you.

Type 4: The free spirit

The single best productivity hack that everyone should aspire to - don't keep a schedule.

Naval ravikant

For his next move, Bell takes a cue from entrepreneur Naval Ravikant, who advises not to keep to a schedule. Sounds insane at first? Good. If you take any time pressure out of the overall structure, a gap is created. A gap that can make room for something new. Old thought patterns, which were already firmly anchored in our brain, can be loosened and filled with a new kind of productivity. How this calculation can work? Due to the absence of time pressure, one's sense of well-being increases, and so does one's productivity. This, of course, has an impact on one's entire life - a prospective gain, therefore, for which it is worthwhile to rethink one's own structures.

The biggest problem for type 4 is the interplay of their own ideas and social structures, which are not (or cannot) be held so loosely. This leads us to the fifth type.

Type 5: The enlightened

Bell quickly realizes - unfortunately, the outside world is not as generous as he is with his time. As soon as one is in an overall structure with other people, and this is usually always the case, one is inevitably influenced by their routines. As long as one does not lead a life as a hermit on one's own, there will always be phases in which one has to bow to certain deadlines.

What does this mean for your own attitude towards time? Inescapable deadlines should give an indication of (re-)prioritization instead of being a stress signal for the body. So, if you have a certain deadline that you have to meet, your own attitude towards it plays a much more important role than many have assumed so far. One should not put oneself in the position of giving in to the stress impulse here. Rather, you should face the deadline stoically, without letting yourself be overwhelmed by emotions too much. Because if this is indeed a fixed deadline, then it will inevitably come closer, whether you stress yourself out or not.

Do we have a scarcity or an abundance of time?

The way we look at time & deadlines does not change the perceived scarcity at first. However, the consequences change drastically if one can reduce the stress-inducing effect. In addition, completely different aspects can be determined, for example the subjective speed of time. If one has fun or works concentrated on something, time seems to fly by. This is because we do not focus on time per se. If one wants to achieve the opposite effect, that is, the slowing down of time, we have to concentrate on the here and now.

Various studies have proven just that - mindfulness can lead to time slowing down for the respective person. Subjectively, this can lead to the fact that seemingly more time is available, because it passes significantly slower.

Regarding subjective time, mindfulness meditators experienced less time pressure, more time dilation, and a general slower passage of time.

Frontiers in Psychology

Key Takeaways

  • Time is relative and subjective
  • We should not try to change the time, but our handling and our attitude towards it
  • Prioritization instead of giving in to stress impulses

On the topic of mindfulness, meditation, and subjective perception, further Blog article.

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