Less is More

One of the more interesting aspects of time is how the brain can slow down how we experience time- by processing environmental stimuli more quickly.

The best example I can give you is what happens when you are in danger. 

Suppose you are driving along on a major interstate and you see an accident occur 100 yards ahead of you.  If you cannot stop your car in time, or avoid the accident, you are going to be badly hurt.

In this situation, time will seem to slow down as you weigh your options.  In only a matter of seconds you evaluate your options and take action.

Of course time did not really slow down.  What happened instead is that your brain processed the situation more quickly than otherwise.  It went into overdrive (no pun intended) and gave you whatever data it could for you to make a good decision.

Some people would say that your brain went into an “altered state of consciousness.”

There are other examples of this happening (and without stimulants or narcotics):  a wondrous event in your life that you can recall in an instant – a situation when “time seemed to stop.”  Time did not of course stop.  Instead what happened is that your brain accelerated the pace at which it normally provides you information from the environment so that time just SEEMED to slow down.

 “As the brain works more quickly in a situation of danger, the world outside seems to be moving more slowly.  The function of such acceleration is clear:  when the organism (you) processes environmental stimuli faster than usual, it enables one to respond more readily and therefore, at least potentially, to react to threats in time.  This amounts to an advantage for survival.”

                                                Felt Time (MIT University Press, 2017)

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  The Skinny on Time Management is #10 on the e-book best seller list in China, and #2 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling e-books in Chinese. 

I am reading a fascinating book titled Felt Time, Marc Wittman (MIT Press, 2017).

This book is about how we experience time.

Time is both an objective and subjective phenomenon.

Obviously one hour is sixty minutes.  That is the objective part.

But, how we experience time is very subjective.

Think about one hour in the dentist’s chair versus one hour watching a great movie.  Certainly does not feel like the same sixty minutes!!

Ditto for how different people experience time.

“Human beings display fundamental differences in how they manage the dimensions of past, present, and future .  . . a person’s temporal orientation affects (his/her) everyday behavior.” 

                                                                        Felt Time

There are people who are presently-oriented.  They want what they want NOW and tend to take more risks than those who are more future-oriented.  The future-oriented individual is a little less impulsive, and accepts deferred gratification much easier than his present-oriented counterpart. 

And so on.

In FUTURE blog posts (can you hardly wait??), we are going to address how people experience time differently and how it affects their day-to-day decisions.

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  The Skinny on Time Management is #10 on the e-book best seller list in China, and #2 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling e-books in Chinese. 

Yesterday I spoke to a serious problem I have with time – I do not analyze my time in the future the same way I analyze the present. 

In other words, when making a commitment in say 90 days from now, I just assume I can find the time (90 days seems so far away) and so make commitments that I should not.

I was happy to learn today that there is actually a name for what I have – temporal myopia.

This is a condition where people can make decisions as to the management of their time in the present but not at some point in the future.

“Only what is located within a certain horizon of presence proves relevant for the actions of the temporally myopic individual.”

                        Felt Time:  The Science of How We Experience Time

                        Mark Wittman (MIT Press, 2017)

Now, when my wife criticizes me for making ill-founded decisions relative future commitments, I can cite my semi-medical condition, temporal myopia. 

Not that she is wrong to criticize me but perhaps she will have a slight increase in her empathy for my situation.

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  The Skinny on Time Management is #10 on the e-book best seller list in China, and #2 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling e-books in Chinese. 

I have a horrible time management problem that falls under the umbrella of procrastination.

No, not procrastination in the traditional sense, i.e. delaying a project.  In that regard, I am the anti-procrastinator - as soon as I know I need to get something done, I tend to jump on it.  I hate the nagging feeling of a big project hanging over my head and so I barrel in.  (In a later blog post we will discuss Brian Tracy's book Eat That Frog which basically argues that you need to start your day tackling your biggest, ugliest project.)

My problem is one of mis-management of the present and the future.

When someone asks me to commit to something say 90 days in the future, I will invariably say "yes" because 90 days seems like forever to me and even though I would have no time for the project TODAY, I assume I will be able to take it on in 90 days.

The reality is however that saying "yes" is a way of delaying a decision.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I am sure that I am thinking (by the time I have to deliver on my commitment, something may have changed and I will have a way out).  I know, I know … that is a terrible way to think.

This is a truly horrible form of procrastination because it can impact other people if and when I pull the plug on a commitment.  I really struggle with this and now I have a new rule:

IF SOMEONE ASKS ME TO DO SOMETHING 90 DAYS OR MORE IN THE FUTURE, I PRETEND THAT THE REQUEST IS FOR TOMORROW AND THEN ANALYZE IT.

I still struggle because I hate saying "no" but better to give a quick "no" than mislead people into thinking you might be a "yes."

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  The Skinny on Time Management is #10 on the e-book best seller list in China, and #2 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling e-books in Chinese. 

I mentioned in my last post that a psychologist by the name of Neil Fiore (author of The Now Habit) has done extensive studies in the subject of procrastination.

He believes that most of the time procrastination is not a form of laziness but rather of anxieties that arise from a fear of failure or desire for perfectionism.

He recommends that those who have a problem with procrastination (one expert claims that 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators) create what he calls a Procrastination Log.

This is just a weekly calendar that keeps track of every project you should be doing but instead delay.  He suggests that when you feel the impulse to delay starting or working on the project you write down:

1. Nature of the Project

2. What you are thinking when you delay.

3. How you explain to yourself your decision.

4. Any attempts to start or work on the project, and

5. How you felt later that day.

He claims that patients of his have learned a great deal about themselves when they created a Procrastination Log. 

A contemporaneous record of a decision to procrastinate and for what types of projects (and why) will tell a person a lot about him or herself.  And with some self-examination and perhaps counsel, one can attack the root cause of the problem

Of course, there's always the possibility that a veteran procrastinator will delay starting a Procrastination Log….

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  The Skinny on Time Management is #10 on the e-book best seller list in China, and #2 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling e-books in Chinese. 

There are hundreds of books written on the subject of time management.

Recently I just finished reading, The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore (Penguin, 2007).

This book is about procrastination - obviously a big issue when it comes to effective time management.

We have all dealt with the problem of procrastination - the putting off of some project that we need to or should do.  Sometimes the procrastination is just laziness.

As Mark Twain said:  "Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow."

I have read so many books on time management that I always open a new book with a little cynicism - what new ideas could this writer have?  But, Fiore's book did present the subject of procrastination in a new way.

Fiore argues that procrastination has nothing to do with laziness but rather with our own built-in self defense mechanisms against failure, authority, perfectionism, and/or change.

"Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision."

Fiore believes that people resist starting projects (procrastinate) for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are:  (a) fear of failure, (b) resistance to HAVING to do something rather than CHOOSING to do something (rebelling against authority), and (c) fear that the finished work product will never be good enough (perfectionism).

In tomorrow's blog we are going to discuss what Fiore calls a Procrastination Log and how to make and use one to beat back the urge to procrastinate.

Jim Randel is the founder and author of The Skinny On book series, condensed explanations of important life skills.  Randel's books are currently best sellers in China - three of his e-books in the top 100 best-selling e-books in China.  The Skinny on Time Management is #10 on the e-book best seller list in China, and #2 on Amazon.com's list of best-selling e-books in Chinese. 

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