Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow just as well.

Twain

“But tomorrow I’m really getting started!“

Dealing with disagreeable duties, starting a new diet, finally going in for sports … Time and again we are postponing countless things without ever getting started. Postponing annoying or inconvenient duties has become an illness treated by psychotherapists using cognitive-behavioral interventions including modules to learn timely starting and planning.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the US-American author better known under his pseudonym Mark Twain, told us wonderful stories which became so very lively through his exact observation of social conduct. He however, bore another form of postponement in mind, since procrastination can also be beneficial.

Time Pressure and Loss of Control

Why are so many time management-workshops and seminars so very seldom of practical use? Even if we follow the advice of time management-experts by delegating less important tasks, by applying Occam ‘s razor, by reserving time periods in which we are not available for others – still, many of us feel as if they have less and less time. From an objective point of view we have more leisure time than ever before – however, we feel overworked. Where does this felt time pressure come from?

Neurobiologists examined the brains of test persons while they were set under stress. The scientists found that in stressful situations the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain which is located directly behind the forehead and is (inter alia) responsible for action control, planning, and problem solving, loses its ability to discriminate between important and unimportant information. Therefore, we lose track and take wrong decisions. Quickly, there will be the feeling of losing control over situations and own actions.

Moreover, the same neuro-chemical processes responsible for paralyzing the prefrontal cortex stimulate the amygdala. This neuronal complex is located in the anterior part of the temporal lobe and plays an essential role in the emergence, recognition, and activation of physical reactions to anxiety. In other words, the amygdala is responsible, when we have our hearts in our mouths, if faced with a dangerous situation. In association with stress this means, we react more emotional; we develop a feeling of fear – and this will in turn lead to even more stress.

Suspending, Postponing, saying: “No“

Studies investigating workload show that employees on average are occupied with twelve tasks simultaneously. This leads to high pressure no one can stand permanently. The word “permanently” represents the problem and at the same time presents a possible solution: For short interruptions of work bring about a great difference. Scientific research conducted by information scientists and psychologists show, that people who break in on their work are able to carry out their tasks without any loss of quality and even faster than people who work continuously. Short postponements are therefore doing more good than harm.

Time cannot be multiplied. Thus, there is only a limited number of activities fitting in one single day. Sometimes the very simple solution for time problems is therefore the most challenging one for the most of us: We have to learn to say: “No”. For this as well our brains have to be able to distinguish between important and unimportant matters.

Unimportant things which we could do tomorrow or the day after anyway, we could then cancel completely and instead start with the important things which we have postponed for so long.

Links, helping to postpone:

http://t3n.de/news/prokrastination-webseiten-zeit-totschlagen-552629/

References:

Arnsten, A. F. (2009). Stress signalling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 410-422.

Mark, G., Gudith, D., & Klocke, U. (2008, April). The cost of interrupted work: more speed and stress. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 107-110). ACM.

“Ours is the hour only. And an hour, if happy, is much.“

Fontane

Don’t we know these moments in which we feel totally off balance, in which we desperately long for more free time, time for ourselves – and still, we don’t take time off because of fear that our jobs could be negatively affected or our families will come off badly? Do we enjoy happy hours now and then or are our days so full of urgencies, thus we cannot enjoy life anymore?

Theodor Fontane was working as a pharmacist, private teacher, journalist, theatre critic, editor, press correspondent; not least he was one of the most important German authors. Surely, his life must have been exhausting sometimes, his days must have been full of work, and he didn’t find fulfillment in all of his jobs. However, he obviously accomplished to spend happy hours.

Chronos vs. Kairos

In antiquity already, people knew that time can be perceived differently. Hence, Greek mythology tells the story of two gods being responsible for time: Chronos as a personification of lifetime ensures that time passes in an exact and linear sequence of moments. His treasures are experiences. However, anyone who doesn’t use his/her time and who doesn’t learn and mature from it will be devoured by Chronos. In contrast, there is Kairos, the god of the right moment and of favorable opportunities. Whereas Chronos represents the quantity of time and the experiences derived from it, Kairos stands for the Now, for the present moment which can only be considered subjectively. This dimension of time, its quality, is much too often ignored.

Importance vs. Urgency

How on earth could we wait for favorable opportunities, if we are constantly rushed and if we submit our daily routines to the strict dictation of clocks?

In order to recognize the right moment we need peace of mind and awareness. We have to know exactly what we want, for in our complex world with infinite possibilities there are millions of opportunities – but not all of them are favorable for us.

Naturally, we want to be engaged, we want to feel indispensable, important, useful, we want to sense the ecstasy of adrenaline driving us to more and more performance. Every day, every minute is filled with urgencies to survive in our meritocracy. Urgency however, only simulates importance. If we never pause to listen to our own needs and to meet them, we will never experience quality of time. Important things don’t force on us; we have to see them for ourselves and to allow for them.

Allow for Importance

Human needs are of psychical, social, mental, and spiritual nature. This also includes long-term planning and constant enhancement of our skills as well as real regeneration and maintenance of worthwhile relations. Seeing and doing what is truly important to us, and managing to integrate these essentials into our daily lives, brings us a huge step closer to quality of life.

Even if we can spare only little time for it: this one happy hour will be much.

References:

Covey, S. R., Merrill, A. R., & Merrill, R. R. (1995). First things first. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Weinelt, H. (2005). Die zwei Gesichter der Zeit. Abenteuer Philosophie 4, 18-21.

It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much.

Seneca

“I need more time! I’m always stressed, and I can never find enough time for myself!”

Haven’t all of us had thoughts like these sometimes? In a world of growing complexity which is full of competitive necessities we frequently feel overstrained trying to meet all our requirements. We are suffering from stress, feeling obliged to fulfill comprehensive needs –and thereby forgetting ourselves.

Seneca, the Roman philosopher and natural scientist lived over 2,000 years ago. Is it possible that he had an idea of our time? Did he have a presentiment of the drastic changes the last decades brought about and of the technical means that are of our disposal today?

The essential things

Still, Seneca’s words are just as valid today as they were in his time. We are not able to produce more time, even with all technical tools available. What we can do however, is to obtain clarity – clarity about our values, about what seems most important to us – and to set priorities accordingly. We need a compass showing us the way through this barely penetrable jungle full of challenges, enabling us to change course.

More control?

“Greater efficiency and control“, these were the principles of conventional time management. An even more seamless planning of our available time should help us to use our time more effectively. However, can efficiency and control lead to a meaningful life?

Surely, they can’t. On the one hand, not every detail is controllable: The consequences following our decisions can never be predicted exactly. Solely our decisions can be affected by us. On the other hand, doing things efficiently, i.e. “more in less time” is not always the best way. Isn’t it much more important to do things effectively, i.e. using adequate means and producing the intended results?

Quality of life is surely not a question of velocity.

Which values?

Determining our decisions and actions values like love, security, status, recognition, fame etc. are of highest importance to our lives. If they contradict to reality though, they won’t increase our lives’ quality. On the contrary, we will feel even more rushed, unsuccessful, and futile. It is therefore vitally important to critically scrutinize the social and private values we submit to. How else can we recognize, if the aims we strive for actually meet our own needs or if they had been extraneously imposed on us until we internalized them?

Time – use, don’t lose it

The answers to three questions can contribute significantly to our using time instead of losing it:

Which activity, if I would do it excellently and consequently, will have a considerably positive impact on my private life?

Which activity, if I would do it excellently and consequently, will have a considerably positive impact on my professional life?

And if I know that these activities could be that much effective, why am I not doing them already?

Seneca surely didn’t imagine how life will look like in 2,000 years into his future. He is proven right anyway.

References:

Covey, S. R., Merrill, A. R., & Merrill, R. R. (1995). First things first. New York: Simon and Schuster.

We regard time as normal. As an element clocking our lives. As something so trivial that we don’t think about it, yet we are organizing our lives according to timekeepers. Even if time is universal, it often flinches from our perception: No matter what time our clocks tell, five minutes can seem like eternities and weeks can go by in a flash. Children conceive time differently from adults and for elderly people past years often seem like moments.

Time and particularly how we use it is a determinant for quality of life. But how can come upon a kind of time usage which makes us happy?

Trying to answer all these questions isn’t new by far. Science, philosophy, and many other professions have been addressing these topics for many years. In our blog they will have a chance to speak. We will inspect, if statements which were made hundreds of years ago are still valid today. We will check, if assertions made tongue-in-cheekly or provokingly contain an element of truth after all. In doing so we will observe the newest scientific findings, but not without challenging them as well.

The essence of all these inspirations can be found in timee: With timee we are able to use our limited time to do things we are interested in with the people we like.

Welcome to our blog!

With timee we want to redefine “time management“.

As a social calendar timee not only helps to organize appointments. What rather constitutes timee is its function to bring people together again, to spot and experience things collectively – and with this to add value to life. timee’s mission is the enhancement of its users’ quality of lives by helping to organize and shape what we perceive our greatest asset: our time.

Despite all time management tools being on hand today and innumerable possibilities to organize leisure time, at the end of the day quite a few of us have the notion not to have used their time effectively: We waste too much time with unimportant, unnerving tasks. We find hundreds of entries in our address lists and still feel disorientated and alone. Why do only so few of us manage to spend their time well?

This thought was the initial spark for timee’s development. In this process we didn’t skim over this topic, but we started with drilling down on subjacent questions: What does effective time management mean? Is it to have as much spare time as possible or to discern and to use advantageous moments? Is it more important to manage urgent things as efficiently as possible or to allow for relevant things? How do we tell the difference?

Over and above, still much more basic: What is time?

In our blog we not only want to keep you informed about planning, development, and functioning of timee, but what is more we want to take you on an exciting journey on questions relating to time.