53. It’s About Time

Are you in control of time or does time control you? Your relationship to time can impact how you manage your day, how you organize your tasks and even how you feel about your life. 


Today on Crina and Kirsten Get to Work, we get to learn a new word –  chronemics.  Who doesn’t want to learn a new and very cool word?  And now that you have waited with bated breath to know what it is – it is the study of time.  How do you think about time?  Are you in control of time? Does time control you? What is your relationship with time?  These are the big questions and considerations for this episode.

Up until a few thousand years or so ago – there was no clock time.  The sun rose and the sun set and it was game over.  Clock time allowed us to gain efficiency, organize work, maximize productivity, etc., but is that how all of us feel comfortable organizing our day?  Clock time was also a convenient way of compensating people in a newly industrialized society.

Most people’s work days are dictated by clock time: punch in, punch out…track your hours, take your breaks, etc.  Education also favors people who operate on clock time…standardized tests, school schedules, etc.

But here is the problem with clock time – even considering all of its productivity and efficiency – the “clock time” construct does not work for everyone.  Many people are more comfortable on “event” time, which is essentially, when the thing you are doing comes to its natural end – which may not coincide with both hands of a clock being pointed in any particular direction.

How do you know if you are a clock timer or an event timer?

Do you eat at 12 or when you are hungry?.  If you eat at noon, you are a clock timer and if you eat when you are hungry, you are an event timer.

Is your to do list also scheduled into your calendar or is your to do list driven by the “right” time to complete a task? If you are a “right” timer, you are an event timer.

 Is a meeting done for you when those clock hands point in a particular direction or when you feel like you have accomplished what needs to be accomplished?  

Clock time is pretty interchangeable – meaning we can move out meeting from 10 am to 2 pm, but if we are on event time, it may not work to move the exercise session because you have to do exercise first so you can shower next and then shop.  Who wants to shop dirty and stinky from working out?  (well, probably Kirsten, but don’t tell anyone).  The point is there is a flow to event time – things happen in sequence.  Clock time tends to be more like legos – interchangeable.

Why does this matter?  Event time allows you to be in the moment and aware of your surroundings.  Clock time allows you to be efficient and productive, but the locus of control is the clock.  Most of us are comfortable with event time and clock time, although Crina is primarily a clock time and Kirsten prefers event time.  And they can still be friends!!!

Anne-Laure Sellier, a fancy professor from France currently a Visiting Professor at NYU, conducted an interesting experiment where she put a clock in a room where people were doing yoga.  She watched them and talked with them after the class.  Then she covered up the clock for the next class and she watched them and talked to them.  Here is what she discovered.  Students were more engaged in the class where the clock was covered up.  Students also took and felt more agency over their performance when there was no clock.  Students with a clock in the room tended to attribute their performance to the instructor and gave up more easily.

Clock time is great for standardized tasks and efficiency, event time is good to fully experience your surroundings and for creativity.  People on event time feel more control over their lives versus people on event time who believe the hands on the clock do not control their lives as much.

How does this translate into work?  First, if you understand your relationship to time, you will probably understand why certain things work for you and others do not.  Understanding how you best experience time will allow you to better shift between the two and better structure your work environment to accomplish what you need to accomplish.  And after giving you insight into your own work habits and productivity and satisfaction, it will give you that same insight into your workers’ habits and productivity and satisfaction.

And, as always, more good information

Clock Time Event Time – Love Your Work, Episode 235

If scheduling causes you conflict, maybe you’re on “event time”

What how you view time says about you | Anne-Laure Sellier | TEDxHECParis