The Time in your life

I’m fascinated by the way that different people cope with ‘time’ management. The people who most intrigue me are those who spend 20 mins complaining that they never seem to have enough ‘time’ to get things done. In the meantime, there goes another 20 mins.

Toffler’s Future Shock waxed delirious about this issue decades ago. Even back then, he indicated that more needs to be accomplished every day; yet in the same amount of ‘time’. And as a result, some of us begin to feel stretched beyond our natural pace for life.

I’ve always loved the narrative about the African explorer who was beating his way through the jungle, and determined to reach a distant mountain within two days. He exhorted his native bearers to go faster and faster, offering all form of inducements to encourage them to speed up.

Yet, a day from their destination, these bearers sat down and refused to moved. No amount of beatings or promises of extra payment could induce them to move on.

And when they were asked why they refused to move, they simply replied: “Because we’re waiting for our souls to catch up.”

Now, I’d prefer to not give you all sorts of time management strategies that allow your own soul to catch up. You surely have got most of them worked out by now. At least from your own perspective. Instead, here are three challenges to your thinking in terms of ‘time’:

1. Time compression is a process for speeding up your own thinking in a given time period. Similar to speed reading. The idea is that you practise it for a few minutes each day; and eventually, everything seems to be going much slower all around you. Takes two minutes (!?). Just work through these steps:

Step 1. For 60 secs, visualise a fast-forward on everything that you have done in the past 24 hrs. It will obviously be a very rapid visualisation.

Step 2. For 30 secs, visualise the same fast-forward you just watched of your past 24 hrs.

Step 3. For 15 secs, again the same visualisation.

Step 4. For 5 secs, again the same visualisation, which by now is very rapid.

I first heard of this time compression from a lady called Jean Houston, who offers some very interesting insights on humanity. After you have experienced time compression, nothing else ever seems as rushed!

2. Polarity management is a study that focuses on ‘AND’ rather than EITHER/OR. Too often, we see all problems as something that need to be fixed, especially with the issue of work/life balance (which is one of the most significant ‘time’ issues for many people).

Not everything has a direct solution. The best we can often do is to manage the polarity between the two issues (in this case, work and life). Have a look at this brief handout, and it will give you some idea of how to better manage the polarities in your life. polrty_map_wrksht

3. Watch the way that you talk about time. If you continually use expressions such as ‘I’m out of time’, ‘I never seem to have enough time’, ‘I’m rushed’, you are essentially allowing ‘time’ to dictate your life to you. At the very least, refrain from using any verbal expression that indicates your concern about time. All such expressions need to be banned around schools. They simply create a rush mentality that is generally not conducive to quality learning.

And lastly, please be careful about projecting any time issues on to children. The special accomplishments in life are created in what is called ‘kairos’ time (which is based on the experience – think South Sea Island time), as compared to ‘chronos’ time (I have an appointment in 15 mins). In Future Schools, more focus will eventually be placed on the rich inquiry-based learning experiences in kairos time. More on that another time.

The theory of ‘The First Five Minutes’

I’m becoming more and more convinced about the worth of The First Five Minutes with almost anything I do. It’s one of my many theories on life. For me, the first five minutes invariably sets the precedent for the rest of the interaction.

I find that if I make the effort to offer my best effort in that initial time, two things occur:

1. I’m more focused within myself, and tend to create a more optimistic energy for the task. Basically, I’m ready to give it everything; and

2. Whoever I’m with gets caught up in that same energy, and (usually) is more attuned with me.

How important is this when it comes to teaching?? I once read that teenagers form 90% of their opinion of a lesson in the first 90 seconds. Harsh?? I don’t think so. Expectations are created very quickly, and can take a long time to turn around.

If you think that 90 seconds is too short, then have a look at some of Malcolm Gladwell’s writings. Especially a book called Blink. He conjectures that it often takes only two seconds to develop a reasoned opinion on the worth of a teacher or experience. Whew. Not much margin for error.

In other words, if you want to give a good lesson, plan that introduction. In fact, if you don’t have time to plan the rest of the lesson in great detail, make sure that you sort out that first few seconds. Make it interesting. Be dramatic. Use some unusual toy. Launch into an entertaining narrative.

Now take this a little further. Is it possible that you could establish the quality of your day, simply by making an effort to feel inspired in those first few minutes after waking up? This probably isn’t going to be easy if you’re the proverbial non-morning person. Still, taking that into account, why not do some / all of the following:

* Very consciously choose to visualise some of the great things that you’re going to do that day. Run a brain video, and see the experiences taking place in real-life speed. There’s a lot of merit to this. In high-level sport, they talk of the mental rehearsals that are so necessary prior to a winning performance. So why not have a mental rehearsal of your day?

* Revise on all of your best features / strengths. Get over your humility. Think them through, and even write them down. Sounds like too much trouble? Then it’s probably even more likely that you need to do this.

* Meditate. Simply play some quiet music, and focus on your breathing. A wise old man once conjectured that he had so much to do that day, that he needed to go and meditate for another half an hour. When we feel focused and relaxed, we’re much more capable of coping with whatever the day throws at us

* Take full control of your thinking. Bludgeon it if you have to. Choose to focus on some inspiring thoughts. If you can’t, then it’s likely that one of two things is occurring ie you’re caught up in unhelpful patterns of thinking that have developed over a period of time; and / or, you may even be clinically depressed. If it’s the latter, please please please seek some professional support.

* Find some special quote or short narrative that has always inspired you. Sit down and read it religiously every morning. It’s astonishing how much difference it can make to your mood to consistently revisit some special words.

This approach to the start of your day truly is critical. If you’re a teacher, I want to see you becoming inspired about your day. For two reasons:

1. You’ll enjoy it more fully; and

2. The students are more likely to benefit from your skills.

The first Five Minutes. Just apply it once today, and see if it works for you.

Instant Success


Wandered past a pizza store that is near to where I live in Brisbane. Had to laugh when I saw this poster. Got me thinking. And I mean: Thinking about my thinking. Here’s why.

My first response was that the poster was basically having a go at all of the young ones who expect instant success in life today. The Net Gen who presume that life can be immediately fulfilled with a few clicks of their mouse. And, actually, it most likely IS the intent of this poster (as well as, of course, encouraging teenagers with a good sense of humour to work for them).

And then I got to thinking. Why did I so quickly determine that it was funny, and maybe even sarcastic, to see a comment about a young person being highly successful in a shorter period of time? After all, I (and many others amongst us) are often encouraging our students to get out there and give everything to life. And, as long as they stay ethical with their work, then good luck to them if they make it (whatever ‘it’ is!?).

Yep. How quickly do we subtly dump (well, me anyway) on someone who gives everything to life, and who expects to achieve at a prodigious level? I used to say that quality work took time. Painstaking and sometimes arduous time. Maybe that’s just a perspective of someone who’s predominantly lived in the 20th century. Everything’s a different speed today.

Do I need to speed myself up further? Not necessarily. I just need to be prepared to pay respect to others who savour working at a different rate.

Slow Schools

Before taking any important decision in life,

it is always good to do something slowly.

(The Diary Of A Magus)

I don’t know about you… but I too often find myself operating at one of 3 speeds:

* Fast

* Faster

* Fastest

And in every one of them, I eventually run out of gas. Anyone else know the feeling??!! I’ve always been intrigued by people who can operate at what I’ll call an optimum pace. Not too slow, not too fast. Just the right amount of effort and energy for what is required at the time. I also notice that these people make fewer mistakes, and they seem to be more settled about their stuff in life. How do they do it??!

Well… I’m always into solutions, so here’s a Big Picture one at least. Join the Slow Life movement. I first twigged to this when I read a book by Carl Honore called In Praise Of Slow. This guy talks about concepts such as Slow Food, Slow Cities, Slow Exercise, Slow Sex. And his contention is that we experience richer experiences by taking our time in these and many other pursuits. For a start, the Slow Food movement. During the past decade, over 100,000 people in 50 different countries have officially joined the organisation. Some of its features? No Maccas. Take your time with the savouring of your food. And focus on organic locally grown produce whenever possible. And then we had the Slow Cities movement. Free tai chi classes. Streets closed off to traffic. Basically, a more settled environment for inhabitants.

If this Slow concept intrigues you, then have a listen to the TED talk that was given by Carl Honore:

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So, given all of that, I’m going to propose that we introduce the Slow Schools movement. Am I serious? You bet! It probably won’t be that politically acceptable… but I assure you that it aligns with the best neuroscience research available. Here’re 3 suggestions on creating a Slow School:

1. Encourage students to develop what is called Alpha state (brainwave patterning between 8 to 13 cps). If you’ve ever meditated, you’ll know this state. Focused, relaxed, calm, and yet able to think clearly about the situation at hand. Learning is more effective when you’re in alpha. Nothing new to this. So why do I still see schools everywhere that operate in Beta (more than 13 cps)? Tension, fast-paced responses, exhaustion arriving too early in the day. At the very least, ask students to breath deeply for just 60 secs before the start of each lesson.

2. Model this sense of Slow to your students. Remember: They’re watching all of the time. If the adult minders are tense and uptight, it’s giving a poor message to the students. Stay centred, breath deeply yourself, and simply deal with each situation as it arises.

3. Begin the day on an optimistic note. On morning assemblies, speak steadily, and make sure that at least one affirming comment is made to everyone (this includes the teachers too). If you have to tell the kids what misbehaviour is unacceptable, turn the words around. Explain what it is that you would like them to do. I’ve seen too many morning assemblies in which the riot act is read out to everyone. I accept that this needs to be done if absolutely necessary. What concerns me is that it has also set the tone of learning in a school for the entire day.

You all know your optimum pace. So live it. Really live it. Every day. And steadily create classrooms and schools that do likewise. You’ll consistently achieve at much higher levels if you do. The concept of Slow Schools has a lot of merit.