Time Management is a crock...go at your own pace!

Tempo: the rate or speed of motion or activity; pace: 

Time management. What a crock.  Here I am staring at my to-do list with something between a groan and a sigh escaping my lips. That lot is never going to get done.

The truth is that you can't manage Time. We all have the same amount of time - 168 hours a week.  So why is it that some people seem perpetually strung out as if a blood vessel is about to burst... and other super-productive people are pretty laid back yet get an extraordinary amount done?

This is down to how you relate to Time and knowing what your natural rhythm and pace is.  Some people are born to go like marathon runners - slow and steady - while some are sprinters - going fast and in bursts.  The point is that you have to know how you relate to time to make the most of it.

My relationship with Time

Often I just don’t feel that I have enough of it...and I don’t just mean my schedule is packed and I don’t have time to breathe. It is more existential than that.  I often feel driven because I often feel like I don’t have enough time to achieve what I want to do during my lifetime.

I often get inspired by an idea (typical for a creative type) and then feel driven to get into action. However, the initial inspiration often dries up when I get into the details of doing and I end up pushing - feeling like I should/ought/must carry on regardless of what my energy level is.

This "driven" feeling is exhausting, my stress levels go through the roof and my levels of inspiration and creativity crash.

Of course, my inner critic has a field day. “You're lazy. You're good for nothing. You are useless. You don’t follow through on anything”.

What's your tempo?

William Kir-Stimon was a rather unusual relationship counsellor. He would sit couples down and present them with a metronome. He would then invite each of them to choose a tempo on the metronome that was most pleasing to them.

It was often to the couple’s great surprise that one might pick a tempo of 60 beats per minute (bpm) and the other 140bpm. Each individual was operating at a different pace of life from the other and they were living out of sync.

Kir-Stimon would work with the couples to bring them into sync in ways that would work for both of them. Sounds too simple to be true but Kir-Stimon’s work has been widely followed since his death in 1994.

Are you out of sync with yourself?

After reading about Kir-Stimon I of course asked my partner to find his most pleasing tempo on the metronome app on my iphone. 90 beats per minute.

I was at the start of my day so was in my most relaxed, authentic state when I chose my tempo. 64 beats per minute. Everything fell into place.

Fortunately, my partner and I aren’t that much out of sync (thank god he isn’t 180bpm...I would never see him!) and we can easily work to sync more. However, I realised how much I had been living out of sync with myself.  64bpm is the tempo that I thrive at and I had been living at 150bpm for way too long.

Try this:

What tempo do you thrive at?  Get a metronome (there are iOS and Android apps for this) and set it to your most pleasing tempo.  This is the tempo where you feel at ease and most alive.  Now set the tempo that you feel you are currently living your life at.  Is there a big discrepancy (way too fast or way too slow)?  If there is, chances are that you are feeling some stress in your life.

The Rabbit vs Tortoise syndrome

On New Year’s Day inspiration struck me after a coffee with a friend. I then spent the next 6 hours creating new seminar outlines, designing courses and started to promote them. Elated and happy?  I actually felt anxious and exhausted.

I know myself pretty well. I can create things of very high quality very quickly but I have come to rely on stress to get me through. In short, I sprint at 160bpm. I can do this for short bursts - sprints - but then I have to slow down for a while.  I can't sprint a marathon!

As I get older though - and more self-accepting - my tolerance level for this level of stress diminishes. It simply isn’t an option anymore. It is almost as if I have only got so many beats in my lifetime and my inner self would far rather that I savoured those beats and operated at my natural tempo.

Chronos vs Kairos

The ancient Greeks had two concepts of time, Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is what you might call "hard time". It is the time that we manage with diaries, to-do lists and agendas. Chronos requires speed so that time won't be wasted. Chronos is all about doing.

The kind of time we savour is what the ancient Greeks called "Kairos" or "soft time". Soft time gives us access to our innate wisdom and creativity. Life isn’t an effort, it flows. It is more like play and it is the place where we stop and smell the roses. Kairos is all about being.

Kairos is different for all of us...it is about listening to your inner rhythm and tempo.  Kairos for you might be fast and pacy or slow and steady...it depends on what your authentic tempo and rhythm are.

We all have a higher tempo where our fire is, where passion, enthusiasm, and joy all merge and we live our peak experiences there. If your inner rhythm is pretty fast, you are going to love living in this place.  Slowing down is always going to be an effort for you and could be every bit as stressful as a slow person speeding up.

If your inner tempo is relatively slow, you will love the passion and enthusiasm for a time, but sooner or later it will tip over into stress and disruption.

When are you at your best?

The key thing is to honour your authentic tempo and to balance the pace you work out with periods of slowing down...or speeding up!

For me, that tempo is a lot slower than I might have thought. A friend recently said to me that my hallmarks are “calmness, acceptance and warmth”, all of which are expressed somewhere close to 64bpm.

When I coach, the time when I am most insightful and powerful is when I am centred, grounded...and quite deliberate. I can still blaze with fire...and that is at it’s most powerful when my delivery is slow.  When I am truly in my zone I am a person of relatively few words. Hard to believe, but true.

What does Kairos look like for you?  You might not think you have experienced it but chances are that you have. Think about the times where you have lost track of time...you were either in the flow doing something or just enjoying being.  Either way, cultivating Kairos...your authentic rhythm...is a key to developing flow states and peak performance.

So what does this mean for you?

As my friend Nick Williams says, personal growth is more about self-acceptance than self-improvement. So, a huge part of your productivity and impact has less to do with becoming a time-management ninja and more to do with accepting your own inner tempo.

In your efforts to get everything done, you end up feeling like nothing gets done. Find YOUR pace and work at that. "Slow and steady wins the race" and all that.  You might want to run, but run in the way that works for you.  Slow and consistent or fast and in bursts.

Today focus on a seemingly small action that equals a high impact. Take comfort in going at your own pace today, knowing that your consistent steps all add up to something huge.

You might just enjoy your time as well.


Leave a comment below and What is your tempo? What causes you to jump to a different tempo? How can you honour your inner tempo, right here right now?