Improving Your Time Perspective

My over-arching personal-development theme for 2015 is “Mastery of Time.” It comes from a few inspirations, most particularly the definition of luxury promoted by Tim Ferriss:

Luxury is feeling unrushed. It is designing a life that allows you to do what you want with high leverage, with many options, all while feeling unrushed.

Now, I don’t know about the “high leverage” stuff, and there are always many options no matter what (along with an even wider variety of consequences, unfortunately). But the idea of being unrushed is really appealing, especially having just finished off a very luxurious 60-hour “Simple Time of Peace” retreat.

Objective Defined. On to Recon!

One of the first topics I’ve been exploring is the idea of Time Perspective. It’s a method of looking at your relationship with time developed by Dr. Philip Zimbardo (TED talk here, but I really prefer his RSA Animate talk). I like his stuff so much that I even manage to get past his blind acceptance of the whole marshmallow experiment assumption (which I would love to rant about, but that’s not the subject of the post). Here’s the video, if you have time (about 10 minutes) to watch it:

Dr. Zimbardo has, on his website, a Time Perspective Inventory that will help you determine your own “score” in regards to your relationship with:

  1. the Past (positive or negative)
  2. the Present (fatalistic or hedonistic)
  3. the Future (how goal oriented are you? This life, or the next?)

Based on his research of successful and happy people (yes, I know, there is the question of how subjective those words are, but let’s continue) the optimum scores would be someone who:

  • Had a positive view of their past,
  • Had a moderately fun-loving but very curious view of the present,
  • Had a pretty high goal-oriented focus.

I took his test, and can show you where my scores fell, in relation to where Dr. Zimbardo said they should fall:

that one big red one is where I spilled red ink on my screen.
The blue dots are my scores; red dots are Dr. Z’s recommendations;

So what does that tell me?

Well, it tells me I have some work to do. I’m high in “past negative” and low in “past positive” (that is, I don’t really have many memories that I consider “good”). I’m right about where I should be in terms of present-hedonism – that is, I have the energy to go out and have fun and do stuff – but I’m also hight in present-fatalism (feeling like you don’t really have the ability to affect your environment or things that happen to you). Now that can’t be good.

My goal oriented nature seems to be just about right, and I’m ok with not being terribly concerned about the afterlife; I have a feeling a lot of Zen Buddhists feel that way.

A Plan of Attack

What I’ve found useful about taking the test and looking at the scores is that it gives me some concrete goals to work on. I know, rationally, that I have had a lot of wonderful experiences in my life; I also know that I need to work on letting go of the things that I remember as unpleasant. That means a lot of re-framing, and time spent remembering the good stuff even more than I remember the bad. Side benefit: I bet working on that will improve my positivity ratio, too!

I was, quite honestly, surprised at the high “present fatalism” score…though upon reflection, I can see that in terms of “known issues” such as my relationship with finances. I don’t write this blog or work on books because I think I’m going to become rich and famous; I do it because it is the right thing to do (though my patrons have been a big help in making it feel even more worthwhile – thanks!). A possible path for working through this would be simply taking notice of the control I do have over changing things that need to be changed.

Sorry; I’m kind of rambling here. This isn’t one of those “here’s what you should do!” posts, it’s more a here’s some interesting things that might or might not improve your life. Plus, it’s the beginning of this journey into improving the way I use time in my life.

One tool I’ve been using is the mantra, which I will talk more about on Monday. But I’d be interested in hearing about how you did on the Time Perspective Inventory, and what strategies you might find to help improve your own Time Perspective?

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