When we find that through the vagaries of life, or just due to our own interests and passions, our to do list swells beyond the limits of time, we have but a few options.
We can endeavor to do less or do it faster or we can manipulate time.
Our language lures us to the idea that we ‘make’ or ‘find’ time, but any productivity expert will tell you that there is a finite amount of time. It is neither found nor made. It can’t even be managed. We can manage only the tasks we are trying to complete.
Today, I’d like to explore that third option. I’ll call it time bending. I didn’t realize that time bending is an actual thing, a theory that might make time travel possible. I suppose I’m talking about it in that sense. Mostly, I mean time bending to represent manipulating time in some mysterious way, bending our conception and experience of time.
Before we get to time bending, let’s do a bit of mind bending on the topic of time.
The Japanese Kō
The Japanese have an ancient system for dividing up time. They define 72 micro seasons, or kō. 72 kō spread across the annual calendar.
Today, for example, February 3rd, is the last day of niwatori hajimete toya ni tsuku, or, in English, hens start laying eggs. According to this calendar, tomorrow begins an auspicious kō marking the beginning of spring: the east wind melts the ice.
I’ve played with the idea of organizing my work weeks into kō, just to change things up. But I was daunted by the long names and meanings that are designed for a different climate.
The first day of spring! Ha! We just received eight inches of snow.
Yet, it’s fascinating to consider: how might the rhythm of things change if we observed micro seasons of five days? They give us a different perspective on how to measure our time. More so, they illustrate that much of how we think about time is a construct.
Time is a Construct
Lao Tzu said it way back in the 5th Century BCE. “Time is a created thing.”
Even the ‘weekend’ is a construct. Of course, it is. I always just kind of figured that it was religiously proclaimed. The dowager on the British Downton Abbey set me straight.
There is a debate raging at the abbey’s long dinner table, circa 1920. The young people are blathering on about their plans. The dowager’s piercing voice cuts in with a question:
“What is a ‘week end?’”
Yes, a frivolous concept idea for the lords and ladies of the manor.
One of humanity’s powerful and far-reaching conceptions of time relates to the work week. Where, for example, did the notion that a work week should be 40 hours come from?
Back in the day, human work followed the rhythms of nature. When the hours of daylight shortened in the winter months, people adjusted their work accordingly, gradually expanding it as the days lengthened.
With the dawning of the Industrial Revolution and new technologies like electricity, everything changed. Workers were pushed well beyond their limits. In 1819, workers and unions advocated for a reduction to their 80 to 100 hours of weekly work!
The 40 Hour Work Week
In 1869, President Grant issued a proclamation restricting federal employees to the now popular 40 hours a week.
Henry Ford also promoted this number, finding that pushing workers past this level produced negligible gains. But Ford was probably motivated by the fact that 24 hours is so neatly divided into 8-hour shifts.
Eight Hours a Day is Too Much
Today’s researchers are coming to a different conclusion: the sweet spot may sit at five or six hours of work a day for work that requires deep focus. Beyond that, working is a waste of time. You are too exhausted to produce meaningful work.
Think about that, my solopreneur friends.
In the workplace, time, money, and output are intimately related. Most people are paid by the hour or by the widget produced or sold. Even salaried employees are paid by time. It’s just that the unit of time is often a year instead of an hour. And the main reason for this convention seems to be that salaried employees can be more easily induced to work beyond the prescribed 40 hours of week for their paychecks. (One corporate employer of mine had the galling practice of claiming I worked 36.5 hours a week!)
What Happens in Less Time?
But, here’s the interesting thing about time. The studies that have churned out these ideal numbers, whether they be 40 hours a week or five and a half hours a day, saw that when people worked these reduced schedules, they got more done per hour than people working more hours. Now, that’s pretty fascinating.
Commonsense would argue that they are just working faster. Maybe.
Or, maybe a less demanding schedule affords people the chance to get into a natural flow state more often. Maybe, in this state, consciousness itself is more engaged with the work. It’s like they can process the work on steroids.
Maybe they don’t experience a spaced out kind of downtime so much. You know, when your attention drifts off the task and then you notice the chocolate bar on the assembly line traveling just beyond your reach and you have to scramble to keep up. (Or, just eat it.)
Here’s What Time Bending Might Look Like
But maybe something more mystical is afoot. Maybe people can enter different relationships with time where the extraordinary becomes possible.
Physics hints at many mysteries where it concerns time, some of it comes straight from the oracle himself.
Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen all at once.” That makes time sound kind of inconsequential.
Darkening the waters of clarity even more, Einstein also said, “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli answered a question about these distinctions like this: “the difference between the past and the future is only a matter of statistics, namely randomness.”
Physics does tell us that, as we move closer to the speed of light, time elongates. It’s an effect that can be measured. There is a relativity to time, but most of us probably won’t experience the way it unfolds at the speed of light.
Time Travel — It’s a Real Thing
In 2000, theoretical physicist Ronald Mallett published a paper wherein he solved Einstein’s gravitational field equations for circulating beams of light in a ring laser. This lays the groundwork for time travel.
“Scientifically, it’s possible, but technologically, it is going to be difficult to build a time machine,” Mallett said.
Author and scientist Arthur C. Clarke gave us this piece of brain candy: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Or, in other words, we call it magic when we can’t understand it, but just because we call it magic doesn’t mean it isn’t legitimate.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
Have you ever had an experience where time seemed to bend? It somehow acted in a way that is at odds with our classical understanding of the arrow of time? One of the most common occurrences of this phenomenon might be
What about time speeding up or slowing down?
Let’s say you set out to make a presentation. This kind of thing typically takes you three hours. You get into the flow state and the time just flies as you seem to be working at the speed of light. Bam! You get it all finished and find out that only an hour and forty-five minutes has passed. It doesn’t make mathematical sense, but here it is, the report you’ve written.
Something like this happened to author and scientist Gregg Braden.
Time Bending in the Sinai
In The Isaiah Effect, Braden shares a story of being on a tour bus in Egypt. He was traveling across the Sinai desert from St. Catherine’s to Cairo, a trip that was supposed to take seven hours. When four hours passed, the bus stopped. Braden saw the bus driver confer with their military escort and guards at the checkpoint. They seemed disturbed and unnerved.
Braden asked what was wrong and his guide explained, “Something is not right. We should not be here [at our destination] yet.”
“Look at the guards. They do not believe their eyes! It has been only four hours. Our being here is a miracle,” the guide continued.
To Braden, it was a miraculous idea, but certainly not something far out of his range of experience or expectation. Only the fact that he experienced it with so many others made it exceptional.
déjà vu. It’s highly fitting that I’m writing this article on National Déjà vu Day (Ground Hog Day) — so ordained by the classic Bill Murray movie.
“Though the distance between Mount Sinai and Cairo had not changed, our experience of time while we traveled the distance had. It was recorded on the wristwatches of every military man armed guard and passenger on the bus. It was as if our memories of the day in the presence of one another had somehow been squeezed as we experience a fraction of the time expected,” Braden explains.
I’m inclined to think that such things are possible when we enter mystical time. This occurs when we lose our sense of self-consciousness. Our attention becomes fixated, wholly drawn in by whatever we are attending to. Our thoughts don’t drift away, nor do we judge the task at hand. Rather, we merge with it.
We enter what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has described as the flow state: “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
It’s like we are operating at the level of pure consciousness in a zone where the physical laws no longer apply. We are able to accomplish what might have seemed impossible.
We can see it clearly when the opposite is happening, when we are being held to a physical reality that has been created by thought contagion. The famous story of the four-minute mile illustrates what happens when we cannot break free of a galvanizing belief such as humans can’t run a mile in less than four minutes.
In the early 1950s, the four-minute barrier was an obsession. Every attempt to defeat the barrier drew throngs. When Roger Bannister smashed through the time limit in 1954, it was a “small” event, witnessed only by a few thousand! Bannister was famous for a lone wolf approach in which he eschewed coaches (perhaps also inoculating himself from the thought contagion).
Incredibly, 46 days later, another runner beat Bannister’s time. A year later, three more posted sub-four-minute miles. There was, of course, no real barrier, only a construct in the collective mind.
So what if we, like Bannister, can momentarily shed the load of classical physics and consensus reality? What if we can break through artificial constructs that appear to be real? What if we can bend time?
Braden, Gregg. The Isaiah Effect.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow.
I’m Dr. Kira Swanson and I’m a Life Coach for people who dread Monday. I work with corporate misfits who feel unfulfilled in their work. Together, we tune into what they really want, find new perspectives, and summon the courage to take bold action. Whether it’s striking out on their own, landing in a new job, or thriving right where they are, I help my clients to Love Monday.
End the Dread! If you're not loving Monday, let's chat about it. You spend too much time working for it not to meet your needs on multiple levels. It's not just about money. Click here to schedule your free Discovery Session.