How to use your brain’s view of time to understand and develop yourself at work – The Ultimate Guide
Try this simple experiment please:
- Now point to where the Future is.
- And now point to where the Past is.
- Now imagine the past and the future connected by a line.
- Does any part of that line run through your body?
If you answered “Yes”, and part of the timeline is inside you, you may be a Time-type A person (see diagram above).
If you answered “No” and no part of the timeline is inside you (see diagram above), you may be a Time-type B person.
The way our brains perceive, sort and use time can be quite different for different people.
As with all of this stuff, there’s no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way of looking at time. Just differences which have varying implications.
Similarly, this way of perceiving and sorting time is just a ‘preference’ – that is, it’s not a fixed and immutable aspect of who you are, it can develop, change and adapt over time and in different circumstances.
I’ve set out below some of the key aspects of each Time-type and given some development suggestions that I typically use with my executive coaching clients.
Time-type A Characteristics
(Time-type A = part of the timeline is inside you)
- Usually able to stay very focused in times of crises or when chaos surrounds them
- Great at “Just do it now” and of getting into action
- Able to be ‘in the moment’ and enjoy life as it unfolds
- Good at starting things spontaneously
- May avoid setting goals or deadlines (or set unrealistic ones)
- Tend not to plan things step-by-step or to think through the consequences of things
- Like to keep their options open and may resist commitments or find decisions hard work
- Unless they’ve worked on this (and most of my clients have) they can tend to be late and will regard even fairly big amounts of lateness as being “roughly on time”.
Time-type B Characteristics
(Time-type B = no part of the timeline is inside you)
- Usually great at seeing projects through to completion
- Tend to plan thoroughly, drawing on their learning from past experiences
- Often live an orderly, planned life
- Like to work to realistic timetables and will expect others to set and stick to deadlines
- Will arrive on time and/or feel very bad about being even slightly late
- Can see how events are related to each other
- Find it hard to respond swiftly to a crisis
- May struggle to focus in chaotic surroundings
- Often find it difficult to be ‘in the moment’.
Development activities for Time-type A people often need to focus on two areas:
First, the way they plan and set goals so that they can realistically deliver something and see it through to completion.
The trick here is to deliberately and visually swing their timeline around so that it’s in front of them, just as it is for a type B person (see diagram above). Any kind of visual planning method, particularly something using ‘swim lanes’ and running from left to right seems to really help. Working backwards from the future (from right to left) having established some clear and visualised goals also helps them be realistic about what can be achieved (whether they are being overly-optimistic OR overly pessimistic).
Second, their ability to take the learning from their past experiences and to fully process the emotions associated with them.
This is a little harder to do without some training, but I like to use methods which draw-on Type-A people’s ability to be in the moment. Take them back to a past experience. Discover what learning was in it. Then remind them how they are now and what new resourcefulness they have now as a result. Then project that forward (“How might you usefully apply that in future?”).
Development activities for Time-type B people often need to focus on these areas:
First, their ability to respond swiftly at work when unexpected stuff happens.
What makes this hard for Type-B people to do is that they’re great at seeing how one thing connects to another and of the consequences. Trying to make sense of all this quickly in a crisis is tough. The trick seems to be to take advantage of their abilities to plan and decide BUT to drastically scale-down their frame of reference. It’s as if, in the diagram above, you had completely chopped-off the future time-line so the range of options they need to consider is now very small. Anything which brings that frame of reference as close in to the ‘now’ as possible will help.
Second, their ability to enjoy themselves in the now.
Simple mindfulness meditation exercises, which focus on the breath, are very useful for this if practised over time.
Similarly, focusing on sensory experiences (what my American trainers would call “getting out of your head Nick”) also help. What can you see, feel, hear and smell right now? What colours are there? What are the textures? What are the different qualities of the sounds you notice?
Hope that helps a little?
Write and tell me or tweet me @NickRobCoach to let me know which Time-type you are and whether this matches your experiences please.