Sunday 11 November 2018

It's About Time

Our clock was in trouble: the second hand was rubbing against the minute hand, causing the hands to stop moving (though the pendulum was still ticking). So I had to bend the second hand up a little, and the minute hand down, and then wait a minute to see if the second hand could move past the minute hand freely; and in the event had to do that a few times (I was anxious not to over-do the bending, of course). 

And each of those minutes, waiting for the second hand to go all the way round, in order to see if it was now clear, felt like a long wait. Just 60 seconds - a long wait. But it was 60 seconds of forced inactivity. Think how long today's two minutes' silence for the dead felt.

And yet, when distracted by an article in a journal, or social media, I can easily find that twenty minutes have gone by.

This is not a new reflection, of course: that our experience of time is very variable. But it struck me anew today, and got me thinking about various aspects of my work and life.

One was the value of stopping; making time to slow down, get off the helter-skelter of busy-ness, and focus on one thing at a time.  I have blogged before about meditation (see tag...); and that is certainly valuable in this context: if you really want to slow time down, try twenty minutes of contemplative meditation! But what is interesting to me, is that when I am in that more reflective mode, it carries forward into other contexts, and they seem less frenetic, and calmer, too.

I am also reflecting on the number of coaching clients who say that one of the real benefits of coaching is being forced to stop (or at least, slow down) and take the time to think about the important issues. Perhaps that is one of the most important things I do as a coach: give permission for that, legitimise that, impose that...

And of course, those words 'time to think' take us back to Nancy Kline's work that has had such an impact on my coaching and facilitation practice.

The militant approach to listening that Nancy champions is always in service to helping the other (and oneself) to think.  But time is a major requirement for that, and that seems such a big ask in many organisational cultures - which is one of the reasons (I think) that truly making time to listen has such a big impact.  We all know what it means when somebody has no time for us; this approach communicates just the opposite.

And one more thought comes to mind: E F Schumacher (of Small is Beautiful fame) observed the paradox of labour-saving devices: the more such devices are prevalent in a culture, the more everyone rushes around...  So things like turning off the mobile (or at least the alerts!) walking where possible, rather than driving etc, putting space in our diaries between meetings, having a proper lunch break with a colleague or two... all these are ways we may be able to slow the pace a little, and possible improve the quality of our thinking, our relationships, and our lives.

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