Now

“The time is now…”

“No time like the present…”

“Just do it…”

Familiar phrases all, often used with the intention to inspire, with a hope that they will promote and propel people to act. Such phrases impress on us that the only time to act is now, that the present moment is where you live your life and that is where you can impact it most.

But exactly when is “now”?

The German psychologist and neuroscientist Ernst Poppël suggests that our perception of the present moment, of “now”, is a period of time three seconds long. That’s a small packet of time. By four seconds we are starting to experience the past, and a mere one or two seconds is perceived to be our future.

Of course, as soon as we’ve opened our packet of time and gobbled down the three seconds of “now” we’re onto the next, and the next, and the next… The three seconds constantly refreshes so we have no perception that “now” is only three seconds long.

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When We Can We Will

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We all have things we want to do, things we want to achieve. Changing career, learning a language, clearing out the spare room. Some of them are big, some of them are small. Some are dreams, some are goals, some are just “stuff”.

We all also have reasons we don’t get round to doing some, or all, of these things. We seem to be under some sort of illusion that there is a time in the near future when we will “get round to it”, a magical time called “when we can, we will”.

I couldn’t count how many times I’ve fallen into the trap of “when I can, I will”; there are a couple of things on my goals list that seem firmly entrenched in that position. No one is perfect, right?!

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Time: Capital or Income?

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“How are you spending your time?”

“Has it been a valuable use of your time?”

“Time is money, you know.”

We use economic terms to describe our use of time, so why not extend the economic terms to our definition of time, not just our usage? Do you consider time to be capital or income?

How you view your time can impact significantly how you spend it. If you view time as income, then it is in essence never ending. Yes, we all know that eventually our time “comes to an end”, but that point is hopefully far off in the distance. And we don’t want to morbidly spend our time considering our demise. But if you view time as income, it gets refreshed, every minute, every hour, every day, week and month. There’s always more time, in the same way that our income gets refreshed each month (hopefully!).

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We Are All Gamblers

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I’m sure some of you will disagree with the statement in this blog title. Many of you will maintain that you have never gambled in your life; and by gambling you mean putting down some money on a bet or the outcome of a game. Many people consider it morally wrong. Others consider it a silly way to throw away money.

Some people, only a few, manage to make a healthy living from it. Casinos certainly do well out of it.

But what is gambling? Most of us think of gambling as an activity which involves exchanging cash, placing a bet, putting money on a prediction of what will happen next.

And, in reality, we all do that a great deal of the time. We all have a sense of what will happen tomorrow, and based on these assumptions we build our lives. We build our sense of who we are, of where we are going on an assumption that we are pretty certain what will happen tomorrow, and next week and even next year.

This is not a bad thing; we buy houses, take loans, plan holidays. Like gamblers in a casino, we sometimes lose. Things go wrong that we didn’t expect, and sometimes these things can have far reaching consequences.

Like gamblers in a casino we are subject to ‘gamblers fallacy’. This is the notion that the odds change over time: if your number hasn’t come up in the last hour, maybe that means it’s ‘due’. It is the primary reason many people play the same lottery numbers each week; it’s the belief that over time the odds will mean that their selection of numbers is ‘due’, when in fact there is no increase in odds compared to playing completely random numbers every week.

In life, with our goals and dreams, it’s easy to fall into the trap that given enough time you are ‘due’ a win, a breakthrough. Surely you’re bound to achieve what you want, given enough time. And as more time passes, as those goals and dreams continue to grow, a sense of urgency develops that a bigger win is needed.

It’s like trying to lose weight in time for the holiday of a lifetime – when you’ve got 12 months to lose 40 pounds it’s perfectly achievable. As time passes it becomes less and less achievable, but the desire for that goal doesn’t dissipate. In many circumstances it increases, with the insane belief that 6 weeks before the holiday you can drop 40 pounds!

In just the same way that the gambler in the casino needs a bigger win the more time that passes.

One of the problems many of us face in our lives is falling into a trap of thinking that ‘time’ actually does something. When in fact time does nothing, other than relentlessly march on. The only thing that will move you forward is action – doing more.

The wins are small, and sometimes barely seem worth the effort, but the compound impact of the regular actions make the big difference. No one will notice if you’ve lost a pound in weight over 2 weeks, you won’t feel a difference in your clothes and may still be unhappy with what you see in the mirror, but the pounds over the course of 12 months will be noticed.

A gambler in a casino puts down cash that they will more than likely lose, with nothing they can do to influence the outcome of their bet. By contrast, you’re gambling with something worth far more than money – your goals and dreams, the very purpose of your existence. But the great thing is, you can do something to influence the outcome, through the actions you undertake every single day.

You have no choice on whether you place a bet, you’re already doing it, every day. But you do have a choice about whether you win or lose, through the actions you choose.


Image credit: Michal Parzuchowski | stocksnap.io

The Nearness of Now

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There is nothing closer to you than the present moment – the right now – and it connects you with every other human being on the planet. It doesn’t matter if they are on the other side of the world or sitting right beside you; billions of human beings are existing, living, hoping and dreaming, just like you. Right now. Geography divides, making us feel distant and disconnected, but time brings us all together. Consider how everyone can remember where they were when…

There are so many ‘whens’. Celebratory and happy ‘whens’, such as the turning of the millennium or seeing a particular nation triumph in the World Cup, as well as sad and sobering ‘whens’, such as acts of terror or natural disasters. Whatever the ‘when’, such moments in time have the power to unite us. We experience life together, not separated by geography and immediate concerns. Those moments stay with us throughout our lives; they shape who we are and who we become.

We often think of time as flowing like a river, on which we travel from the past through the present and into our future. But perhaps it’s more that our boat is anchored to the present, and the water passes beneath us. We don’t move, we always remain in the moment.

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You Have Something To Do

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7 billion human beings exist right now. Our hearts beat the same. We all look up at the same sky and see the same stars, the same moon. We all live in the same time: right now. One other thing unites and binds us all together, no matter what our race, religion or location: every one of us, right now, has something to do. Even if that something is ‘doing nothing’.

Right now someone is choosing a wedding dress, someone is choosing the starter for their meal, someone is quitting their job, someone has to decide whether to forgive an unfaithful partner, someone is putting fuel in their car, someone is giving birth, someone is being born, someone is reading a book, someone is looking for shoes to go with their outfit, someone is working out where their next meal will come from, someone is wondering how they will make it through the night… From the momentous to the mundane… the list of activities is, well, 7 billion long.

So, you have something to do. Sometimes it’s unpleasant. Sometimes it’s dull. Sometimes it makes you smile. Sometimes it makes you feel like every fibre in your being is exactly where it is meant to be right now. Sometimes you realise that these times are the ones that matter. These times. This time. Right now…

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I’ll Have The Lobster

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Lobsters tend to be quite an expensive dish; there seems something decadent about ordering lobster in a restaurant. Personally, I’m not a fan: aside from not liking the taste, I confess that I’m put off by the multitude of surgical-style implements needed to tease the meat out of the shell.

But, in the 19th century, things were a little different. Back then, lobsters were so plentiful that they were often served to prisoners, fed to the staff working in some of England’s stately homes, and even ground-up and used as fertiliser on fields. They certainly weren’t seen as the luxury food item that they are today.

Whilst I’m unsure if anyone could have predicted the turnaround in fortunes for the once humble lobster, one thing is certain about the world around us – things change. They don’t stop changing, they never stop evolving.

Technology, food, fashion, art, science – change and progression never ends. Turn on the news or open a newspaper and you’ll see that not a day goes by without something changing.

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The Cost of Time

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One of the most common challenges in today’s workplace is the perceived lack of time that we have to complete our work. As the pace of work is getting faster, this pressure never goes away. Unless you can change the laws of physics you are never going to get more time, so the only thing you can do is to change what you do with it, how you invest it…

As Benjamin Franklin said, “time is money,” and I’m sure that’s a phrase most of us have heard. Well, here is a little equation I’ve used over the years to help illustrate the point…

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Full Front Loaded Costs + Budgeted Income / Time

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A Phrase I Don’t Like…

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Often I draw on quotes or phrases that I like as inspiration for a blog post, but today I’m doing the opposite. Today I’m writing about a phrase I don’t like, and it’s one that I hear a lot.

It’s a phrase I have heard used inside the workplace and outside it. I bet it’s something you’ve heard too. You may have even said it yourself at some point. It’s not that it’s offensive, it actually seems quite innocuous at first glance. But after reading this post I hope you’ll stop using it and challenge its use by others. So here it is…

“You spend most of your life at work…”

No. You. Don’t.

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What Would You Do…?

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Just for fun, I sometimes ask people “what would you do if you could travel seven days into the future and come back again?”

Almost everyone gives me the same answer: “I would find out the winning lottery numbers”.

I’ve yet to meet someone who says that they would check their family was okay, or seek to avert a terrible accident that might befall them in the next seven days. No-one has said they would try and use the opportunity to try and prevent some pending catastrophe that they learn of whilst visiting the future.

This isn’t a problem of course, you don’t have to be the world’s saviour (and it’s just for fun, after all). But there is something that saddens me about the frequency that I hear the lottery answer.

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