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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2017 Brian Remer
Updated Nov. 2017
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
Watching and Waiting:
Thinking about Time
Maybe it's alright if we don't spend much energy thinking about time. After all, it seems to tick past us whether we like it or not. But give it a little thought and you'll realize that though time is an arbitrary concept it holds enormous influence over our lives. Lead a discussion about the effects of time on the work of your team in this issue of 99's on the 9th beginning with this 99-Word Story.
Watching and Waiting
It was lunchtime. Sarah slid her leftovers into the microwave and tapped the minutes, seconds, and start keys, then waited. And waited. She tapped her toes and still waited.
Finally in frustration she announced through gritted teeth, "I don't have time for this!" Storming back to her office she left her lunch behind. Why was she so upset? There is absolutely no faster way to reheat food. Perhaps she wanted someone to eat it for her too!
The more you focus on time, the more you seem to have - especially when you want it the least.
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
Thinking about Time
Why does time slow during a crisis? Why do the years fly by as we age - or when we wait for the microwave? In the book Time Warped, author Claudia Hammond explains that these observations are tied to our perception of time; the way our brain focuses attention, collects data, adds emotion, and remembers.
When we are bored, fearful, and bereft of stimulus or novelty, time seems to slow making days or weeks drag endlessly. Yet, over longer time periods, that same routine and repetition make the years contract as we look back on them in our old age. There simply are not enough high points to register distinct events worth remembering.
In contrast, focused attention, novelty, a high emotional state, and a sense of flow make the hours and days fly. And when we look back at a busy time period like this, it may seem to have expanded because we remember it being filled with so many unique experiences.
Time measurement is an arbitrary construct. A quick check of the internet reveals that the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians laid the foundation for our current system but no one knows why they divided every hour into 60 minutes or even every day into 24 hours - although those numbers are easily divided by multiples of both 2 and 3.
Yet having a sense of time is essential for our ability to function. We need a sense of time in order to speak coherently (correctly placing and emphasizing phonemes) as well as to understand what others say. Our sense of time is indispensable in our ability to cross a street safely, drive a car, throw or catch a Frisbee, or tell a joke.
Time is one of those concepts that so pervades our lives that we rarely think about what it means to us. In everyday usage, we toss around many time-related concepts. Metaphorically…
- We curse time or drag it out but take it as a gift when we unexpectedly gain more.
- We would like to find more time but instead often lose it, kill it, forget it, or waste it.
- When we are having fun, it flies but when under stress, it slows and even stops momentarily.
- We might borrow some once in a while and save it whenever we can but many of us still wish we could manage it better.
- Even though no one has actually traveled through it, you can be frozen in it if you never change or if you don't run on it.
Time is also a metaphor for the arbitrary nature of many work practices. People have been paid by the hour at least since the Industrial Revolution when round-the-clock factory work began to replace agricultural work that had been governed by the passage of the sun. At this point, time became money - at least in North America.
Thinking about how we perceive time opens the possibility that time may not be money. Perhaps time in the workplace is effort; the energy we can exert. Perhaps time is results; what we are able to produce. Or maybe, like the 99-Word Story, time is patience, perspective, or anticipation of something essential.
The way we think about and describe time reveals insights into the way we view work, the contributions of other people, what we accomplish, and when.
What kinds of conversations about time have you had in your organization and what new ideas about productivity, collaboration, and purpose have resulted? Please "take a moment" to !
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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