Time is a commodity. It is foundational to our existence. It lets us measure what we do.
There is a deep richness of time that allows us to look at it in different ways. In the introduction of my book The Time-Optimized Life, I explore the value of time using the two words used by the ancient Greeks that apply to time: chronos and kairos.
We measure time in so many ways. There are objective methods tied to specific segments like seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, and decades. We also provide arbitrary measures to our time. When some event or experience is enjoyable, we can proclaim the time went by quickly. Conversely, time can move slowly when it is an activity we do not like. Our perspective of time can be skewed, depending on the circumstances. That is why I feel the Greeks have a more encompassing way to explain time.
Chronos is the measurable, or quantitative, aspect of time. Look up and see what time it is on the clock right now. You are referencing chronos time. Required to attend a meeting for ninety minutes, you’ve just spent some chronos time. It is forward-moving time, defined and calculated. Chronos is the way we estimate our plans and quantify our performance.
Kairos is subjective but no less important to understand because it is qualitative. As a time manager (remember, we are all time managers), you will find the development of a program or strategy is kairos-based, while the execution is chronos-based. Instances of joy, frustration, satisfaction, determination, resolution, and completion can be tied to a set chronos measure but are more deeply expressed through a kairos explanation.
The challenge people have with their time management is a lack of balance or symmetry with chronos and kairos. Scheduling and programming are populated with too many activities, meetings, tasks and projects—so that chronos crowds out kairos, causing frustration because there is always something to do and not enough time to get it done. Conversely, a lack of structure and relying too much on kairos usually leads to missed deadlines and unmet expectations that trigger disappointment for ourselves and others.
So how do you find that balance, that richness? Well, it will involve some time discipline that will allow for time flexibility.
Chronos: Track Your Time
Start by gaining awareness of where your time goes. Track your activities for a few days to understand your current patterns and identify areas for potential adjustment.
Kairos: Disconnect and Recharge
Make a conscious effort to disconnect from technology during dedicated times. Unplug from emails, social media, and constant notifications to truly rest and avoid digital burnout.
Chronos: Embrace Planning and Scheduling
Create a realistic schedule that balances your priorities and incorporates buffer time for unexpected events. Plan your week in advance to avoid feeling overwhelmed and make time for both commitments and enjoyment.
Kairos: Practice Mindfulness
Be present in the moment and savor your experiences. Mindfulness can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed by time and appreciate the small joys in life.
Chronos and Kairos: Schedule Time for Breaks and Self-Care
Don’t neglect your physical and mental well-being. Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to recharge and unwind. Incorporate activities like exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature to de-stress and replenish your energy.
Chronos and Kairos: Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
Remember, achieving perfect balance is an ongoing process, not a destination. Celebrate your progress along the way and be kind to yourself on challenging days.
The Wealth of Time
When you think of time, think of the richness that it can afford you. Richness in a monetary sense? Sure, that can be one way. However, think of the richness as the life experiences you have and the new discoveries waiting to be uncovered. Intermixing chronos and kairos, learning how to use both well, is the pathway to a rich and fulfilling life.
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David Buck is the author of the book “The Time-Optimized Life”, owner of Kairos Management Solutions, LLC, and founder of the Infinity Lifestyle Design program. As a certified professional retirement coach (CPRC), David works with business professionals create a post-career lifestyle strategy. To learn more, contact him at email@example.com or visit Infinity Lifestyle Design.