- It’s later than you think – especially for loved ones as you only get to do most things with them once
- Time can be stretched, and made denser by being present and deliberate about spending it – understand kairos
- The “time bank” is the correct mental model, directly opposite the “time savings” model that we all employ, unconsciously
- Are you playing a finite, or an infinite game?
Why should I read this?
A key tenet of Kalibra’s philosophy is that time is the only true currency, the one objective measure of value. This is why our stated purpose is to “give our members more years in their life, but also more life in their years”. At a practical level, this introduces a tradeoff framework for our investments in our healthspan and longevity – investing present, valuable time into something uncertain.
Paradoxically, all of us treat our one most finite resource in the most irresponsible of ways. Imagine somebody you didn’t know came and asked you for 20 dollars. Would you give it to them? But if they asked for half an hour of your time? Would you agree?
This simple arithmetic above suggests a very unfavourable equivalence of how we value our time. We’d spend an extra 5 minutes trying to get a few bucks off an online order, but then we’d happily waste 4 hours of our weekend (what monetary value would you assign in the example above?) attending an event that we’d never pay for an amount the equivalent of our time in money.
This contradiction is a key tenet of how we think about time vs how we act. Sahil Bloom has summarised it quite well:
The Paradox of Time: We are aware of the incredible value of our time but constantly take actions that are disrespectful of that value. We know how important our time is, yet we ignore its passage and engage in low value activities that pull us away from the things that really matter.
In terms of longevity, the above paradox is quite important. First and foremost, whether we like it or not, we’re making an investment decision every day: we invest our time, attention and energy every waking second. Some of it is conscious, most not. The question is, how do we become more intentional about this investment?
Time in the present is far more valuable than time in the future. With respect to health (the true wealth), understanding the payoffs of this investment and whether they make sense to us personally is a key framework to understand and deploy. Let’s dive in.
The persistence of time
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “the days are long, but the years are short”.
Improving productivity and time management from a work perspective are beyond the scope of this post, partly due to the fallacy of thinking that we can ever be in control, achieve work-life balance, or be permanently on top of whatever to do list life has given us. There is no there there – we can never be fully optimised and finally get on with what we deem to be the really important things in life, which is why the productivity and self-help bookshelves are such a powerful industry.
And while it’s true that the talented person manages to compress time, ie doing in a minute something that someone will do in a week, that simply means that their list of duties will simply refill at a higher rate.
So with that caveat out of the way, below we introduce 3 mental models of how to think about time that are aligned with the Kalibra philosophy.
My favourite definition of time is “what prevents everything from happening at once”. The sand clock is a beautiful visualisation of how this works, and is related to the first mental model to consider: timebanking. It works like this:
- Each week you get 10,000 minutes to live your life (it’s actually 10,080 minutes, but let’s round for simplicity). This is a very democratic resource – we are all equal, so saying we don’t have time really means we have different priorities.
- If these 10,000 minutes represent 100% of your week, then each minute is 1 basis point (i.e. one hundredth of a percent, 0.01% ).
- If you sleep 7 hours a night that’s 2,940 minutes or ~30% of your week.
- If you work 40 hours, that’s another 2,400 minutes or 24% gone.
Therefore, if you spend 5 minutes doing something, that’s 5 basis points of your week (0.05%) that you are allocating to it. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider the endless amount of content competing for your attention, it’s a decision with consequences.
This is why we have designed Kalibra to consume on average less than 5 minutes of your day – while not much, it’s a lot.
Can we stretch time? Yes. From Chronos to Kairos.
We’ve all felt it – time seems to speed up, and slow down, depending on what we do and who we’re with. Objectively speaking, of course, that’s not true – astronomical time at sea level is for practical purposes the same for everyone. And yet the concept of flow has shown that there is a second, subjective, perception of time.
The above notion is why we say that in addition to putting more years into your life, we should focus on putting more life into our years. Traditionally, we think that time is time, but it actually isn’t.
Enter Chronos and Kairos, the two words the Ancient Greeks had for time, which represent the two sides of a period of time. While Chronos is consistent and predictable, Kairos describes the moments in life that have elevated importance relative to most. These are the moments where we seem to have an increased awareness of being, a tighter connection with the universe if you will. A minute in Kairos time is not the same as Chronos time. Lenin put it best by saying that there are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen. This very much applies to our daily life.
Furthermore, no identical situations is alike for two different people – for most it’s cronos, but for some it may be kairos. Find those kairos moments to put more life into your years.
So how do we increase our Kairos to Chronos ratio? We do so by diverting attention to the present moment. One way is to do “deep work” – a hobby or something very engrossing. ANother is to do hard things – the friction of doing something hard tends to slow time down (2 minutes is very long, if you are holding a plank, and nothing on Instagram). Finally, what is key to slowing time down is having new experiences – some get more out of a week, than many out of a year’s worth of chronos.
You only get to do things once
We’ve all heard that you only get eighteen summers with your kids, and only so many winter holidays with your ageing parents.
The truth is even harsher, however. You only get one 4th birthday for your kid, one 60th for your dad, only one visit to Paris with your new partner when you’re 30…So you have to seize the moment when you have it, and not try to live for the next one.
Oliver Burkeman captured this perfectly in this quote:
“John Maynard Keynes saw the truth at the bottom of all this, which is that our fixation on what he called “purposiveness”—on using time well for future purposes, or on “personal productivity,” he might have said, had he been writing today—is ultimately motivated by the desire not to die. “The ‘purposive’ man,” Keynes wrote, “is always trying to secure a spurious and delusive immortality for his actions by pushing his interests in them forward into time. He does not love his cat, but his cat’s kittens; nor in truth the kittens, but only the kittens’ kittens, and so on forward forever to the end of cat-dom.”
~ Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
Advanced mental model: Finite vs infinite games
The concept of finite and infinite games is one of the true unlocks of how to think about time, and how we spend it. It can also be linked to the time we spend in Chronos, vs the time we spend in Kairos. The lens of playing a finite game explains much of human behaviour that is associated with material wealth.
We are simply finite players in the infinite game of life, and it doesn’t care if we’re in the game or not. The game simply goes on, and changes constantly. So playing a game that we play just for the sake of playing it, is what is probably how we can best define being in the flow. Adopting a mindset of abundance, or infinity means that we live our lives in a way that benefits others -whether through our work, or care, or knowledge passed on. This is the reason why we at Kalibra place so much emphasis on the concept of connection – we are who we are because of the reflections of others upon us that shaped us through our journey.
Author James Carse makes a great allegory between gardening and life:
“Gardening is not outcome-oriented. A successful harvest is not the end of a gardener’s existence, but only a phase of it. As any gardener knows, the vitality of a garden does not end with a harvest. It simply takes another form. Gardens do not “die” in the winter but quietly prepare for another season.”
A playful attitude to life is what we truly mean by putting more life into our years – preparing to be surprised by the future, embracing uncertainty and being vulnerable. Contrast this with an outcome-oriented approach, which treats life as a series of milestones. A great practical approach to maintaining this playful attitude at times of stress is to practice cosmic insignificance therapy.
- When I was 10, I couldn’t wait for time to speed up so that I could have my freedom
- When I was 20, I couldn’t wait to see how my life would turn out – where would I be, who would I be with?
- When I was 30, I wanted more time to start all the things I wanted to explore, and more time to smell all the roadside flowers
- When I was 40, I wanted time to speed up so that my kids would grow up to appreciate all I did for them
- When I was 50, I wanted time to slow down, as it seemed to be speeding away at the distance
- When I was 60, I realised I only had one life, and the only dimension of time that mattered is who I spend it with
- When I was 70, I realised that I had more time than I could ever dream of, and learned how to slow it down
- When I was 80, I was grateful for all the time I had, and grateful for every different moment.
Article: The Tail End by Tim Urban (a must read)
Book: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkman
Book: Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse
Book: On the Shortness of Life: Life is Long if you Know How to Use it by Seneca