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Time management is an integral part of the Good Life Engine course. The topic is so important that sometimes it feels like it should be a whole course on its own. It probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that most people working or studying (or both) live in a constant feeling of time famine. Where is it coming from?

Let’s start from the beginning — How do we perceive time?

For me, and undoubtedly many others, time is a limited resource. It’s something I never have enough to cover everything on my to-do list. At the same time, when I am waiting for something (let’s say at a doctor’s appointment), time passes extremely slowly and painfully if I don’t stare at my phone to check the news, answer emails, or scroll social media. Then, on other days, time flies so fast that I barely notice the day passed. A whole day of my life — and we only have a limited amount of those.

I often worry about how I should spend my time, how much time I have left, and whether I will manage to master X, see Y, or experience Z. Do I waste my time, or do I live in the most time-efficient way?

My perception of time is influenced by the historical approach. Different cultures perceive time differently.

The historical approach organizes past events into a causal series, viewing them consecutively as outcomes of preceding events. We associate the temporal process with the emergence of a new state rather than a return to a previous one. Time is considered irreversible, leading to a sense of time pressure.

Heraclitus once said, “Panta Rhei” — everything flows. The past cannot be changed, and we cannot relive the same experiences because identical situations will never be repeated. This reality places pressure on us, regarding our actions and decisions as irreversible. Thus, it feels like time must be spent effectively and wisely.

However, there is an alternative approach to perceiving time — the cosmological perspective. This viewpoint relates events to an initial state in the future or the past (such as the creation of the world, the birth and death of Jesus or another god or the Doomsday). For example, I assess my actions and decisions not in the relevance of their consequences but in the relevance of the whole existence or the end of humankind. Am I following Jesus’ teachings? Do my actions make sense if we all will die anyway? Events in this primeval time are constantly reproduced in subsequent events. In Buddhist thought, time is seen as reversible, with the Bodhisattva reversing the flow of time and retracing previous existences in an inverted order. This perspective challenges the notion of time as a constant emergence, instead presenting it as something that just exists. The second approach reduces a feeling of scarcity of time and its linear flow. [Uspenskij, 2017]

We can challenge the notion of time as a constant emergence, instead presenting it as something that just exists.

Studies have revealed that in cultures perceiving time as a linear progression — where individuals adhere to an external clock dictating task timings — the pace of life is perceived as faster. Time feels more constrained. On the contrary, in cultures embracing a circular time system with events repeating cyclically, where tasks are planned in relation to one another, and transitions occur based on internal assessments of task completion, life tends to feel less hurried. Time feels more abundant. [Rudd, 2018]

Each person chooses their own approach to time. However, seeing it as a circle rather than a line might help one feel less time pressure.




Uspenskij, Boris. (2017). Semiotics and culture: The perception of time as a semiotic problem. https://doi.org/10.12697/SSS.2017.45.3-4.02

Rudd, Melanie. (2018). Feeling Short on Time: Trends, Consequences, and Possible Remedies. Current Opinion in Psychology. 26. 10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.04.007