my developing theory of time

a couple months ago i was having a conversation with a coworker about my thoughts about time management and made a note to write them down. i’ve been writing down so many ideas to write about that i’m several months behind, but here we are.

the theory of time management i’m developing is based on my perception of the types of problems that humanity has left to solve and, therefore, how we have to work in order to solve those problems.

so on the problem side of things, (given my current understanding) it seems to me that many of the problems humans have left to solve are at the very least complex, sometimes chaotic, and often also wicked. complex problems involve engagement in systems that we don’t and maybe can’t fully understand. one action doesn’t always lead the same outcome.

A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems. —

given these types of problems, linear, industrial, western ways of being and thinking seem to be inappropriate. sometimes they even make situations worse or more intractable.

and so what does that mean for our time? i think a couple of things.

first, i think these problems will require a balance between cooperation and collaboration. i like this language about cooperation and collaboration from this blog post i found with google:

When collaborating, people work together (co-labor) on a single shared goal.

Like an orchestra which follows a script everyone has agreed upon and each musician plays their part not for its own sake but to help make something bigger.

When cooperating, people perform together (co-operate) while working on selfish yet common goals.

The logic here is “If you help me I’ll help you” and it allows for the spontaneous kind of participation that fuels peer-to-peer systems and distributed networks. If an orchestra is the sound of collaboration, then a drum circle is the sound of cooperation.

i think, because many of the problems left (hunger, climate, water) are not technical problems, but value problems. sure, we know how to grow enough food (maybe?), but we don’t have the collective will to make sure everyone has enough of it. there may be technology involved in moving the needle on that, but that issue at its core is about how humans decide how we are going to care (or not) for each other.

cooperation and collaboration will allow individuals to do what they see as their best work and sometimes combine forces with others to do something bigger. at times the combination is cooperative and others, especially when visions may not align, collaboration is still possible.

all that is a reaction to command and control methods of thinking, which is deeply embedded into most western factory/industrial thinking. centralized decision making (if it ever worked) just won’t work in these complex problem spaces. it’s too limiting, too slow, too narrow minded, and not emergent and diverse enough. it doesn’t allow improvisation and quick course changes.

i think working in emergent ways will require different ways of thinking about our time, at individual, communal, and societal scales. i think we’ll each need to learn (if we don’t already know) how to flow, how to take short and long breaks (like 10 minute ones up through year-long sabbaticals), how to convene and share our work with others, and how to increasingly involve (re-involve) our bodies in our decision making about how to spend our time/energy/life force.

anyways, more thoughts on this later. i’m way over time (lol).

ps - in some ways, my thinking about time is totally structured from a western point of view and so maybe all of this is moot. but a book my friend abe mentioned he was reading, braiding sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants , seems to point to the fact that, like lots of things, there may be a both/and here and not an either/or.

words / writing / post-processing
550w / 17min / 11min