Episode 56: Executive Function and Time Blindness
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Erica: Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer podcast. I'm, Dr. Erica Warren.
Darius: And I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts. Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and explanations for everyday life. We explore executive function and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind.
Erica: Come, um, learn to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals. This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.
Darius: This podcast is sponsored by dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com. We give you a simple productivity system for your apple devices that harnesses the creativity that comes with your dyslexia.
Erica: This podcast is brought to you by goodsensorylearning.com, where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning. Finally, you can find Dr. Warren's many courses @ learningspecialistcourses.com. Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies. Hello, Darius. Nice to see you today.
Darius: And, um, you, Erica.
Erica: I am thrilled about our session today. We've talked about it a number of times, and it's finally here. We're going to be talking about time blindness and executive functioning.
Darius: Yeah. So, time. We've got to be able to estimate time, don't we, to get stuff done in this world and to achieve our goals. So what is time blindness? How would we understand time blindness?
Erica: I think it's really that sense of getting lost in time, not being able to really figure out how much time something takes, or even if you're in a project or in the midst of something, how much time has passed. Right. So people that are time blind really just aren't very good with being able to figure out anything to do with time. So they consistently underestimate how long tasks will take. They will frequently be late for appointments and deadlines. They often have difficulty starting or even completing tasks, and, uh, they're often easily distracted and often lose track of time. And it's interesting because my boyfriend could be the poster boy for time blindness. He goes, yes. And it's not just immediate time, but it's even long-term time in the sense of John, when do you think you'll get around to that? Oh, in a week? Uh, well, it could be a month or two months or three months or four months. So, yeah. How have you experienced time blindness, and does it reflect any members of your family?
Darius: Well, I definitely have a difficulty with time blindness and time and estimating time, time management. So my kind of framework of, uh, everything to do with dyslexia, neurodiversity, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, et cetera. Often people with dyslexia, uh, have difficulty with time as well. It's a co-occurring thing. And people with ADHD have difficulty with time estimation as well. So it rarely stands alone, does it? It's often in conjunction. What's your take on that?
Erica: Sometimes I know I don't have a problem with it, but I do find that, uh, there's a very high correlation for those with head injuries. Head injuries often impact executive functioning, and it can give that sense of time blindness. I think the one way that it does manifest in my life is when I go into a flow, and I have to be very careful not to go into a flow before an appointment, because what feels like ten minutes could be 2 hours. Uh, when I'm in a flow, forget about it. I mean, I could go into a flow for, like, seven, 8 hours.
Erica: Uh, it's crazy. And I'm like, I can't believe how much time has passed. It blows my mind.
Darius: You know, there's a fascinating story told by, oh, I wish I remember his name, the guy who wrote the checklist manifesto, and a really wonderful story. So this guy who wrote the checklist manifesto was the chap who created the checklist for pre operations for the who. Have you heard of that checklist?
Darius: So, it's this remarkable checklist that has saved a million lives. Okay? It takes 1 minute to go through before an operation, a, uh, 1 minute checklist after the operation, and just that has, ah, saved a million people's lives, because when you go into surgery, there are so many small, little things like flying an aircraft, that if you don't do it, can really knock you off course. And so what he did was he integrated the principles of in-flight navigation and how airline pilots work with checklists. You see it on the movie all the time. Flaps, check. Landing gear, check, et cetera, check. What he discovered was those surgeons, when they get into a crisis situation in surgery, they completely lose track of time. And so what often happens, which he saw all the time, because he's a doctor and a surgeon himself, is that a patient will start bleeding out, for example. And so they go in, and they decide to suture it up or sort it, et cetera. Um, and then the blood pressure starts dropping, and things start going wrong and so on, and they're kind of like, just give me another minute. Just give me another minute. And everyone around them is like, you've just taken six minutes to do something that really should have been at, uh, a max four minutes. And it's not that they're at fault, but they've completely lost track of time. So what they do is they ask, they've been trained to say, clock me, or something like that. And so they start it, and they go, I'm going to go and suture. And they go to the nurse, and they go, clock me. And the nurse goes, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute, 30 seconds, two minutes. And then they go, two minutes, 30 seconds. And the surgeon's like, what? It's not two minutes and 30 seconds. I've just started. They're like, sorry, three minutes. And they recalibrate because they've got an external thing and they need that to calibrate what they're doing, because they know if they can't do it within that four-minute window, then they have to stop and go on to the next phase of dealing with that issue.
Erica: Oh, what a great story to illustrate what we're talking about today. And his name is Atul Gawande.
Darius: It's an incredible book and it's so good. This checklist manifesto for everyone, actually, how valuable checklists are. And they're very different from to do lists. To do list tells you what you should do, and a checklist checks what are the most essential things that if you didn't do that little thing would be catastrophic for you. Like, did you take your laptop when you walked out your door to go to an important meeting? If you didn't, that's catastrophic because you're going to have to come all the way back, pick it up and be late. So checklists are also a really useful technique for dealing with time management, but that's another point.
Erica: Well, I think that's an outstanding point. And we had six strategies on our list today to review, and I just added that as number one.
Erica: So I think that's an outstanding one, and I think that's an outstanding resource for our audience. So, with that said, let me just go over the big picture. The seven strategies that we're going to review today, one, which you just reviewed, which is checklists, which I popped on the top because that's great. I love it. Number two is time tracking. Number three is structured schedules. Number four is visual aids for time management. Number five is time management apps. Number six is mindfulness and reflection. And number seven is coping when times slip away. And I guess technically, the checklists might fit under that visual aid for time management. However, the example that you gave us wasn't necessarily a visual aid, it's an auditory aid. Checklists can be visual aids, but they can also be auditory aids. If you have an assistant that can give you that constant auditory, which is really interesting. I love that idea of having auditory time. And in fact, I actually do that because if I have an appointment coming up and I don't want to be late, I'll often ask my device. I won't say her name because then she'll make a bleep. But I'll often ask my device, or devices to remind me a minute or two before the meeting so that if I happen to go into a state of flow where I definitely become time blind, then I'm golden.
Darius: Yes. And, um, it's also a working memory thing for me as well. So you can be in a state of flow, or you can just have got it out of your mind. Your kind of like, right, I've got ten minutes. I'm just going to go quickly make myself a cup of tea, I'm going to let the dog out. I'm going to quickly do x, y, and z, switch the heating on, and then I'll be ready for the meeting. And then, ding. All of a sudden, you're like, late. And you're like, oh, gosh, I forgot. Well, it's kind of like, I know my working memory is three items, and I filled it with three items and I'm maybe thinking about another project or whatever, and then that thing's fallen out of your working memory. So one of the things that I do, I have a calendar reminder that reminds me three minutes beforehand and ten minutes beforehand. Ten minutes is not so great. I can't rely just on ten minutes. I need three minutes as well, because like you said, you get into something, and you get distracted. You need that last minute. But if I know I'm just about to do something that might get me into a state of flow, even a calendar reminder is not enough. Often, I need an actual alarm. So I'll say, hey, device set, alarm, seven minutes. And then I hear this alarm, and it's that external waking you up into this world, as it were, rather than your internal world.
Erica: Well, I guess that is kind of like an external checklist and an auditory one at that. That then keeps our visual aid, time management separate from the checklist. If we make it auditory. And just to throw in there, which is just a whole other one, is tactile reminders. I, for example, almost every time I walk into my garage, I turn on all the lights and I forget to turn them off. Well, I don't do that anymore because I came up with a tactile reminder. Whenever I walk in there, I cross my fingers and I don't let myself uncross my fingers until I turn off the lights.
Erica: And even if I'm doing things, it can be a little bit annoying, but I don't forget to turn off the light when I leave. So that's a funny one. So I guess that's like a tactile reminder.
Darius: Another strategy on the visual reminder side of things is often this happens at thresholds, doesn't it? So you move from one space to another. Okay. So you move out of the garage and your attention goes towards, I'm just about to open the door. You're thinking about where you're going, thinking about what you're going to do next. And so you switch off from the context you're in at the moment. So it's also a working memory thing. So you open the door and once you pass that threshold, you have the checklist of an image of, um, a light or something there, right. And you see it in an unusual place, and you go like, oh, gosh, yes. I'll just check the other lights are on. Switch them off. And so often I find when I help clients with this in their workplace strategy flow, uh, often that if you think about the process and you think about a threshold, once you move past that threshold, you have, like, a little checklist of things that you normally need to do. And it's brilliant for kids as well. So one of the things that I've done is you do a mind map, for example, of all of the areas in your house, your bedroom, your bathroom, your kitchen, your front door, your back door. And then you list all the things that you think are important to do in that location, you reorganize them into the right thing. Like, whenever I'm at the front door, I'm normally walking out the door to walk my dog. I need to remember pooh bags, the lead. I need to make sure I've got my hat, my sunglasses and something else. Okay. And you've got a checklist at that point that's, uh, visually in that location that you can just look at. Yeah. Check, check. Oh, gosh, yes. Pooh bags. About to get the pooh bags. And then out you go. And I think having that location specific checklist that's visual is really helpful. Now, I suppose it's not necessarily so related to time. So let's get back, but it can be.
Erica: And it's so interesting that you say this, because for me, visual, I don't see it. I don't know why it becomes part of the room, but even if it's neon pink, if it's been there for more than a week, it blends into the background for me, and it's the auditory thing that kind of jolts me and grabs my attention. So I guess everybody's different. But I agree. I definitely give strategies to individuals that are similar to what you're saying. But, yeah, let's look at the other ones on our list. We'll organize our discussion a little bit. We've got time tracking first. So time tracking is just really your ability to track your activities with tools such as time tracking software or journals or I guess we could even say the various tech tools that we can wear on our wrists and in our pockets and such. But do you use any time tracking tools?
Darius: Okay, so I've got to make a confession here. I absolutely hate them. Well, I read this book called the right brain time manager. Absolute genius book. I don't think it's in print anymore. You can get it maybe secondhand, but this guy's approach to time management as a creative individual, he wrote a chapter on how time tracking is such a, uh, negative thing for a creative individual to do. But I must correct that in that there is another one which is similar but not the same. And you've got it in strategy three, which is visual aids for time management. One of the things that is really useful, I find, is to estimate the time you think something is going to take in your calendar by properly expanding it to that time and not just go for, oh, that'll take an hour. Is it 15 minutes? Is it 30 minutes? Is it 45? Is it an hour and 30, whatever it is, will it take me 30 minutes to drive there, or is it 40 minutes or 45? And, um, so what I do when I'm helping people kind of calibrate their time sensor. So I kind of think of it as you've got, like, a time sensor inside of you, an ability to sense time. We're talking about time blindness. It's like having an eye for time, but it's a sensor for me. And a lot of people's sensor isn't calibrated to reality so accurately. And so what you do is you say, right, how long is that going to take? And they go, right, that'll take about half an hour. And I go, okay, really? Half an hour? Fine, great. And they're like, well, actually. And I go, well, um, one of the key things that I found is if you break it down into 25 minutes chunks, you end up being much more personally accountable for estimating the time. Someone can estimate what can happen in 25 minutes more accurately than 60 minutes, 90 minutes. So I'll give you an example. Someone says, yeah, I've got to write this review of this report. And I go, okay, right, you got to write this review and I've got to do it tomorrow. Okay, let's put it in the diary for tomorrow. When should we do it for tomorrow? I'll do it at 04:00 and I'm like, okay, so how long is it going to take? About an hour. And I'm like, are you sure it's an hour or is it half an hour or an hour and a half? Definitely an hour. Yeah, I'll get it down in an hour. Okay, well, why don't we just break it down into half hour chunks? 25 minutes. Oh, well, okay, fine. Well, I need to read the report, find the report, and read the report, which will take me about 25 minutes. Oh, well, actually it's going to take me longer to find that report because I don't know where it is. No, that's going to take a good 20 minutes to find that report. And then reading the report. Well, that's going to take half an hour. And then I've got to review the report and do a quick summary. That'll take another 25. All right. Okay, so we need to make it an hour and a half. And those are the three chunks. Find, read, review. And so there's this calibration that happens. And I think it's really helpful to think of it as a personal calibration of your time sensor.
Erica: Yeah, I really like that. I really like that a lot. I think that's a really good example. So I guess what I did is I looked around online and found two tech tools, if you want to use a tech tool, and found Toggle and Clockify. Have you used either of those?
Darius: I've used a few. I think I've tried. Just don't. I think it's really important in terms of time tracking. If you're invoicing people, um, and you have to pay people by the hour and all the rest of it. Absolutely. It's crucial. And these tools are really good, I think, tracking time retrospectively by using your calendar, I'm going to estimate it like this. And then you look back and you go, gosh, that didn't take that long. And, uh, you do that over and over again until you go. This time, I'm going to put the time in, and I think it's critical for travel time right between appointments and things like that.
Erica: I think you and I are very lucky because we kind of set our own schedule. But I think these time tracking apps are going to be really helpful for people that don't have that luxury, perhaps college students, where they have defined places that they have to be at specific times. And something like these time trackers can be very helpful. But I agree, otherwise, it can definitely get in the way of flow and creativity, and I don't use them for that reason. But not many people have the luxury that you and I have, which is we are the managers of our own time.
Darius: Your strategy, too, which is structured schedules, I think is absolutely essential. And basically, we all need to fall in love with having a calendar. And I think it's actually, as a neurodiverse individual myself, I can't believe how many kindred spirits like me have a difficulty with their calendar.
Erica: What kind of difficulties?
Darius: Well, there are so many people I speak to, and they're like, I feel so embarrassed. I'm, um, 40 years old, or I'm 50 years old, and I still don't have everything in my calendar, and I still can't manage my calendar, and I'm mortified by this. And these are really successful people, executives and so on. If it's left to them, they can't manage their own calendar, and they really rely on external factors. And so what happens is you start feeling like you're being controlled, because take this scenario. A lot of people with dyslexia have, uh, this difficulty with time. They find it hard to read the time when they're young. They find it hard to estimate time. Not everyone like you, but a lot. And so what they do is they learn a coping strategy, which is to look at their external environment for cues that indicate what's going to happen next rather than their calendar. They externalize it. And so someone gets up, and the bell goes, oh, right, it's time for the next class. They don't know that the bell is just about to go, per se. They see people walking down the corridor going towards the chemistry class, and they're like, oh, right, chemistry class. Right, we'll go to chemistry class. Because they don't have a, uh, calendar that they're working from. They don't even have an internal calendar of automaticity of that routine even to rely on. So they're looking at a lot of external cues and the consequence can be that you feel, oh, my goodness, I'm always just responding to what's out there, and I'm not taking personal control and having direction. And the answer to that is to fall in love with your calendar.
Erica: Yeah. And I think we got a little stuck. Our generation, between the paper calendars and the digital calendars. I know it took me, like, ten years to transition from paper to these kinds of online tools, and it was a real struggle. And I would go onto the online tools, and then I'd go back to the paper, and then I had them both for a while, and I finally graduated. It reminds me of when we went from handwriting our papers to typing our papers. It was like a process that I had to bridge that. It just took years before my brain could kind of manage it that way. So I think we, the older generation, it's just been a little bit hard to transition over. But I've finally done the transition. But I'm sure that there are plenty of people that haven't done that transition. And the other thing I wanted to say is that what I love about these digital calendars, I know that Google does this, and I know that apple calendar does this, is they have this line which, uh, represents time in real time, and it m moves through your calendar, and then it changes the colors of my calendar so that I can see very easily what's the past and what's the future and what's the present. And there's something about that that just makes me a little bit giddy. I just think it's just wonderful. Little line that just travels through my calendar. I think it's wonderful for anybody with time blindness. Uh, to me, it's just so much more appealing than looking at a watch.
Darius: Yeah. Again, it's calibrating you, isn't it? You've got the length of the day, and you can roughly say, oh, we're roughly halfway in the day. Again, it's that calibration side of things. One little thing that I would say when we're talking this topic about structured schedules is when I'm teaching people about how to start loving their calendar, which can be hard because a lot of people are like, oh, gosh, it's so frustrating. And normally, what's so frustrating about it, Erica, you asked, is that not everything's in it. So what happens is you put kind of 60 or 70% of stuff in there. So then you look at it, and you've gone to all this effort to get 60 or 70% of the way there, but you've not got 100% of the benefit, or in fact, a lot of the benefit, is to be able to see the context of everything that you're doing. And, um, do you know what the breakthrough for a lot of the clients is? Is when I say this one thing. I say, your calendar is a book of promises. Every time you make a promise, it has to go in your calendar.
Erica: I love that your calendar is a book of promises. And it takes me back to, what is that book? The four truths.
Erica: You know what I'm talking about.
Darius: No, I don't.
Erica: Anyway. But there's this one thing that he says that you should always do, which is to be impeccable with your word. And I think that it's kind of the same thing. You're making a promise when you write it in your calendar. And if you can stick to your calendar, then you can be impeccable with your word, which is a wonderful thing to do. And it's a wonderful thing to have people in your life that are able to be that way, because then you know you can rely on them, and we all want to be reliable. Right.
Darius: And if you're time blind or you've got difficulty with time, it's mortifying because your kind of like, my heart is to be a person of my word. My heart is to honor my commitment with you. But my relationship to time and measuring time got in the way.
Darius: And so the person can misunderstand that and say, you didn't show up or you didn't do this because you don't care or you're not professional, but actually it's something different. And so what I suggest to people in that scenario is, first of all, decide, I will only put things in my calendar that are promises. Secondly, I will put all promises in my calendar. And thirdly, if it's in my calendar, I will do it. Now, if you've got all those three things, a fourth thing is, I will only fill up half of my calendar because a lot of people go to the other extreme of, right, I've got every single minute sorted. But you need eventuality time, you need contingency time, and so on. So you got to set yourself up for success. And once you do that, and you've got every commitment in the week ahead in your calendar, and you're completely sure of that, it gives you so much peace. And then the second thing, and I speak from experience, I've only learned this in the last two years. Before that, it was, I might manage it, uh, I might not my wife might remind me, my colleague might remind me, my workmate. And you just rely on this kind of a little bit of help from here, a little bit of help from there, and pretty much I'll get it. And I might drop the ball on one or two things in the week and I'll just say sorry a lot and make it up to them. But there comes a point where you just don't have the capacity to just make it up to them. You just want to deliver. And the answer to that is get it in your calendar.
Erica: Yeah. What's interesting, because my boyfriend came up once before, he doesn't keep a calendar and he won't. He won't go there. Maybe I'll get him to listen to this podcast.
Darius: And I know, I totally understand what it's like. I totally get it. And there's so many people who find calendars so incredibly hard. And it's psychological thing as much as there's a technical thing. And you need both. So you address the psychological by saying, I'm a person of honor, I'm a person of duty. I deliver on my promises. If you make a promise to your child and you say, I'll take you out for ice cream after that, uh, ballet competition, you put it in the diary. Ballet competition, Saturday, six till 730 and then 745 till 08:00. Ice cream. And you see it, and your daughter sees it and looks at it, and they feel honored and respected. And they get to the point where they say, is it in the diary? And you go, oh, gosh, no, it's not, because they know if it's scheduled, it happens. If it's not scheduled, it doesn't happen.
Erica: Yeah, well, and the book I was trying to think of was the four agreements. Uh, are you familiar with that one?
Darius: Oh, tell me more.
Erica: Oh, it's a really cool book. I'm not sure how he pronounces his last name, but it's Miguel Ruiz, maybe, and it's a worthy read.
Darius: What are the four agreements?
Erica: The four agreements are, don't take anything personally, don't make assumptions. Always do your best. And then, of course, be impeccable with your word. And that's the one that I really hold on to. I love that one. I really do whatever I can to be impeccable with my word. But, yeah, it's a lovely book. I highly recommend it. It's one of those feel-good books, is when you're done your light, you feel very empowered. But back to time blindness. Let's move on to our third strategy, which we've scratched the surface of, um, which is visual aids for time management. And these aids can help you keep track of time with these visual signals, which makes it easier to be able to see where you are. You have clocks that you can look at, which gives you a little bit of an idea. But these tend to be more like a countdown where you can see how much time you have left. So it almost colors what's left in the clock. Or it could literally be a numerical countdown. And that can be really helpful for some people. It can create anxiety. So if you're one of those people, I don't recommend them. For others, it's just this constant reminder of, like, oh, wow, okay, ten minutes passed already. Wow. I only have that much time left. Okay, I'm going to speed up a little bit, or, oh, I can slow down a little bit. But for some people, it's wonderful to have that kind of visual aid.
Darius: You know, when I was a primary school teacher, there was a point where I had a class of 42 children. It's a lot, that's a lot of children, one class. And, um, I had them under complete order and rhythm and control, not through domination, but through a rhythmical flow and so on. And one of my key strategies was to count down time to the end of when I wanted a task done. And this is interesting because a lot of parents do a countdown of, uh. Right, I want you to be silent, and I'm going to count to 3123. Well, that's a, uh, no go as a teacher, don't count down for a silence. If you want something instantly done, and it can be instantly done, you expect it to be instantly done. But if something takes time to do, you shouldn't be asking them to get it instantly done. And so you calibrate the time, and you say, right, children, I, uh, want you to all move towards the door and line up at the door, finish what you're doing and go to the door and line up. We're going to get ready for break. And so I would say, I'm just going to count you down. And I would count down and I would say 60. So the moment I've said 60, I'm not going, one, two, three, and I don't know where it's going to end, but I go, 60, 59, 58. They know where it's going to end at zero. And that's exactly what you're talking about there. So with a visual image, you've got the fullness of your time, and then you see where it's going to get to zero.
Darius: And the other thing that I learned that was really important in it is when you're doing a countdown, you can do it in a way that stresses people out, or you can do it in a way that calms people down and gives them confidence that they're going to achieve it. Now, I'll give you an example so you can say, right, children, I want you to move to the door and get ready. 60, 59, 58, 50. And you're like, oh, shocked every time. Or you could go, 6059-5857 and it's just really quiet. So it's not overwhelming, but it's just in the background. And basically with your voice, you're just saying, I'm here to help you do what you want to be doing here. Okay. And so I think that's one of the things that also we could translate into the tools we use. Like my emotional reaction to time tracking was like having, oh, you're totally inefficient and rubbish and you've got to do this, and so on. Whereas my response to, oh, I estimated this time in the calendar and then I did it. Oh, I got it. That was great. Oh, I didn't quite get it. Next time, I better remember to give myself a bit more time. And also, these visual aid time countdowns, like set timer, five minutes, et cetera, is a, uh, great way of helping you doing what you really want to be doing.
Erica: That's right. And we have two suggestions here. One is called time timer and the other one is called visual timer countdown. But there are so many of them out there, and just explore until you find one that you like. But also know that all of the books and resources that we're mentioning will be in our show notes, so that if you want some live links, you can find them there. Which takes us on to strategy, four-time management apps. So again, sometimes we need that kind of technology outside support that will give us these little reminders, countdowns, integrative calendars that help us to be punctual and organized. And I have three here, Rescue time, Forest and Focused at Will. Have you used any of those?
Darius: I've tried to use forest again. I find them really hard to work with, actually. I am always looking for the simplest way to get the biggest result. Yeah, and you know what? The calendar is probably the most valuable time management app that there is out there. Over the last 10, 15, 20 years, I've tried lots of different apps like this at, uh, the cost of not learning how to do my calendar.
Erica: That's really interesting because you're relying on something external instead of making that internal commitment. Force is interesting. I explored it. I've never used it because it's not something I really need. But I love the idea that in the, uh, app, basically, that when you're staying focused, you plant virtual trees and you see them grow, whereas if you get distracted, they start to die, which is really interesting. I think for some people, that could be really appealing.
Darius: My dreams are dying.
Erica: Yeah, right. My progress is dying. But another one that I had under here, the focus that will is a little bit out of the box here. It's very different than what we were talking about. And this is a site that claims that they have neuroscience-based music services that provide tunes and auditory pleasing melodies that boost concentration and focus. So I went on there and I listened to a little bit. But it's funny. I really don't want anything when I'm in a flow. I want quiet. Some people love to have something. If I had anything, it would probably just be a beat that would match my energy level so that it would keep me in a flow. But even then, I think I always tend to pick know. My boyfriend often says, like, oh, erica, you've got to listen to this podcast or this podcast. And I say, I really don't have the time because I'm always productive. And so, although he's got a PHDF and say in podcasts, I don't listen to as many because he's a carpenter, and so he can work and listen, whereas I can't work and listen. I can only work well, of course, um, I tend to be at my computer writing and stuff like that, so it's a little bit harder. But I know some people. I had this one student that could listen to heavy metal and do calculus, and it blew my mind. He showed me, and I was like, wow, you've got the coolest brain ever.
Darius: Huberman talks about the sound sequence and rhythms that scientists have looked at, and a lot of these apps have, uh, these rhythms, but masked by some music over the top of it. So it doesn't just sound like a rhythm, or you could just have the rhythm. And it's interesting to hear. I remember from what he had to say was that some frequencies help some people, and another frequency helps other people. But generally speaking, there is a frequency that can help most people, but again, it's for a period of time. So it's, uh, interesting. The research that's being done on that, uh, I don't know enough about it, but it is interesting.
Erica: Yeah. And I'm so sensitive to sounds, and I can remember as a child, I couldn't have any kind of noise going on when I was doing anything. And I can even remember at a time we were at a restaurant, and they had two melodies going on at once, and nobody else could hear it, but I could. And it was making me really anxious to the point that my mom went to the restaurant owner and just said, my daughter is really agitated. She says, you have two songs playing at the same time. Nobody could hear it. And he went back, and he said, oh, yeah, she was absolutely correct. But I'm just hypersensitive. To me, it's overtaxing, it overwhelms, and it overtaxes me. So I just love silence. Like, when I'm in my car, I often could listen to a podcast, or I could listen to music, and I just like it silent. I get lost in my thoughts, and I like that. But it's funny, I go through stages. There are other stages in my life where I have music going all the time. Right now, I have nothing. It just depends on where I am in my life, you know.
Darius: Erica, I want to go a bit deeper in this. Let's just think about time for a moment, and what is time, and, um, why do we expect that? We do have a sense of time, and is it a natural thing for us to be able to sense the transition of time? Because there's a lot of people that can't sense the transition of time in the way that, like a clock, and I'm one of them, and I have to constantly calibrate myself to the external world to sense time. And, um, it wasn't that long ago when we didn't have clocks. We just had morning and evening, and we had midday. And our sequences of time were much bigger. Now our sequences have gone down to the know. Like, if you're not there on the minute, then you're know, right, I'll meet you at sunset.
Erica: But there's something so beautiful about that. And I can think of a time where I was backpacking in the wind river range in Wyoming for three weeks, and we brought no technology with, uh, us, no nothing, just our backpacks with food. And you did, you went onto a different clock. When it got dark, you went to sleep, and when it was light, you woke up. And when the sun was overhead, it was lunchtime, and when the sun was going down, it was dinner time. And there was something so beautiful about being in sync with nature. And because of technology, we're in some ways, get out of sync with nature, which causes all sorts of problems with sleep and everything. Because our brain gets confused. It doesn't know what time of day it is. And, uh, we get our inner clock all, um, messed up because it's late at night. And so many kids have their face right in their technology, which is this bright light. And, yeah, it's not great to be out of sync with nature.
Darius: So what is it, do you think, that gives us our ability to sense time? Some people are really good at it, um, and some people aren't.
Erica: Yeah. It's funny, unless I'm in a state of flow, if I'm just moving throughout life, I'm usually within a couple of minutes of what time it is. I can usually tell you what time it is.
Erica: So what is that? And it's funny, when I do that, it's not like I look outside and evaluate my situation. I feel a sense of time in my body, but some people don't.
Erica: But, uh, I wonder if we gave up all these external measures of time, like clocks and watches and cell phones, whether we would get into a rhythm naturally, that maybe perhaps all of these things are disabling our internal clock.
Darius: I remember once I was in Israel as, uh, a young man, 21. I went visiting there, and I ended up working as I cut grass on one of these electric. On these little sit on mowers. I just cut grass every day, nine to five. I loved it. It was fantastic. The sun would be blazing overhead. And I started this game where I would try and predict the time by where the sun was in the sky. And so over the course of three months, I would play it with my friends, and they would come up and they would go, all right, Darius, what time is it? I'd look up, I'd go, 1216. And they would go, oh, right, 1220. And I used the sun as the gauge. I got used to the sun as a dial, as it were, and I could sense the movement, the relation of a sun to where I was as a sort of massive sun dial, as it were. Many ways we've all kind of humanity has been doing that. We're using the sun and our relationship to the sun as a time piece.
Erica: Yeah. And I think it's a healthy time piece, because I think the more we're in sync with our planet and with the environment, the more grounded and more balanced we tend to be.
Darius: There's a theme coming up in all of this conversation that's been really helpful for me, and that theme is about calibrating to reality. So even as I'm standing there on the grass looking at the sun, I'm calibrating myself to the sun. If I'm looking at my calendar and how long I expect something to take and how long it will take to get there, I'm, um, calibrating it to reality. And there's something actually that we haven't talked about is that when you use the calendar as a time management app, okay, we're talking about strategy for time management apps right now. One of the simplest things that I've got people to do when I'm teaching them to use a calendar is I ask them to change the time of their appointment visually with the toggles rather than with the numbers.
Erica: Interesting. So you're just stretching out the time period in your calendar versus manually typing in the times, because then you kind of feel the length of the time. That's really lovely.
Darius: And, um, you're also seeing it in the visual context of the amount you have in the day. Because sometimes when we set an appointment, it creates a pop up, and we see the appointment, we type in 430 or whatever, and then it puts it in the calendar, and then you've got a conflict. Whereas if you put it directly visually into the calendar and position it and slide it up and expand it and so on, and you then have a visual cue as to how full your day is and how you're going to, ah, honor that commitment or not be able to honor that commitment immediately visually. So I find it very helpful to use the calendar as a visual tool and a very basic simplistic time management tool in that I make sure I put in all of the preparatory time, all of the travel time, all the traveling back, all of my lunch breaks, all of the commitments. I've got to pick this person up, I'll remember it. But the point is not to remember doing that particular thing. But when someone says, oh, right, can we phone at 04:00 and then you say, yes, and then you've got to actually go and pick your kid up. You're not late for the kid. Do you know what I mean?
Darius: Uh, and so it's having that visual context of all these blocks and seeing it visually what you can fit in. So you're calibrating to the reality of your day, right.
Erica: You're chunking. You're chunking. And I love the color-coding aspect, too, where if I have a work appointment, I color coded a different color than maybe a more personal appointment, which is also really interesting in being able to look at your day. But I'm going to move us on because I know that we, uh, have other things going on this evening. So how about the next strategy? Mindfulness and reflection. So, ultimately, the purpose of this one is just to boost your awareness of the present moment. And, um, a lot of these mindfulness apps and techniques bring you into the moment, because we can so easily get stuck in patterns where we are completely unaware of the moment, where we're just following through with what we're supposed to do. And we're not even necessarily present or intentional. We're just kind of in a personal program of our subconscious telling us what to do, and we lose the beauty of the moment. And the moment is really all we have, although it's fleeting, we're in a constant state of fleet of fleeting. I suppose that moment, the second you're aware of it, it's gone, it's over. By the time we hear what we've said, it's no longer the moment. It's already in the past. It's such an interesting concept that the moment is just if you truly. You can't really put your finger ever on the moment.
Darius: Yeah, I think, uh, in a previous podcast, I talked about difference between the Greek word for time, which is Chronos and Kairos. And Kronos time for the Greeks was chronological time. Like, you've got a chronometer. How do you say that? Basically a watch that marks Kronos time, and then you've got Kairos time. And Kairos time is a word for a moment. You know, when you get caught up in a moment, you have, uh, a beautifully romantic moment on a beach, on the cliffs, looking out over the sunset. That's a moment in time. That's a Kairos moment. M. Or maybe you have this moment at, uh, a, uh, crossroads of your life, and you knew that was a moment. I had to decide this way. And often in those Kairos moments, time changes. Time suddenly gets fast, or time gets really slow, but the relationship to time just changes because it's a Kairos moment. And so if you were to use that language, sometimes we're so caught up in Chronos time that we pass through and we miss Kairos moments.
Erica: Oh, I, uh, love that. That's such a beautiful way of putting it. And. Yeah, and I think that there are these apps out there, like headspace and calm, that can really help us to stop and appreciate the moment and really experience the moment and sometimes even find the moment in our busy day of just stopping when we're eating, uh, mindful eating is wonderful because we can eat the most delicious meal and barely taste it. Right. And there's such a beauty in just stopping and saying, wait a minute. Okay, let me drop the agenda. Let me let go of the schedule or whatever is going on. Just really experience this moment.
Darius: I remember when we were talking about this last, it was, you know, the episode where we talked about my sailing trip from Ireland to Iona.
Darius: And we talked about Kairos moments. And in that journey, we said, look, let's stop and let's just have a moment. And we allowed ourselves in that space because there's hectic things happening, wind, weather, tides. You got to get certain place. You got to sort this out. There are all sorts of things to do, et cetera. But you just say, stop.
Darius: And we're just going to have a moment. And sometimes it takes 30 seconds or a minute to actually have a chiros moment. And that is a form of mindfulness and reflection. And really, when you're being mindful and reflective, you're really getting yourself ready for a Kairos moment.
Erica: Yeah. And ultimately, you are not time blind in that moment. You are fully in it. And we've all had moments where we were fully present, and it's beautiful. There are also journaling apps that you can use. Journaling is a wonderful way to drop in the moment. And two that we have down here are day one and journey. And again, if you're interested in exploring those or anything like that, we have those links in the show notes.
Darius: And, um, also in that realm, prayer. Never underestimate the power of prayer. I mean, if you're a person that is inclined towards prayer, prayer, I love it. I watched Huberman talking about how he prays this week. It was fantastic hearing him. Uh, it was like a confession. Yes, I pray. He talked about how he prays and how so many scientists do pray and so on. And again, that is also a time to reflect back and also listen. Um. Uh, one of the biggest difficulties I have with time is this desire to be efficient.
Darius: And it's this underlying drive. Be efficient, be efficient, be efficient, be efficient. But there's something inside of me says, no, I'm not here to be efficient. I'm here to be effective. I don't want to be efficient. I want to be effective. And sometimes it's one or the other. We often think we can do both.
Erica: Sometimes it is.
Darius: Well, sometimes it is, but often it's very inefficient to stop and have a rest on the face of it, a brain break or reflect or look back, that's being inefficient. We should just keep walking. Keep walking. But there's this balance between efficiency and effectiveness. And I think effectiveness often requires us to stop, and stopping often feels inefficient, but it actually can be the most effective things to do. Stop, turn back, reflect, stop, look at where you're going, set your goals, et cetera, rather than being really efficient at, uh, going in the wrong direction.
Erica: But I do think that stopping in those moments can make you more efficient because it gives you that needed brain break so that you can be more efficient.
Darius: Yes, uh, absolutely. I agree. But what I'm kind of challenging is that feeling, trying to feel efficient. And often there's this thing like, you got to be more efficient, you got to be more efficient. And how about all these people who say, actually, I give myself time in my workday to think about my business, not just 08:00 p.m. At night, or 09:00 p.m. When I'm exhausted in the middle of a night and, um, I'm processing it instead of sleeping. But are we giving ourselves time to stop and be still and reflect? And I think that's part of this whole-time thing. So, in a way, we've got to have this balance between Chronos time and Kairos time. And, uh, even that comment of 50% of our day should be Kronos time and some other part of it. Opportunities for serendipitous encounters and so on.
Erica: Yeah, because there's not a lot of joy in life if you're always in that chronological time. You're right. It's giving yourself the space to have those moments of awe and inspiration. Lying in bed in the morning is where I get most of my inspiration, and I love just lying there for an hour and coming up with so many ideas that I have to jump out of. Leaving the time every day to have both Kronos and Kairos, did I get it right? Yeah, time. And to honor that, which takes us to strategy, uh, seven, which is how to cope when time slips away with us, because I think slips away from us, that is. I think that a lot of us get really frustrated. We can really beat ourselves up, and we can beat up other people, too, for being late. And we have to be a little bit more self-compassionate when we're having a tough time with time. Or as you would say, yeah, maybe we need to take on some of these calendar apps that can help us be more impeccable with our word. But there's a balance between moving towards managing time and being gentle with us when we flub up, so to speak. But with that said, we're going to just give two technology options that you can use that a lot of people, like Asana and Trello, which, again, are these task management systems that, uh, can help you. I don't tend to use those, but I know a lot of people that do. I find a lot of my college students like to use those types of apps, largely because they have so many places that they have to be, and, uh, they don't really have the capacity to manage their own time because everything is so externalized at that point in their life. Have you used either Asana or Trello?
Darius: Yeah, I've used Asana and Trello. I run my whole business on Asana. I love Asana. It's great. I use reminders personally. So my system that I kind of teach people on is take notes, make maps, and set goals. But the tools that I recommend people to deal with coping mechanisms is use apple notes to take notes, use reminders to write down tasks, and then use your calendar for your promises, and it goes in that step, so. Oh, that's a useful bit of information. I'll put it into my notes, so I don't forget what's important. Okay. That's a bit of information I need to action. At some point, it becomes a reminder. But if it's a reminder that it's a promise to myself or other people, then it goes into my calendar, and I protect my calendar for promises. And once I've got promises in my calendar, that is the ultimate coping mechanism. I used to put to dos and tasks into my calendar, but they're not promises in the same kind of way. And what happens is it overwhelms your calendar, and you just go, oh, it's just got too much. And your promises get bundled into tasks, and they're very different. A promise is a promise, and a task is something you will eventually get to, but a promise is a time bound promise. I'm going to be there, uh, at this time, and I'm going to do this. And for me, that's been my biggest coping mechanism for when time slips away, my calendar again. But making sure it's only promises.
Erica: Oh, we have to end on that note, because that was so beautiful. It tied it together with such a big, beautiful bow. And, uh, I really appreciate everything that you had to say there. It's really beautiful. I'm going to hold that idea of my calendars, my promises, and that really resonates with me. And I hope for the audience, too, that that shifted what calendars are and what they can do to make them more palatable and more friendly.
Darius: Yeah. Thanks, Erica. Till next time.
Erica: Till next time. Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer podcast. This is Dr. Erica Warren and, um, Darius Namdaran.
Darius: Check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast, and please leave us a review and share us on social media until next time. Bye.