6. Measuring working time

“When life and man are robotized, all time is equated with quantity. Time becomes like a commodity that can be bought, enjoyed, used and saved. This corresponds to the objective time (kronos in Greek) that we measure with the clock. But there are other kinds of time. For example, the subjective time (kairos in Greek) occurs at crucial moments in life. You stand at a crossroads and time stands still. In such time pockets, the spiritual questions come to the fore, but in order to draw attention to them, we need a different pace of life and the awareness of presence: It is now that life takes place!”

Tomas Bernling in an essay in the Swedish book “Ompröva livet!” (meaning reconsider life in English), published in 2009.

“How long does it take to make a painting like that?” 

The question was posed by somebody who looked at the painting above. I couldn't believe  my ears - anybody, who works even a little bit creatively, knows that it’s impossible to measure the amount of work in clock time. You live with your work almost all the time, both consciously and unconsciously: pick up and develop ideas, think, feel, breathe, dream about it. Until you (or somebody else) decide that it’s ready.

If it’s a painting, your signature is a label for completion.

I haven’t signed this painting, I probably never will. If it would get a name, it would be something like ”Introspection” or “Break your shackles”. When working on it - can’t remember what year - I felt trapped in my life. I released some of the stress by giving it colours and forms. 

When I paint, I mostly feel mindful and free. All my concentration is on the movements of my hand, the image of the colours and how they are mixed, the observation of the forms growing on the canvas. It sinks into me and creates feelings that I obey. 

When what I see gives me peace and joy I try to slow down, maybe take a break and let the oil paints dry. Then take some distance and look at the painting from another perspective.

When what I see raises impatience I start to analyse: What’s wrong? How can I continue to get that feeling of satisfaction I would like to end this day’s work with?

The communication between me and my painting absorbs everything, also my awareness of clocktime. 

The same thing in coaching: Although it’s my responsibility to keep track of clock time I usually shout out everything and focus only on the client. What is he/she saying, what is she/he not saying? What questions make him/her silent for some time, what is she/he speaking about with high energy? How does he/she interpret the discussion, what does she/he say is the learning from the lession?

Coaching is immersive; during the session only here and now matters.

Those  are examples of existential time. If you acknowledge the difference between clocktime and existential time you start to look at work and its results in a new way. It’s a great simplification to say that you measure quantity with clocktime and quality with existential time, but this dualism is a good starting point for your exploration of the difference between the experience of the two.

As always, it’s not either-or: In life and in work, we need both. The bubble you create in existential time is so intense that you need to get out and rest in clocktime. And of course, it’s more secure if you get paid for working hours than for the results of your work. But the trend towards entrepreneurship tells us that more and more people are ready to take the risk to sell the outcome of their competence instead of their time. 

I’m one of them.


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