How do you view time?

June 12, 2009

Time is of the essence.

Time is money.

Time is a terrible thing to waste…or was it the mind?

Perhaps time is all in our minds.

If you believe Robert Levine, a brilliant social psychologist from California geography of timeState University who authored A Geography of Time, time perception is deeply embedded in cultural understanding. For a Brazilian, punctuality is not revered as it is for a German (Lord knows you don’t want to be ‘late’ for a meeting in Germany. Bad, bad, bad!). According to Professor Levine, the higher your social standing in Brazil, the later you are expected to be.

Giancarlo Duranti, PMP, a project management professional who currently resides in Rome, did not know this when he moved to Rio de Janeiro. In fact, he told me in a recent interview that it took the better part of a year before he fully understood Brazilian time perception. He later moved to Cuba, which provided a similar dilemma. He pointed out the cultural clash in particular between monochronic thinkers (linear, one-at-a-time people) and polychronic ones (multitasking, loosely related to time schedule types). Understanding who you are dealing with and from which culture can mean the difference between getting a project done on time…or not at all.

Cultural misunderstandings can lead to ferocious interactions between peoples. We see it every day on the news. Time plays a big role. I claim we need to befriend time as we all have a personal bank account of time to spend. How you define time is up to you.

How do you view time? Friend or foe? Nag or necessity? In the words of my late grandmother, do tell.

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3 Responses to “How do you view time?”


  1. Well, I live in South Dakota. The only point I have with that is we have two different time zones. Really, three–Central Time in the east, Mountain Time in the west, and what is well-known as Indian Time. In their culture, they’ll get there when they get there and think nothing of it. The German (let alone the broadcaster) in me is driven insane by that–as I am by the high school senior in my house who thinks time is relative as well, and then wonders why that policy bothers me.


  2. Looking at the definition of such words as ‘now’ can also be fascinating. A teen might say she’s working on her college applications now, but all you see is her toying with her cell phone applications. ‘Now’ is an add-on to the present progressive tense for some! :)

  3. Christa Says:

    I’ve been pondering this. It seems that the internet is timeless. It must influence how people view time.

    Your post also reminds me of this lecture: http://fora.tv/2008/11/12/Philip_Zimbardo_The_Time_Paradox#Philip_Zimbardo_Explains_the_Pyschology_of_Time

    Also, saw this recently and thought you might appreciate!: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfmoms/detail?entry_id=36995


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