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Managing your time with help from NLP May 1, 2007

Posted by Vincent in Uncategorized.

I have worked with many people on outcomes relating to creating improvements in the way they manage their time. Success in the short term has been pretty widespread; success over the mid to long term however has been a different story. Sure, there are some people who, armed with a number of real-world, pragmatic tools, techniques are willing and able to put a strategy into place. For many who want to improve, the gains drain away pretty quickly.

That was until I started using timeline methodology, an NLP tool. It now seems blindingly obvious to me; before I just managed the blinding bit!

NLP thinking around time management suggests people adopt one of two ways of passing time; either in-time, or through-time. When someone is ‘In time’, they are associated into the experience, absorbed even; this is the state to be in to enjoy the moment. Being in time is to be less likely to be aware of time passing, less likely to plan or stick to a plan and can become side-tracked very easily.

Examples of in-time behaviour include a young person on an X-Box 360 for hours without having any sense of the amount of elapsed time, someone happily following link after link, or google search return one after another; this kind of ‘internet entrapment’ can account for many an hour. Or a child at a zoo, patiently watching a male Gorilla, waiting for it to thump its’ chest. The child, recreating this ‘absorbsion in subsequent enclosures would quickly exhaust the time available and have many experiences from a few things covered.

 In time-ers often consider the future to be in a line ahead of them and the past in a line directly behind them, thus they are standing actually on their  past/future timeline, hence being known as in-time.

Being ‘through time’ is to be disassociated with the experience; having it laid-out in front of you (for want of a better image). Being through-time is to be conscious of time passing, to be aware of the interaction of events, time to attend a meeting approaching for instance. It is also to be able to plan, and work to a plan, and to multi-task.

In the example of the child at the zoo, a through-time approach would be to be at the Lion enclosure planning where to go next, this being repeated at the reptile house, aviary, hippo enclosure etc, etc, so that by the end of the visit, very little has been experienced in comparison to what’s been co-ordinated.

I read up on this in “the NLP workbook”  (Joseph O’ Connor) – as good a book as I’ve ever seen – and realised that those people who habitually adopt in-time behaviours (remember it is a choice not a genetic given!) respond poorly to ‘traditional’ time-management training because these are generally through-time heavy and written by through time thinkers. What I’ve done now is to encourage people to recognise the activities that are inappropriately in-time and to do radical things like use lots of alarms and alerts, to drag them back from being absorbed in something.



1. Ben Shaffer - May 2, 2007

Hey, I couldn’t agree more. There is nothing more time efficient than recognizing appropriate actions for your time.

Macro manage your time, not micro manage it.

2. Vincent - May 2, 2007

Welcome to the blog Ben. The ability to accurately estimate the time need to do something depends upon whether or not one can look at it at the micro or macro level. For activities that are enjoyable, and/or are able to be done REALLY well, people can get sucked into inappropriate in-time actions – as you describe, at the micro level and this stops them recognising the adverse effects upon the overall ecology of the situation, as you say the macro level. Thanks for the comment. Keep on blogging!

3. Karl Craig-West - May 19, 2007

Like your article. I do time management training in Leicester and always enjoy learning about how people organise themselves.

All the best regards,

4. James Lawson - July 8, 2009

NLP has three ways of thinking. In-Time, Through-time and Between-Time. A metaphor (or way of thinking about the differences) would be. Through-time is the movie, Between time is the trailor of the movie, and in time is the snap shot of the screen that is used on the poster for the movie.

An important point to note is that you are not genetically one of the three (although people sometimes have a preference). It can be useful to use each of these perceptions of time in differenct contexts.

5. コンタクト - April 10, 2011


6. Sandy Otto - August 2, 2011

Also an NLP master practitioner and trainer — have found with very careful attention and education in ecology, it is sometimes useful to teach someone to move strategies from in-time to through time when they are in situations needing attention to “traditional” time management techniques/passage of time, and move back when it is time to be creative or deeply involved in a project. It is kind of a “don’t try this at home” process unless you are well trained in Time Line work (Tadd James). Personality and talents will change when messing with time orientation. My own impression about “genetics” and time is that temperment is genetically biased and certain temperments are more compatible with in- or through-time.

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