Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Moving Time Around

Vino Bello, Napa, California, USA

December 14, 2013

"People who are at the effect of time, people who can't create time, people who can't manage time, people who can't move time around, people who can't handle time, people who are overwhelmed by time, have no mastery and no basis for mastery. The basis for mastery in the world is being able to handle time."
"The only thing you are going to do today is: what you do today. Therefore, the only thing there is to do today is: what you do today. That's all there was to do when you started no matter what you thought or think."
This essay, Moving Time Around, is the fourth in the septology Time:
  1. Time On My Hands
  2. I'm Playing So Hard I've Got No Time To Be Busy
  3. Enough Time
  4. Moving Time Around
  5. One Day One Life: A Reflection On Time
  6. Maybe Time Isn't Linear
  7. Just ... Don't ... Be ... Late
in that order.

I am indebted to my children Alexandra Lindsey Platt and Christian Laurence Platt and Joshua Nelson Platt who inspired this conversation.

There was something bittersweet about every occasion I took each of my three children to school for the first time. I'm talking about the very  first time, even prior to Kindergarten. I'm talking about the year known as Pre-K. These occasions marked both the end of the days they would be with me entirely at home, and (at least in some way) the start of their own independent lives. Our house got a bit emptier on each occasion (that's the bitter component of bittersweet) while at the same time there was a sense of enormous accomplishment of having successfully come this far (that's the sweet component of bittersweet) - any parent who's raised one child or more can attest that it is an enormous accomplishment.

For the most part, the early years of school were so enjoyable for my children that they looked forward to the bicycle ride there each day, just as I looked forward to riding there with them and fetching them at the end of the day. And then, gradually yet inexorably, reality and responsibility set in. At first, the end of the school day simply meant exchanging one play location (school) for another (home) - that is, until the homework  era started. And homework was also play - which is to say it was also play at first. Then eventually came the point of no return  day when there was so much homework that just contemplating it was intimidating and no fun anymore. I could tell they were concerned. And although I didn't say it in exactly these terms back then (and neither, I assume, did they think about it in these terms back then), what concerned them, what wasn't any fun for them anymore was they were confronted by the need to manage time, something in their innocence they had no natural skills for whatsoever.

It's not simply that managing time is no fun for children. It's that unless you've got a way to manage time which works, it's no fun for adults either - not unless you can manage time in a way which doesn't take the ardor out of work and life.

Until I experienced Werner Erhard's Mission Control, I'd never formally participated in a conversation about time management. And Mission Control is really only secondarily a conversation about time management. Primarily it's a conversation which transforms our relationship  with time (indeed, this is what makes it brilliant - genius even) resulting directly  in more effective, easier, effortless time management. I had started and managed a very successful nationwide business which, whether it was intentional or not, confronted me with much of what I needed to learn in order to manage time effectively. Offering my children the essence of everything I'd discovered, was rewarding - both for them and for me. Yet at first I had no idea if it would be successful or not, or whether it would work or not, or whether at their tender age they would grasp it or not. But they did. Here's what happened.

I sat them down at our dining table with a large sheet of white drawing paper, a smaller sheet of red paper, a pencil, a ruler, and a pair of scissors. I took the large sheet of white drawing paper, and said to them "Let's pretend this sheet of paper is all the time you have to get everything done in your entire life ie it's all the time in the world.". They got that. "Now" I said, "let's divide it into squares" - which we did, using the pencil and the ruler. I continued "Each of the squares represents one day - which is to say each square is all the time you have in one day  to do everything you're going to do.". They got that too.

Collage by Laurence Platt
Then we took the smaller sheet of red paper, and cut out a square the same size as the squares on the large sheet of white drawing paper. I told them the red square represented all the time they had to spend on their homework. When the red square was placed on any square on the large sheet of white drawing paper filling it entirely, it was obvious the time they had to spend on their homework would fill the entire day  - the untenable situation, the situation they were confronting, the situation they were afraid of, the situation they were concerned about. It's no fun for a child (and, believe me, it's no fun for their parent either) to contemplate homework taking so long.

But the instructions they're given, of course, are rarely to do all their homework in one day or immediately or all at once. Homework assignments are mostly given with a due date. The idea of managing time is to complete a task by the due date - which doesn't require it all be done in one day or immediately or all at once. And I had a great way of moving time around  I could impart to my children, knowing how much of a difference it would make in their lives.

Collage by Laurence Platt
"Now, tear the red square, your homework, into pieces. Each red piece is a piece of homework. Don't think of doing all your homework all at once. Think of doing it one piece at a time. Put each piece on a different square instead of putting them all on one square. It means you can do each piece of homework on a different day, or take a break and do no homework on one or two days. As long as you get all the pieces done before your homework is due, you have more time to do it all than you realize. And look! There's a lot of white space  around each red piece - it means you have a lot of time left each day to play and still  get your homework done in time.".

After a few moments of quiet contemplation, their "Wow!"  was silent yet completely audible. There's no question they got it. Homework was never the same again after that. The struggle and the concern went right out of it. It just ... kind of ... got done. This may have been my biggest contribution to them ever as a parent. And if it isn't the biggest, then it's certainly right up there with the biggest of them.


The presentation, delivery, and style of Moving Time Around are all my own work, including the method it describes for managing time.

The source of its title, the expression "moving time around", however, is Werner Erhard.

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