Slow down ... or find your rhythm?

"Stop it multitasking to be more productive ”,“ Slow down to succeed ”, these are the catchy titles of the magazines, programs from training organizations, personal development coaches and bloggers /youtubeurs which offer us to teach us how to better manage our time, to find a certain serenity in our daily life.

COf course, some statistics highlight a need for advice on time management: in a survey carried out in early 2018, Harris Interactive indicates that 53% of French people say they would like to slow down their pace of life. This aspiration comes up against the fact that 65% of them feel that they often lack the time to do everything they want in a day. Also, this tendency to slow life (slowing down the pace of life) and avoiding multitasking (not to do several things at the same time) seems to stand as an offensive to the society where everything is accelerating, as described by the German sociologist and philosopher Hartmut Rosa in 2010 in his book Acceleration. A social critique of time. But do we all need to slow down?

Know thyself

Just like the praise for speed, the praise for slowness starts from a basic injunction such as: "Everyone should slow down" ! In today's society, everything is done to make us go faster (from means of transport to Internet speed or more recently virtual assistants, etc.). More and more connected, in demand, we see the tasks follow one another quickly, without having the time to respond to all the requests. Should we all slow down? Can we really afford it?

This injunction to slow down neglects an essential point: the individual aspect of our relationship to time. We are not all equal in the face of passing time and its feelings: some like to do several things at the same time, why prevent them? Some people don't like to plan their activities, why force them? Some like to go fast, why force them to slow down?

Faced with all these antagonistic tendencies, one multitasking praised then decried, from one acceleration to one slow life, it seems normal to be lost. This is quite simply because the relationship to time is complex, not only linked to society but also to the individual himself and to the situations he has to experience. In other words, everyone has their own relationship to time: it is better to know each other rather than succumb to fashions that do not correspond to us (ex: "slow life" for someone who likes to be in a hurry, multitasking for someone who likes to do things. one thing at a time).

Test: are you polychronic?

How do you relate to the passage of time? Are you more oriented towards the future, the past? Do you like to do several things at the same time? Because everyone's individual relationship to passing time influences behavior, researchers in management science have developed scales measuring this individual relationship to time.

So, to know if you only have to do one thing at a time, or several tasks at the same time, you can simply ask yourself the question of what you like, that is to say in this case, d '' assess your degree of polychronicity. To do this, nothing could be simpler, just indicate your degree of agreement with each of the following sentences on a scale of 1 (totally disagree) to 5 (totally agree):


  • I prefer to work on several projects each day, rather than finish one and then move on to the next.
  • When I have several assignments, I like to switch from one to the other rather than doing one at a time.
  • I get much more involved in what I do if I can switch between various tasks.
  • I prefer to work on several projects than to concentrate my efforts on just one.
  • When I have to complete a task, I like to do it alternating with other tasks.

(Test adapted from Multitasking Preference Inventory by Popowski and Oswald (2010))


The higher your score, the more you find yourself in the sentences presented and therefore the more you are what is called a polychronic. That is to say, you enjoy multitasking. It is your very nature, regardless of the circumstances. In this case, it is in your best interest to choose a multitasking mode of action. Conversely, if the majority of you disagree with these phrases, you should focus on one task at a time, since you are a monochronic.

Our relationship to time is personal but also multifaceted. The examples concerning the concept of slowing down, multitasking, business planning are today the most questionable in our daily life. However, they only constitute a part of our relation to individual time.

A relationship to time that dictates our behavior

In 2018, we sought to carry out a overview of the multiple facets of our relationship to time. It turns out that many of our behaviors are dictated by our individual relationship to passing time in general, or specifically to the past, present or future.

For example, giving of your time to others (volunteering) once you retire, would depend on how you perceive the time left to live when you get older. The same goes for the purchase of savings products, necessarily implying a projection into the future, when we will come to disappear and it will thus be necessary to pass on a heritage. Regarding the present time, enjoying doing two things at the same time (polychrony), or feeling stimulated by being in a hurry (or conversely, hating being in a hurry) will have an impact on the choice of a store format for food shopping.

Many choices of our daily life are, very often unconsciously, dictated by our relation to individual time, by these “personality traits linked to time” that we have just mentioned. They are anchored more or less deeply in us. Thus, certain trends in time management can go against our personality! Hence our difficulties in following certain advices: hunt the natural, it comes back at a gallop!

The effects of waiting time

At the same time, the perception of an elapsing time also varies according to the context and the activity in which the individual finds himself. Most often, it has nothing to do with the time actually elapsed. Schematically, the unoccupied time seems longer. Think, for example, of the waiting time at the checkout. The music, the colors, the presentation of the information (example: estimated waiting time), also greatly influence the perceived duration. Finally, complex or new activities lead to an overestimation of the time to perform them.

But there again, it is difficult to generalize the effects of this waiting time, because everything depends on our individual relationship to time. In the queue at a supermarket checkout, those who like to plan their tasks may get impatient, given the delay in their to-do list of the day (to-do list), while the polychronic, followers of multitasking, may take the opportunity to answer their emails!

So what to do? Slow down ? Do several things at the same time? Accelerate? Finally, in modern society, which offers us to slow down at all costs, it is undoubtedly more the adequacy between his individual time and his behavior that is the source of satisfaction.The Conversation

Andrea Gourmelen, Lecturer in management sciences (marketing), University of Montpellier and Jeanne Lallement, Lecturer in Management Sciences, specialized in marketing, University of La Rochelle

This article is based on research published in the journal "Research and Applications in Marketing"listing and synthesizing the work of marketing researchers for 25 years on the relationship to time and its influence on consumption behavior.

La original version of this article was posted on The Conversation.

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