Clock-based vs event-based timing

There are many different things we have to do during the day, and we’ll learn about three different dimensions and how to achieve them in this course. Clock-based vs event-based timing is the first dimension we’ll investigate, followed by deep vs shallow work and execution vs reflection.

The notion of clock-based vs event-based timing stems from Levin’s ‘A Geography of Time’, and Paul Graham’s, the founder of Y-Combinator, interpretation of this dimension. Levein found that there are two types of people, those who follow a clock-based approach and those who follow an event-based approach. The clock-based people set clear deadlines. In reality, this might be a farmer calling it a day at exactly 6pm. If all cows were milked, great. If not, not his problem. On the other hand, there are event-based people who only quit when a certain goal or event has been reached. This might be a farmer who only calls it a day once all cows have been milked – or a proofreader who only quits once he’s finished correcting the essay.

In general, event-based people tend to be more successful and get more done. Yet, Paul Graham dissects this further. He finds that in certain circumstances clock-based timing is indeed better. For example, when you are planning things. You may plan things for hours, days or even months, but at the end of the day you need to get things done. That’s why there should always be a cap to your planning tasks, e.g. by setting a clear deadline. I’ve inserted a list of tasks which may fit best to each of the categories. Ultimately, you’ll have to establish your own feeling for which of your tasks belong to which category and how you set these deadlines. You’ll get better every week by consistently reflecting on your tasks.

Action Steps

Add this distinction to your weekly reflection and share your insights in the forum below.