Pattern #27

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Enough Time Card

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Enough Time

Enough Time Symbol

Pattern Heart

Life can be too fast and crowded for wholesome insights and changes to develop, or for sensible preparation and follow-up. So provide enough reasonably-paced time for study, leisure, listening, reflection, nonlinear emergence, and exercising multiple intelligences — in personal life, in group process, and throughout a wisdom-generating culture.

Some related patterns:   19 Context Awareness   33 Feeling Heard
38 Generating Shared Orientation   41 Groundedness   50 Life-Enhancing Enoughness  
59 Optimizing Freedoms and Constraints   64 Powerful Questions

  • What length of time and pacing of activity would be right to achieve the full measure of what we hope for here? Are we allowing enough time to actually do it well?
  • What needs to be done before and after this to get the most out of it?
  • Even though every minute can be used for linear productivity, what kind of down-time – leisure, rest, recreation, reflection – mightenhance the quality of that and of the lives of the people involved?
  • What qualities or forms of activity increase participants’ sense of open time and their ability to do more creative work with the time available?
  • What can we learn about what needs transformation when we explore all the dimensions of our sense that “there’s not enough time”?

Enough Time – going deeper …

This is an edited version of the video on this page.

Many Western cultures have very fast-paced, linear kinds of schedules. People complain, “I don’t have time for that.” I’ve often thought that if we carefully explored where the sense “not enough time” comes from, we would end up looking at most of the dysfunctional factors involved in the way our civilization is put together. The fact that we don’t have enough time to reflect on the fact that we don’t have enough time is a pretty interesting feedback loop, a pretty interesting trap we can’t get out of because we can’t think and act out of the “too-fast” box.

Now, we are seeking wisdom in our wise democracy and looking for wholesome insights and changes. This is really hard if life is moving too fast and our schedules are too crowded for us to be able to stop and take a break, a time out, and be in a state of consciousness where things can emerge. Leisure isn’t just goofing off. And sleep is not just a way to stop being sleepy. These nonlinear times allow space for things to bubble up.

A lot of great discoveries and realizations have come after times you do your intense work, and then you create space-time and go for a walk or take a nap. Suddenly – bingo! – things show up. A lot of the patterns in this pattern language came to me like that. I have been working with these kinds of things most of my life, but never got around to making a pattern language out of what I know. Then one morning in a few hours a whole pile of these patterns just flooded out. It was not a laborious process. It was a bubbling up: bubble bubble bubble, in real flood …

“Enough time” involves both the quantity of time and the quality of time, including the pacing of time. Wisdom, rather than just smartness, requires having reasonably paced time. And if you’re dealing with a public issue, you want to have time to study and reflect. You want to have enough time to at least get the major dynamics understood. The more time you have available, the more you can delve into it. There are limits, of course, because of the dynamic that people will tend to fill whatever time you give them. So if you give a Citizen Deliberative Council two years, they will study their issue for two years. If you give them a week, they will study it for a week. The difference between those might not be as great as you would expect. Sometimes, depending on the quality of the study and what is actually being studied and how, you can end up just getting buried in greater and greater complexity and more and more confused.

So it’s not simply time. You need to provide enough time. I’ve seen conveners of citizen deliberations say “we’re going to solve the difficulty over Social Security, and we’re going to involve 3000 people, and we are going to do it in an afternoon.” To which I say, “No, you aren’t!” There is no way to have the adequate time to study the real complexity of Social Security in that kind of time, especially with that many people. So the wise democracy perspective involves asking, “Do we have enough time?“ just like it involves the question “Do we have the people we need to talk about this?”

Citizen deliberators need enough time to understand and reflect on expert knowledge about their issue, information and perspectives that may be very unfamiliar to them, that challenge their normal cognitive capacities.   Of course, “enough time” is not all they need in this case, but it is one bottom-line essential.

And such people – and all others! – need time to listen to each other.  If there’s no one else involved, I don’t need much time to make my own decision, because I don’t need to listen to you. I just make the decisions in my life. As the dictator of my life, I don’t need time for that. But if all of us are going to be a democracy – in particular, a wise democracy – then we need to listen to each other, and see what each other has to say, and have the benefit of the connection that results, and the insights that result, including being able to reflect individually and collectively.

And then we come to “nonlinear emergence” – that bubbling up I talked about – and the exercise of multiple intelligences. I mention this in one of the other patterns. One of the main crafters of a very powerful dialogue method – David Bohm, a quantum physicist – would feel quantum phenomenon in his body while on a walk. Then he would go home and work out the mathematics that were associated with that feeling. So being able to exercise not just the rational mind is key.

Some people, to think better, will sit there and play music and insights will come to them. There are all these different kind of intelligences that can be applied. We need to understand that in our personal lives we need that and also in group processes. Meetings have to be designed with the ability to take enough time to do the things we’re asking people to do. Also reflection time and non-control time should be woven into it. In multi-day events where you’re living together and sleeping in between daily events, things that show up one day often come up the next day in new ways; often new realizations and energies come up. People have a growing sense of something that kind of bubbles up overnight and shows up in a clear way to be dealt with the next day. Those dynamics occur regularly.

If you have a culture where things are built to be “now now now, fast fast fast” you can’t do those things. You can’t have listening, reflection, or nonlinear, multiple intelligence informed varieties of contemplation. It’s not available for you, because you have to move on to the next thing. So having a wisdom-generating culture would recognize that we need to deal with the time factor and make sure people have enough time in their own lives and in any gatherings that we create to generate collective wisdom. They need enough time in order to do that essential job for all the rest of us.

Video Introduction (10 min)


  • Periods of silence
  • Open Space Technology
  • Multi-day events (with sleep-overs)
  • Pauses before responding (incl bells)
  • Enough Time needs to be added to all deliberative processes.
  • Different kinds of time (and dying) Link-video
  • Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore Link
  • Not Enough Time?  Try Doing Nothing Link
  • Why your brain needs more downtime Link
  • The War on Sensemaking, Daniel Schmachtenberger – Link-video

Periods of silence and Open Space Technology, especially multi-day Open Space events, support the “enough time” pattern. In my experience, multi-day Open-Space Technology uses time very powerfully. I think it is significant that sleepovers had a major impact on what happened at the end of the most remarkable 5 day Open Space I ever participated in.

Pause before responding: I learned something interesting about this from my Finnish housemate.  She found communication in the United States difficult because people talk really quickly. Someone immediately dives in as soon as someone else finishes speaking. I’m not that sensitive but I have trouble with people who don’t even wait for somebody to finish. But in New York culture and Jewish culture and in Italian culture it is often considered fine for people to talk over each other all the time. If you wish to create pauses, there are ways to enforce them with dialogue agreements, bells, talking sticks, etc. Although I don’t know any research on this, however, there may be some people who require the ability to talk over other people in order to think straight. It may totally strain them if we restrict their ability to do that. I wonder about this, since I know I have trouble walking slowly and am naturally very fast. So that could be researched.

In the deliberative process people need to be given enough time to do what they’re being asked to do. I seldom hear that explicitly being addressed. As far as I’m concerned, if you are doing a deliberative process – which includes any kind of thinking deeply and seriously about something together, including the nonlinear “choice-creating” conversations of Dynamic Facilitation, as far as I am concerned – you need to ensure there is adequate time of the right quality and pacing. This is another thing that needs to be added to most such processes.