People in an economic system based on production learn to live with the tyranny of the clock.  Although people have been tracking time since the early days of humans, our relationship with time has become different.

Time used to be related to something going on in nature.  People measured the hours of sunshine, the seasons, and how long crops took to grow.  The day began when the sun came up and ended when it set. Our survival was directly related to what nature offered us and so our relationship to time was related to nature also.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have changed our relationship to time and nature. We treat nature as something we control.  It is understandable that we sought to control nature because we felt so out of control in relation to nature: the weather was so unpredictable, the basic needs of people were not being met, and disease was rampant.  At the time, natural resources were so plentiful. So we created machines and production processes to harness natural resources to take care of our basic needs and kept on going.  Time became a factor in production costs and therefore directly affected profits.

Time And Limits

There were understandable reasons for the economic system that we have created.  Human society at the time of the Industrial Revolution was saddled with all sorts of limits that needed to be challenged. Some of these limits were based on belief systems. Some limits were geographical, others political. Even time felt limiting because we were limited by the amount that each person could accomplish which in turn limited our ability to meet our needs. Since the Industrial Revolution, the clock has been used as a tool for challenging limits through productivity measurements which evaluate how well we produce in a specific period of time.  Our educational system is organized around time.  We have a certain period of time to learn a given amount of material, whether we learn or not is often irrelevant, when time is up, time is up.

When the clock controls how much attention we give to something or someone, we relinquish control over our lives because we are not really engaging with life and the realities around us.  If it takes two years to learn a subject but you only have six months, then essentially your learning is controlled by the demand for speed. If it takes 2 hours to accomplish a task well and one hour is all that is allowed, again you relinquish control over the quality you are able to bring to the work by the demand for speed.  If it takes a year to grieve the loss of a friend, and the people around you demand that you grieve quicker, then your life is diminished by the demand for speed and your health may be negatively affected.

Speed And Sensitive People

The demand for speed is a serious issue for highly sensitive people since creativity, deep listening, and serious problem solving do not lend themselves to time pressure. HSP’s inevitably suffer from distracting and unhelpful conflicts when they are expected to work under artificial, and unnecessarily restrictive time schedules. To the highly sensitive person production is not the end and be all of one’s work life. Qualitative considerations are more important than quantitative ones – within reason of course.

Being sensitive means that we notice the cost of our highly competitive and highly demanding capitalistic system. We notice the stress in ourselves and others, the loss of time for connection and the kind of deep teamwork that is satisfying and inclusive. We see the loss of our cherished natural environment and all the cost to animals and humans. I suspect that to most HSPs the cost-benefit analysis does not read the way it does to an accountant. As a result, how we use time will also be different.

Time And Quality Of Engagement

The tyranny of the clock does not allow for the freely engaged way of relating to living and problem solving that results in deep satisfaction. It does a lot of damage and creates more problems than it solves. There is such a need for healing caused by the destructive shortsightedness of a high-pressure economy.  As a result, it is bound to be unsatisfying to highly sensitive people.

Time is precious. A high-pressure system is not very appealing to highly sensitive people who will treat time as they treat other things with regard and diligence. Finding a way to live true to your sensitive self and still contribute to your culture is a central challenge of sensitive people everywhere.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program of "sensory processing yoga" using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers the Emerging Sensitive Movie Club focused on movies and discussions about living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. Ryan J. Rhoades on July 21, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Thanks for this article Maria…much appreciated and needed.

  2. Yasmeen on May 2, 2015 at 6:27 pm


    What a wonderful discovery!
    I have always experienced time pressures as a source of great turmoil, even suffering you could say. I am acutely aware of the preciousness of time. I’m always the late one, the slow poke, the late riser….Not an enviable role in our society!

    I’m glad to discover the connection to HSP here, because it doesn’t really make sense for me to call myself ‘slow.’ Actually, I am very adept at working (and moving, and thinking) very quickly and efficiently. When I travel to work I’m one of those fast walkers fed up with the slow pokes around them!

    But that’s something I do purely for the sake of accomplishing a task. My natural preference is to be slow, slow, slow. To take long uninterrupted walks. Have long conversations with friends. See an evening out stretch from drinks, to dinner, to a movie, to more drinks, to a late-night snack…The little social ‘capsules’ of modern life (seeing friends only at lunch or dinner, or for coffee, or for happy hour – 1-3 hour spurts at best!) fills me with the pain and loneliness of wanting more.

    Suppressing my personal rhythm (as one inevitably must, in order to keep a job, have a social life – heck, even to take public transit) has been a large sacrifice. In some ways it’s been a supremely worthwhile one; left unto my own devices, I would take far longer than necessary to accomplish anything (and if there’s anything my ambitious spirit hates, it’s a day wasted!).

    Yet in sum it takes a toll. I feel exhausted, depleted. Like my needs have been sorely unmet. The weekends are spent listless, in an attempt to respect my need to watch the world go by without a clock…

    I need a compromise. A way to work hard but to keep time for myself. A job where I can spend half the time being productive and efficient, and half the time at my own, sensitive, rhythm.

    wish i knew where the answer lay…

    • Maria Hill on May 2, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Yasmeen, you might want to consider working online in some way that lets you work according to your schedule. Self employment is a great option but it takes time to set up and make viable.

      Good luck,

  3. Matthew on January 11, 2017 at 7:48 am

    The clock is not so tyrannical if you can manage to shift outside the regular hours and regular business structure; the doors of my consultancy are typically open from 4am and noon or so, allowing me a long uninterrupted period most mornings, flexibility to collaborate with people who work on the other coast, and a host of other benefits. That said, the tyranny of the clock is an internal one, a concern of the internal taskmaster – which is nothing but ego, that bundle of identity. Meditation and mindfulness are, of course, the best way to be free of servitude to one’s thoughts.