Book Reviews

The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd

ISBN-13: 978-1416541998
Publisher: Free Press
Pages: 400

The Time Paradox is all about our attitudes towards time. Its core message is that we all have a unique, biased time-perspective that influences our decisions and behavior. Yet we're normally not aware of it, hence the paradox. This book makes us aware of our personal time-perspective and how it influences our feelings, actions, and future. It also promises to teach the ideal time profile and provides us with the tools to get there.

As a theory, the time paradox has a certain elegance. It's complete, in a way that not only can it explain behavior; it also predicts the general trend of behavior. Basically, there's three positive time-perspective categories (Past-Positive, Present-Hedonistic, and Future-Oriented) and two mainly negative (Past-Negative and Present-Fatalism). Now, every individual's time-perspective is a blend of these main-categories. The problem seems to be that we tend to overuse a particular perspective. Zimbardo and Boyd walks us through the different categories, carefully explaining the pros and cons of each. We also get directions and general advices on how to better balance our attitudes towards time.

The Time Paradox is organized in two parts. The first part of the book is the most interesting and though-provocative. In that part, the authors look at time in a historical context, present their theory of time, and draws parallels to well-known psychological research. Everything presented in accessible and readable prose. The second part reads more like a classic self-help book. Nothing wrong with that, just not really my bag. That said, I did enjoy the chapter on "Business, politics, and your time". That chapter analyzes topics as diverse as the Enron scandal and political leadership within the framework of the time-perspective, giving a fresh and different view.

The first part of the Time Paradox is brilliant and I do recommend it, particularly after you've taken the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) survey. A ZTPI survey is included in the book, but to assess your own profile, I recommend the online survey . In companion with the book, it will tell you a lot about yourself.

Reviewed January 2010