Chronos vs. Kairos

3 minute read

Man holding a clock
Man holding a clock
Man holding a clock
Man holding a clock

Nope, not a superhero showdown but two concepts from Greek philosophy to describe different aspects of time.

The Cultural Tutor posted about this recently, and it captured our imagination, neatly illustrating how study time can be used more effectively.

The quantitive and the qualitative

Chronos (in a cape, if you want) refers to chronological or sequential time, the linear progression of time we’re most familiar with. Events occur in a sequence, measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days and so on by clocks and calendars. Think schedules, routines, and deadlines - something students know a fair bit about.

Kairos (in a mask, maybe) refers to qualitative or opportune time. In Greek, ‘the right or opportune moment’. Less about clock time and more about the quality of time rather than its quantity. Kairos is about seizing the moment as opposed to measuring it; the perfect timing for something to happen. Think creative flow or that bright idea you had on the bus.

Time is something you have to think about a lot while studying, losing track of it, not having enough of it and figuring out how to divide it between tasks. With all the stuff you need to fit into a day, it can feel like you're always up against the clock and not getting anywhere.

Curse you, Chronos.

Most of us use study time to read through notes trying to memorise them for an exam or test. Aside from cognitive overload, the problem with passive revision methods like this is that they only commit what you’ve learnt to short-term memory.

Fine for getting through that assessment, perhaps, but not for retaining knowledge past that point.

Another dimension

A more time-efficient way to learn is using active recall.

This is where our friend Kairos swoops in with a more holistic approach to time management. It's about optimising the time you have by working to your strengths and applying a more potent revision technique.

When you actively engage and interact with your material, you reinforce the neural pathways in your brain, making it easier to retrieve the information later on.

Methods such as summarising what you’ve learnt in your own words, teaching it to someone else or incorporating elements of gameplay all help create a much deeper understanding.

For example, you could spend an hour reading notes and an hour discussing the topic with friends. Quantitively, they’re the same, but qualitatively you’d learn a lot more doing the latter.

Flashcards and quizzes are a particularly effective tool, presenting cues that require you to actively recall the associated information rather than just passively reviewing it.

Add in spaced repetition - reviewing your material at increasing intervals over time - and you further enhance that long-term retention. Essentially, this is the opposite of cramming, and by continually self-assessing your knowledge like this, you are strengthening your recall skills which leads to greater productivity and more targeted study sessions.

Finding balance

Applying the principles of Kairos to your academic timetable can help maintain motivation, but this applies to personal growth, too. When you neglect wellbeing, it can negatively impact your ability to study effectively.

Setting aside time to focus on the things that make you happy and healthy such as meeting a friend for a coffee, taking an art class or heading to the park for a walk, can improve focus and reduce stress.

All equally as important as your next assignment.

There’s a third character I haven’t mentioned yet; Aion, representing eternity and everlasting time. I was going to leave them out, but actually, I think they complete the picture.

Perhaps by understanding quantitative and qualitative time, we are breaking negative cycles, embracing change and making choices that positively influence our future.

So if Chronos is ruling your day and you’re stuck in a studying rut, consider calling on Kairos to help maximise your minutes and smash those exams.

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