Compounding time

I recently started seeing a new therapist. I’ve seen therapists in the past, so that’s nothing new. What is new is the format.

Everyone I’ve ever seen in the past, and likely the person you’re seeing (if you’re seeing someone), runs appointments the same way: An hour a week (or every few weeks). One hour. 60 minutes. The standard time slot for all sorts of appointments.

But this guy I’m seeing does it differently. I see him once every six weeks for six-hours straight. Yes, a six-hour session. And what a joy it is to work on yourself this way.

An hour is barely enough time to figure out what to talk about. And it’s hardly enough time to go deep on anything of substance. By the time you get somewhere, it’s time to go. Know the drill?

But six hours. Six hours an abundance of time to twist and turn. It takes six hours to dig through the rock and strike the seam. I’m loving it.

Further, six-weeks between appointments gives me time to work on the things we uncovered. A traditional week between appointments just isn’t enough time to put in the practice and get to work. You get sidetracked, other stuff comes up, you end up going to the next appointment in roughly the same place you left the last appointment. But six. Six is bliss.

It’s an entirely different approach, and I find it thoroughly refreshing. Yes, it means he can’t work with as many clients. Yes, it means I have to come out of pocket a lot more. And yes, it means it’s a lot of talking, reflecting, feeling, and questioning. It packs a punch, and my mind is definitely mushier the next day. Not unlike next-day’s lingering muscle soreness after a hard workout. But that’s how you get stronger.

It also reminds me just how powerful contiguous time is. The value of time compounds when hours touch hours. And when you string a bunch together, without interruption, the compounding really pays off. Interest compounds. Wisdom compounds. Time does too.

It’s one of the reasons we’re so adamant about making sure everyone at Basecamp has long stretches of uninterrupted time to themselves. Certainly some work is more staccato than others, but at Basecamp people’s days are theirs. The company doesn’t take people’s time with mandatory meetings or heavy process – the company provides the cover so everyone has their own time to use as they see fit.

There are lots of ways to carve up an hour. 10 x 6. 15 x 4. 30 x 2. 45 + 15. 20 + 20 + 20. The key is not to carve it up. And when you stack it up – one full hour after another – you really see the compound benefits of uninterrupted time.

Note: If this topic appeals to you, we wrote a bunch about the value of time, uninterrupted time, and contiguous time in our latest book “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work“.

11 thoughts on “Compounding time

  1. That sounds amazing. My current therapist is similar. Doesn’t track time and our sessions often go 2-3 hours. She believes the flow of the conversation is vastly more important than squeezing goals into 1 hour chunks.

    Also agree on the space between sessions. I’m at every other week and it’s just enough time to let the concepts settle in and build off each other. And I welcome skipping sessions for the same reasons you listed, more time to live life and sharpen ideas.

  2. Interesting concept. I think the importance of uninterrupted focus has long been acknowledged in the tech industry (although not always practiced), however I’m sure there are many applications for that principle, one of which you mentioned in this article. Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” talks about the importance of this in the academia.

    By the way, you probably want to change “blurrier they next” to “blurrier the next”.

  3. Several years ago my wife and I went through a 4 day intensive workshop in Oregon City. Heartchange attempts to tackle some of the deepest fears, emotions, loss, hurt and tear down walls that prevent us from connecting to those we love. Those that apply the principals learned at their 4-day intensive workshops make breakthoughs to better relationships that you have been hoping for.

    It has become one of the best decisions we made for our marriage, children, and other relationships.

  4. What a great post – thoughtful, considerate, and useful, as is the majority of things coming out of the Basecamp team. Thanks for sharing Jason.

  5. Jason, would you be open to discussing your motivation to work with a therapist? Just following your career, and observing the lens through which you’ve figured things out, seen clarity in complexity and achieved such success, it’s hard to imagine you needing external support on anything.

    1. “it’s hard to imagine you needing external support on anything”

      That’s both very generous and very inaccurate 😉

  6. Thank you for sharing this.
    I am on the same page to an extent in that my very first session with my therapist was 90 minutes, and so it has remained. Initially weekly and now every four weeks since she moved to another part of the UK. Her supervisor said more than 50 minutes was a mistake. I find that 90 minutes is fine.
    I’d be interested to learn two things: (a) How was it for you specifically, as opposed to the nebulous impressions you shared and, (b) How does your therapist feel about it? Thank you

  7. “Not unlike next-day’s lingering muscle soreness after a hard workout. But that’s how you get stronger.”

    Not discounting your personal experience, or how this may be the best therapy for you, but that’s not really how mental health works all the time. Ideally sessions wouldn’t be constrained, but they’d still be regular. Not every mental health issue requiring therapy can be flexed through in six-week loads. At least from my experience.

  8. I hope you allow yourself some leg stretches and breathing time. Art therapy sessions can easily be two hours in duration. But six hours per session definitely requires a different type of therapist, and certainly a specific type of client..

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