Are you better at managing vertical time or horizontal time? If you’ve never heard these terms before, it might take a second to wrap your mind around these theories of time, but once you do it will completely change the way you think about time management, especially as it relates to golf training.
Vertical time, in essence, means the here and now. It’s more likely to be measured in minutes, hours and days. People who live their lives in vertical time are more concerned with instant gratification, think more about living in the moment and fail to consider the long-term effects of the decisions they make now.
Horizontal time, on the other hand, is more long-term. You can measure it in years or even decades. Someone living in horizontal time has a five-year plan and can easily see how decisions they make today might impact where they are years from now.
What do these theories of time have to do with golf? Anyone who has devoted a fair amount of time to practicing golf knows that improvement doesn’t just happen overnight – it’s a slow process that requires patience, grit and motivation to succeed in the sport. In other words, golfers should be managing horizontal time. But that’s not always the case.
Every player will have completely different goals for golf, whether they’re a student-athlete training for competitions that will qualify them for a prestigious college scholarship or an adult player getting back into the sport to compete against their friends at the golf club. Each player’s desire to improve will directly inform how they train, how often they train and when they’d like to see results.
This is where time management comes into play. That student-athlete will need to devise a training schedule that allows them to practice their skills in order to perform their best at a tournament. What if he or she develops goals in a shorter period of time with a very specific end date? And what if the golfer playing at the club, on the other hand, can train without a specific end date in mind and work towards a more general, long-term goal?
That student-athlete may be so focused on training for very specific events and thinking about short-term goals that they sabotage their own performance with a narrow mindset for managing their training time and not considering the consequences to their game.
Understanding the vertical time meaning versus the horizontal time meaning can help you gain a new perspective on your golf training and how to use your time wisely and ensure you’re putting yourself in the best position to develop your skills for the long-term, not just to meet short-term goals.
Vertical Time: Focused on the Short-Term
Players who want to see more improvement in a shorter period of time, are narrowly focused on managing vertical time. This is the amount of work that needs to get done in a short period of time, measured by days rather than years.
When time is vertical, it’s focused on what you can get done in a shorter period of time. By the end of the day, the end of the week and so on. Some might see this as immediate gratification. You could also see it as a recipe for burnout.
If you’re a player that’s focused on vertical time, you are training to improve quickly without necessarily thinking about the long-term effects of what this type of short-term focus will do for you.
Think about studying for a test. A student studying on vertical time is the one cramming the week of the exam, creating outlines and staying up late every night trying to get all of the information from the semester to stick in their brain before the exam. Sure, some things will undoubtedly stick. But the frantic nature of this type of preparation is sure to leave them sleep deprived, more stressed and more forgetful.
What does this vertical meaning have to do with golfing? Like our anxious student, a golfer who is trying to maximize practice in a short amount of time to improve quickly might see some fast results, but these results may not stick around.
Plus, this golfer also won’t be able to develop all 5 Elements of Success in a short period of time. Let’s say they really focus on their putting stroke or their golf swing to prepare for a tournament. If they haven’t taken the time to develop their mental game or they’ve neglected their nutrition or fitness, the gains they’ve made in some of their skills may not hold up to the test of time.
Developing long-term habits are essential for long-term improvements. Thinking of time only as vertical will get in the way of an ambitious golfer training to be a lifelong player and prevent them from learning the habits they need to improve every aspect of their game over time.
Horizontal Time: The Long-Term Approach
If we return to our analogy about two students studying for a test to understand time as horizontal, the student studying on horizontal time is the one who took a long-term approach.
They did the nightly readings all semester long and are using the week before the exam to refresh themselves on things their brain has already absorbed. They don’t need to stay up late or stress about understanding new concepts quickly. This type of learning means there’s also a greater chance that they’ll retain the information long past the exam since they were studying to learn, not just to pass a test.
Similarly, the golfer functioning on time as horizontal rather than vertical is taking the long-term, easy-does-it approach. They aren’t going to see improvements as quickly as someone practicing on vertical time, but that’s just fine by them. They’re going to reap the benefits of the gradual improvements to their mental and physical game.
Muscle memory takes time to develop, and someone who is improving their golf swing or perfecting their putting stroke with no rush is going to be able to perfect their form better in the long run and be able to count on that form for longer in their golf career. With the right coaching, determination and perseverance through challenges, the golfer who trains on the time as horizontal approach will reap the benefits.
Managing Your Time the Horizontal Way
Whether you find that you more closely align yourself with the vertical time theory or the horizontal time approach, the key to managing your time in golf training is patience. For those players seeking immediate gratification, there is no way around working on vertical time.
You are working on the freight train going down tracks with no brakes and you need to fix the brakes before you get to the end of the line. In other words, vertical time means you work hard until it’s fixed so you don’t crash.
This kind of time is expensive in many ways: it is highly stressful, detracts from quality and the ability to work at the same pace for extended periods of time for sustainable improvement is nearly impossible. This can cause frustration, which could turn into quitting.
On the contrary, players seeking to achieve lofty goals with a horizontal time mindset can be less stressed, more productive in the long term and have a higher quality output. Usually when you enjoy something, you stick with it longer!
Golf has a way of turning us into freight trains, barreling down the tracks without brakes. When you feel this frustration coming on, take a deep breath and step back. Try to remember why you are playing golf and think about the consequences of letting your frustration get in the way of a beautiful afternoon on the course painting a masterpiece one stroke at a time.
Anytime you are working on improving yourself, growth breeds challenges. At The Golf Performance Center, we recognize there will be failures that you cannot prevent. But when you can place your mindset on the correct timeline – vertical or horizontal – it will reduce your frustration and you may find yourself improving faster.