Skip to main content
About HEC About HEC Faculty & Research Faculty & Research Master’s programs Master’s programs MBA Programs MBA Programs PhD Program PhD Program Executive Education Executive Education Summer School Summer School HEC Online HEC Online About HEC Overview Overview Who
We Are Who
We Are
Egalité des chances Egalité des chances HEC Talents HEC Talents International International Campus
Life Campus
Sustainability Sustainability Diversity
& Inclusion Diversity
& Inclusion
Stories Stories The HEC
Foundation The HEC
Coronavirus Coronavirus
Faculty & Research Overview Overview Faculty Directory Faculty Directory Departments Departments Centers Centers Chairs Chairs Knowledge Knowledge Master’s programs Master in
Management Master in
Master in
International Finance Master in
International Finance
& Masters MS
& Masters
Ecole Polytechnique
-HEC programs Ecole Polytechnique
-HEC programs
programs Dual-Degree
students Exchange
Certificates Certificates Student
Life Student
MBA Programs MBA MBA Executive MBA Executive MBA TRIUM EMBA TRIUM EMBA PhD Program Overview Overview HEC Difference HEC Difference Program details Program details Research areas Research areas HEC Community HEC Community Placement Placement Job Market Job Market Admissions Admissions Financing Financing Executive Education Executive Masters Executive Masters Executive Certificates Executive Certificates Executive short programs Executive short programs Online Online Companies Companies Executive MBA Executive MBA Infinity Pass Infinity Pass Summer School Youth Programs Youth Programs Summer programs Summer programs HEC Online Overview Overview Degree Program Degree Program Executive certificates Executive certificates MOOCs MOOCs Summer Programs Summer Programs


“A turning point in time scheduling”, Anne Laure Sellier at TEDxHEC Paris

Published on:

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, Anne-Laure Sellier, HEC Associate Professor in Marketing, made a presentation at the TEDxHEC Paris event on October 18th 2013. In a deep and effective speech, she shared with us her research with Tamar Avnet (Yeshiva University) on how the way we schedule our lives influences our thoughts, our emotions, our decision-making, and even our performance.

Professor Sellier mentioned that there are two main styles that humans around the world rely on today to schedule their activities – either following what the external clock dictates (e.g., shop for groceries from 10 to 12, go have lunch with a friend until 2, work in meetings from 2 to 4, and alone from 4 to 7), or following an individual’s sense that it is time to move from one activity to the next (e.g., shop for groceries until you feel you have enough for the week, and proceed to having lunch; once that feels over, join your business meeting, and work until you feel the meeting is over; then work alone until you can call it a day). We refer to people who predominantly follow the former style as clock-timers, and to people who predominantly use the latter style as event-timers.



Clock-timers unarguably enjoy the considerable advantage of being able to flexibly schedule and reschedule their activities. However, research from Professor Sellier and Professor Avnet shows that there are deleterious influences of the clock on the extent to which people relying on it feel in control of their lives, as well as to which they feel happy.

In particular, the researchers find that clock-timers perceive the world at large as a more disconnected, a more chaotic place; they are also less able to savor positive emotions than people relying on event-time – knowing that savoring is a key antecedent of happiness. In fact, this means they do not manage to immerse themselves in a positive experience as much as event-timers; they don’t display their positive experience (i.e., they don’t act it out) as much; and they don’t share it with others as much.

Clock-timers perceive the world at large as a more chaotic place and are also less able to savor positive emotions than people relying on event-time 

A third finding is that clock-timers seize exploding opportunities less than event-timers. Finally, and critically, clock-timers also have lower levels of performance than event-timers on non-standard tasks requiring the exertion of personal control and the ability to sense the moment. This means that relying on the clock can prove counterproductive when working on non-standard tasks.

Why are these findings important?

In 2010, IBM did a poll of over 1,500 CEOs worldwide, most of whom are presumably clock-timers. The poll mentions that over 60% of the CEOs interviewed perceive the current business environment as more complex, volatile, and uncertain than ever before, and over half of them doubt their ability to handle it. In other words, the environment seems to have taken control, which is consistent with the researchers’ finding of a world perceived as more chaotic.

Another critical insight is that CEOs agree that the one key leadership quality to navigate this complexity is creativity, the ability to find new ways of solving tough problems. They notice that companies that fare better than others today are those making decisions faster, those that better grasp exploding opportunities.

Finally, many of these successful companies stopped reconceiving their strategies as per the clock, such as via quarterly updates, to continuously revise their market approach.

In summary, it seems that the successful companies in today’s environment have an event-time, rather than a clock-time market approach.

In summary, it seems that the successful companies in today’s environment have an event-time, rather than a clock-time market approach.

The clock has been a pillar of the economic system that we put in place to accompany the industrial revolution. Thanks to it, we have reached an unprecedented level of human coordination in history, resulting in massive efficiency gains.

However, if there is one thing we know today, it is that this economic model is obsolete, and that we need a new paradigm to address the current issues we’re confronted with, such as ensuring sustainability with soon 9 billion humans on the planet. 

If we reinvent our economic system, the pervasive presence of the clock in our industrialized societies should also be questioned. Professor Sellier’s research suggests that while clock-time clearly benefits standardized activities, it may not be the optimal scheduling style for breakthrough creative work. Maybe it is time to transform our universities and our companies to allow more event-timers to participate in our economy?

Maybe it is time to transform our universities and our companies to allow more event-timers to participate in our economy?


Anne Laure Sellier, Associate Professor in the Marketing department, and member of the GREGHEC is the winner of the 2013 HEC Foundation award for Teaching Innovation. The teaching and pedagogy committee of the HEC Foundation has distinguished Professor Sellier for her course "An approach to (what kills) creativity".

Related content on Strategy

shaking hands - knowledge thumbnail

Generalists vs. Specialists Impact on Firm Performance: The Case of CEOs and Acquisitions

By Denisa Mindruta

Oil infrastructure offshore (Photo Credits: Suksan on Adobe Stock)


CSR Priorities: Why Companies Benefit From Unique Choices

By Leandro Nardi

Photo Credits: Metamorworks on Adobe Stock


Social Media Moderation: Is it Profitable to Fight Fake News?

By Olivier Chatain


How Gender Diversity at Law Firms is Driven By Competition for Business

By John Mawdsley, Rodolphe Durand

Social Innovation
Addressing the "S" Demands of ESG - Editorial
Eloic Peyrache - HEC
Eloïc Peyrache
Professor, Dean