Landsiedel NLP TrainingNLPNLP LibraryTime-Line Work

Time-Line Work

Use your timeline to systematically plan your goals and gain clarity in incorporating your past personal experiences into your future. Develop an irresistible vision.

Eliciting the timeline

This page describes the basic idea of the timeline and how to discover a timeline to use for later work.

Basic idea:
How do we manage to encode memories in time, so that we know immediately of two different memories, which is earlier, and which is later? How does our brain differentiate between future and past?

The basic hypothesis is that our brain spatializes temporal differences. This has been empirically confirmed in many people.

The discovery of a timeline puts us in a position to make a large number of changes in a very short time.

Basic idea:
Take some daily activity such as making coffee, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, taking a shower or something similar.

1. The Past

Remember (or just pretend to) as you

  • Made coffee this morning
  • Made coffee a week ago
  • A year ago, .......
  • Five years ago, .......
  • Ten years ago, .......

Now pretend to be able to perceive these memories all at once: how do you know that one memory is older than the other?


Useful questions

For example, are these memories all in the same place or are they in different places or at different distances? Are they all in the same brightness/colour etc.?

Is there anything to hear and if so, is it the same loud/quiet, the same sound quality etc.?

Do you have the same feeling to all of them / a different one / no feeling at all?

2. Future

Imagine (or just pretend to) how you

  • Will make coffee tomorrow
  • Will make coffee in a week
  • Do in a year, .......
  • Do in five years, .......
  • Do in ten years, .......

Now pretend to be able to perceive these future activities all at once: how do you know that one situation is farther in the future than another?

3. The whole timeline

Act as if you could now perceive these situations from the future and the past all at the same time:

How do you know that one situation lies in the past and the other is in the future?
What is the crucial difference in the submodalities (VAKOG) of past and future?

4. Draw your own timeline!

Timeline types

Here are the two characteristic timeline types:

The In-Time type and the Through-Time type (also Out-of-Time type) are presented and explained with their properties.


The timeline passes through the present point in time (in the body).

  • People live well in the here and now (you can enjoy a party very well, no plans in your head, you are where you are)
  • Ability to be punctual (overview of the timeline is required) is poorly pronounced. (total overload)
  • from the back to the front
  • not everything visible in front of us
  • Time is flexible / schedules rather unimportant
  • Memories mostly associated
  • easy to focus on the present


Timeline runs completely outside of the person.

  • westwards
  • left to right
  • Past, Present, Future
  • visible in front of us, manageable
  • ordered existence / schedules rather important
  • Memories usually dissociated
  • harder to stay in the here and now
  • I have paid and I want all the time I’ve paid for

Some people can change between the two types very well, e.g., on holiday. Acting in the now.

Spatial configuration of the timeline

Different spatial arrangements of timelines are possible and are presented here in their peculiar forms.

There are quite characteristic forms, e.g., time bumps, time horizon, that are the expression of a specific traumatization.

Time horizon

With this type of timeline, the person in question can no longer visualize future images due to this horizon. However, this does not automatically mean that their lives are endangered or insecure, although that does happen. Example: Heart attack patient sees only a black hole in 3 years. At shorter time periods: fear of death.

Time hole

Here there is a period of time that is difficult or impossible for patient to visualize. If you want to make an appointment with this person within the next 7 days, then you have no problems. But if you want to know if you can go to the theater together in 14 days, you will get the answer that he cannot plan so far into the future, because he does not know, if he will feel like it, etc. But if you want to know whether this person would be willing to go to America in four years, you will get a definite answer.

Time bumps

This timeline comes from a man about 40 years old. He had a divorce three years ago, which was still bothering him a lot. If you asked him how the last three years had gone, he could talk about it normally. The same was true for his future. However, the moment he talks about something three years in the future, he becomes depressed and expresses despondency and hopelessness. However, his mood changed immediately as he looked further into the future. Obviously, his grief for the past influenced his vision of the future.

In addition to the bumps or holes, the "angle of attack" of your timeline is important. This refers to the angle your timeline has to the horizontal. Your timeline can be horizontal, ascending or descending.

Language patterns

The types of timeline and the way we represent time are represented by our language and expressions. Based on the vocabulary used, we can draw initial conclusions about the timeline.

What difference do you notice in your response to the following phrases?

  • Think of a time when you were hiking.
  • Remember the last time you went on a hike.
  • Think about how you will be when you are hiking.
  • Think of a time when you will go on a hike.

And now I invite you to be in the distant future and to think back to a past experience that has not really happened yet:

Think of a time when you will have done a hike.

1st therapist:
"So you have had anxiety? Is that how you felt?"

2nd therapist:
"So you are afraid? What is it that always frightens you?"

We constantly influence ourselves and others with such speech patterns. This is what we achieve, what we want?


  • That's behind me!
  • That's in front of me!
  • Time is running out.
  • Looking back on something.
  • There's a lot coming up for me.
  • The past overtakes me.
  • I’ll go past that, etc.
  • The time is on my side

Removing holes and bumps

Here's how to free timelines from holes and bumps.

  1. Imagine that your timeline is like a clothesline and that the individual pictures are pinned to this line, pulling the line down where they are pinned; then imagine how someone pulls on this line so that the bumps disappear.
  2. Imagine how you would like to have your timelines and ask someone to place their hands where you want each picture to be. Then imagine the respective picture at each place.

    Make your timelines aesthetic, e.g., straight or parabolic, without bumps and overlaps.

Design criteria

  1. Future and past should be clearly distinguished: e.g. front-back, left-right
  2. When the lines cross each other, it makes you sick.
  3. It is unfavorable when timelines are reversed so they can be confused.

The submodalities of time

Discover the special features of your timeline. For some, this is one of the most impressive sections in your NLP training.

In which system of representation do you first perceive your timeline, how does it develop further? Suppose you could still (see, hear, feel, ...) your timeline. How it is now?

Location / direction

  • from back to front; left to right; right to left; from top to bottom
  • far away / near
  • where is your future, present and past in space?
  • at what distance are past, present and future from you?
  • does the timeline go through you (associated) or is it outside of you (dissociated)?
  • is it above you / below you (height)?

Type / Form / Extent

  • Line, bow, arch, spiral, parallel lines, various strands, electricity, loop
  • Stepped, on one level, height differences
  • Line with photos, a film, a road, a beam, a microchip, scale 1: 1, hose, islands in the sea
  • Limited / unlimited; interrupted / continuous


  • color / black and white; light and dark; sharp-blurred; transparent-opaque
  • spread out-crowded; small-large; near-far


  • moving-stationary; jerking-flowing; still photo-film; fast-slow


  • loud-quiet; clear-unclear; high-low, fast-slow

Feeling / small / taste

  • intensive-neutral; pleasant-unpleasant; connected-unconnected; available-unavailable; attractive-repulsive; enthusiasm-indifference; happy-sad; easy-difficult; dense-airy; perfumed-odorless; tasteless-savory, etc.

The more flexibility you gain with the submodalities the time, the greater your understanding of the perception of time of other people and cultures. And the more you use your freedom to use your brain and not just possess it.

Experiment with submodalities of time

1. Change the characteristic submodalities of your timeline

and discover how that changes your feelings and perceptions. Make sure you can return to your original timeline.

What affect does each change have? Which submodalities make the biggest difference?

a) Change:

Direction, extent, form, arrangement of past and future, being associated or dissociated with the timeline

b) Change:

V:Color, brightness, sharpness, size, distance
A:Sounds, noises, voices, volume, pitch, background music
K:Intensity, quality of your feelings

How does this change your perception? What would you feel more comfortable with than before? In what situations could it be useful to you? Make sure you return to the original submodalities of your timeline (ecology).

If you want to keep a modified timeline, set a time frame as a trial period (ecology) or determine the contexts in which you want to have this variant available as an option.

2. Try out the SMs, that others use in their timelines.

How does this change your perception / your feeling?
Make sure you return to the original SM of your timeline (ecology).

3. Try out another person’s complete timeline.

How does this change your perception / your feeling?
Make sure you return to the original SM of your timeline (ecology).

4. What advantages and disadvantages can certain representations of time have in certain contexts?

Try out how your own representation of time is in different contexts. For example: Once when I was depressed, very busy and successful, during an absolutely relaxing holiday, in love. What differences in the SM of your timeline can you determine and what reactions do they cause in you?

5. Experiment with SMs of the future:

For example

  • How is it for you when the future is very close and very detailed (10 years are only a tiny step away from you)?
  • What is it like when it is very broad and out of focus?
  • What is it like, if the next few days are very clear and close, but the remaining future is rather unclear and far away (or vice versa)?
  • When today stretches to the front door, next week to the street, etc.
  • What if the future is dark and small, or bright, tall and shiny?
  • What if you install a symbol for every wish you have in the future?

What reactions do the individual variations trigger in you, what could you do with such a future representation well? What less well?

6. Play with individual and (sub-)cultural differences of the timelines

How might the future of a dynamic-optimistic, or that of an oh-it-all-has-no-point type be designed?
That of a future-oriented manager / of no-future type / of an archivist, a future planner / of a punk, a pedant / of a notorious unreliable?
What is the timeline of a nun, a globetrotter, of a Bedouin compared to an Englishman? etc.

A tempting future

The Tempting Future format is a technique for planning your future and preprogramming it on the timeline.

It contains 8 steps that are explained here in more detail:

  1. Goal setting: Find a goal that you would like to reach, for example, in five years. Think about who you want to be then, in which areas you want to do something or not, how you want to live, with whom, what is good for you. (Well-formedness criteria)
  2. Visualize the goal: dissociated self-image. Now visualize an inner image of this goal, so that you can see yourself from the outside. Should and can something be optimized? (SM)
  3. Place the target image on your timeline. Visualize your timeline. Where do you want to place this target image? Choose the place where you feel / think it's just right. Associate and check if everything is ok.
  4. Go into dissociation and see if anything is missing. If so, send the resources that are missing there, improve the submodalities. Associate again and check "from the inside", if everything is right now.
  5. From Dissociation: What else do you need now to reach your goal?
  6. Now find on your timeline all the resources that are still important and anchor them. Distribute them where you will need them (activate anchor). Check: Is something missing? If yes, repeat the process.
  7. From the present: how does your future attract you, how does your past strengthen you, how does all this give you a direction in the present? (Check).
  8. Future Pace