I’m a perpetual clock watcher.
The habit started in elementary school. Watching the hands of a clock slowly tick away is boring as hell but not as painful to the brain as 6th-grade social studies or fractions.
A majority of college students pick the seats farthest from the professor. I habitually chose a desk with the best view of the wall clock. If the lecture hall had a clock on the back wall, I’d turn every few minutes to check how much time had passed.
I’d even play little games with myself. “I bet it’s at least ten minutes later. I bet 16 minutes have passed. I wonder if I could turn around every 5 minutes EXACTLY?”
I wonder how I graduated.
I didn’t become aware of this habit until a frigid winter Saturday while stuck inside with the kids. Both were busy in their little worlds while I sprinted from room to room to finish every single chore I’ve put off for weeks.
Every time I passed a clock, WITHOUT FAIL, I’d check the time for no other reason than habit.
It wasn’t until I caught myself and asked, out loud, “what the hell are you doing?!?” did the lousy habit become a real issue that needed addressing.
(Unrelated – both kids reacted to my question as if I were talking to them and dropped what they were doing and said “what?! nothing?!?” even though they weren’t doing anything wrong.)
There’s a clock in every room. On the microwave just inches away from the oven clock which is across from the clock on the coffee pot.
There’s an alarm clock an arm’s length from the bed, the time display on the cable box, the desktop screen and finally the clock forever present on the phone that’s rarely anywhere except my hand.
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Time dominates my day. Late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life yet never technically late for anything.
So before folding laundry and making the bed, I shut off all the timers sprinkled around the house.
The alarm clock got jammed into the kid’s closet. Nothing in the kitchen tells time anymore. I tossed my phone in a desk drawer.
The day flew by, and turning off the timepieces made me a more attentive parent.
I can’t explain this happened, so I went looking for answers. I found advice on how to save time, slow time down, how to stop filling every minute of the day with an activity, how to create more time and even practical advice on how to keep time from kicking your ass during daylight savings.
I even browsed an article about how we’ve all become slaves to time.
But nothing answered the question, “how do I stop letting time dominate my life?”
Here are my suggestions.
1. Don’t have so many clocks around
Seriously, why are there so many clocks around the house? Stop and take inventory and put away or turn off every unnecessary timepiece, especially in the kitchen and bedroom.
You don’t need to know the time every time you face a different way in the kitchen. It’s fine to leave an alarm clock in your room but face it away from the bed. You don’t need to see that’s it’s time to get up, the incessant buzzing should make the time obvious since you set the damn clock.
2. Stop trying to do so many things
Make a to-do list of 2-3 things you MUST DO things in a day.
Once those tasks are done, you’re done.
3. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself about the problem
Are you a slave to time? Does it make you miserable? Is it slowly killing you?
Chad Cooper warns in this Medium piece, “Are you a slave to time?” that an obsession with time might send you to the one place you DON’T want to arrive to early – the grave.
“There are also physical ramifications caused when you are a slave to time. Physically, its abundantly clear that it’s going to shorten your life-span. Lack of time in your mind create stress, anxiety, and tension. In other words, it’s going to create cortisol production in your body that makes you unhealthy, can give you a heart attack or stroke and shortens your life.”
4. Assess the activities that fill your time
Sometimes we fill our days with so many things that really don’t need our attention immediately or even at all.
Before devoting time to any project, ask yourself, “will my life be any better once this task is complete?” You know what to do if the answer is no.
Attacking a stack of books on your nightstand and reading is an excellent way to spend time. Wasting an hour putting those books in alphabetical order, eh, not so much.
5. Take a vacation from schedules
Again, this is tough for parents with multiple kids, chronic overachievers and people like myself who freak out in moments when there’s nothing to do (we usually find SOMETHING) but attempt to take as many vacations from time as possible.
Keeping this in mind is particularly crucial ON VACATION.
It’s in our nature to schedule the days of vacation the same way the weekends get jam-packed – an activity filling every open hour. I mean have you ever taken a vacation to Disney? Visiting the Magic Kingdom comes with more appointments than the typical workday.
With the summer months coming, find weekends where you don’t have to do jack crap and keep it that way.
These suggestions won’t work for everyone, especially chronic over-schedulers, but making just one of these resolutions is worth a shot if you’re habitually staring at the minutes of your life tick away.
If you’ve got any ideas for me to try, leave them in the comments.
STUFF I WROTE FOR OTHER PLACES
- Here are some food habits that are sabotaging your weight loss, and one of them is falling victim to the most dangerous hour of the day.
- Want to look like a superhero this summer? I asked celebrity trainer Don Saladino for some tips on how to get in fantastic shape, just like his superhero clients like Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, and Chris Pratt.
- Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors is one of the most clutch performers in NBA history. How does he stay chill in high-pressure moments? He does something that sounds nuts but works.
- Zac Efron is nursing a torn ACL by working out with Victoria’s Secret models, and that sounds like a really tough job.
- Want to become a master at something? It’s easier than you think.
WHAT I’M READING: The 5am Club by Robin Sharma
Ironic, considering I just ranted about being a slave to time, but The 5am Club by Robin Sharma is a book dedicated about making the most of your day by waking at five in the morning to do reflective work on your life.
The fictional story follows an entrepreneur and artist and their encounter with a bizarre stranger at a self-help conference.
The story can get a little repetitive at times, but the suggestions are worth trying, especially if you’re working towards a personal goal, but life continues to get in the way.
WHAT I’M WATCHING: Tricky Dick and The Man In Black
As a friend of mine put it after watching the documentary, “it’s like Trump 1968.”
It’s fascinating to see proof that no matter how much progress the world makes, people really do stay the same.
Plus, it’s Johnny Cash, and Johnny Cash was a badass.
WHAT I’M GRATEFUL FOR: My little girl, the performer
This weekend, my youngest danced her ass off in her yearly recital. It’s her second time, and she killed it. Not only did she know all the moves, but she looked genuinely excited to be on stage in front of hundreds of strangers.
She’s an entertainer at heart, and hopefully, she never loses her love of making people pay attention.
And a special shout out to my son, who watched intently for the entire 2-hour show. He’s secretly proud of his little sister. It’s obvious.
AND FINALLY, A REMINDER: Father’s Day is June 16th. The New Dad Dictionary makes an awesome gift.
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