I lived without time/clocks for a week. Here’s what happened.

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

I am a strong type A person and it has caused me a ton of stress throughout my life. Even though I’m a work-at-home mom–now–clocks and calendars have always been oppressive.

If I know I have something coming up, be it 3 hours or 1 hour, I become anxiety-ridden, unable to do other things because I’m thinking about my upcoming activity.

The clock is like the Queen of Hearts, screaming “Off with her head,” at a time infraction.

I have always envied the lackadaisical attitude of Type B personalities that say, “it takes as long as it takes.” I’ve looked down on people who are always late–I thought, well, they just don’t know how to manage their time. Don’t you know you need to factor in at least 50 percent more time than you think you need? Type A at heart, I like predictability, being on schedule, without deviating.

But now I’m always late. I’m racing the clock to make it “on time.” I check the time every two minutes. Why? because I have a little person who couldn’t give a rat’s butt whether it’s 11 am or 7 pm. She does what she wants to do when she wants, and there is no reasoning with her, really. She exists on her own “schedule,” her own “time” and there is no escaping.

The question was, do I desperately try to continue to force everything into place, or do I let things happen as they will? Do I let the clock–the minutes and seconds–yank me around on a leash, or do I set myself free?

Like any prodigal child, I wanted to try freedom. Thus, the no clock experiment. The rules were simple: No checking the time. I gave myself some leeway, permission to check it during the 30 minutes before my early morning classes, but outside of that, no checking.

Day 1-Thursday Afternoon

I’m excited. Anxious. I don’t think this will be difficult because–well–I’m a stay at home mom. If one worked, this experiment would be significantly more challenging, but I’m here to try it for those of you who don’t have the luxury.

My first day is a half-day. Time to prepare, tell my husband of my plans so he knows not to tell me the time.

I set alarms on my phone for the classes I teach the following week. Remove the clock widget from my main screen I figure if I’m not going to look at the time at all, I won’t want to have to go into my phone’s clock app if I lose track of the days.

I hide the clock in the taskbar on my computer. I set the microwave clock as if I’m going to start a timer because there is no way to turn it off. My phone clock in the upper right-hand corner is very difficult to ignore. I don’t know how I’ll survive the week if I accidentally find out the time when I check messages or make phone calls. Still trying to hide the clocks on my phone…

Later:

Turns out hiding the clock on my phone status bar is impossible without “rooting” the device. Phone clock avoidance may be challenging. I can unlock my phone with my fingerprint, so I don’t have to look at the time on the lock screen. But my eyes travel to the upper right-hand corner of my phone automatically, by habit. It’s a compulsion really. Clock addiction– No, time addiction.

Generally no other issues in preparation for the first official full day. I’m prepared.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Day 2-Friday

The first thing I did was check my phone this morning. Why? To check the time. Force of habit I guess. I managed to remember and not look at the lock screen. It felt sort of dumb to check my phone when I didn’t really want to or have a message or call to return.

Turned on my computer. Thank you Windows 10 for blasting the time at me on the lock screen. Trying to figure out a way to hide the time on my lock screen.  Apparently, you cant do it. The only solution is to disable the lock screen…There are ways to remove the clock but it seems too complicated.

I couldn’t find an easy way (through the settings) to hide the lock screen clock. By making a registry entry I can completely disable the lock screen. I’m pretty adventurous. The instructions were simple enough that I could follow them. My computer didn’t burst into flames. Here’s how I did it: https://www.windowscentral.com/how-disable-windows-10-lock-screen.

As I’m sitting here writing my notes, I remember that apartment maintenance is supposed to be coming today. I like to wear clothes and look presentable during the hours they might show up. Since I have no idea when that is, (when 9 am is) getting ready for the day as soon as I get up is the best way to do this. I’m immediately prepared for anything that might happen. I’m compelled to get up now and do it, but I want to write a little longer.

Later

Also, avoiding the clock seems to stave off procrastination. My goal is to take care of everything as early as possible in the day because, well, who knows how much “time” I’d have to get it done? Somehow, I feel like I had more time than I had before. It’s as if the day stretched out to accommodate my tasks. The day feels shorter when I’m constantly monitoring the clock.

I’m wondering how the phrase: “A watched pot never boils,” applies because it seems as if the opposite applies here.

I manage to put my daughter to bed before she got overtired today, a miracle–although she already was overtired because she refused to nap. I went into a panic thinking that it was late after the sun went down, so I got her ready for bed ASAP.

I accidentally find out what time she fell asleep after I put her to bed. That is only because I want to keep my Duolingo streak, and that clock in the status bar of my phone calls my eyes to it like an addict to a drug.

I ate when I was hungry today. I didn’t go to bed when I was tired because I put my daughter to bed apparently very early and I had loads of time to watch TV. Not really the best way to spend my no clock evenings. But it was a start.

Day 3- Saturday

I woke up this morning tired. I should have gone back to sleep, but it is hard to resist writing when I’m the only one awake. I accidentally found out the time, on my phone. But since it is Saturday, maybe I can ignore my phone more since I won’t be texting my husband.

I’m writing but now I have the urge to get ready for the day. Like it can’t wait because I don’t know what is in store for today. I don’t know if it’s my soul nudging me, or this experiment, but I feel the need to take actionable steps.

Later

I decided to braid my daughter’s hair this morning. She wouldn’t sit still long enough to let me finish them all, even with access to YouTube and other kids’ apps. I’m frustrated but I found it easier to let it go.

Her father was able to convince her to sit still a little longer. By this time it felt late in the day. I wasn’t sure if we could complete all of the errands.

My little experiment was very easy and simple until I left the house.

Clocks are everywhere. I forgot about the one in the car. It stared at me the second I got in. It wasn’t as late as I thought. It runs fast, and I was habitually staring at it the whole afternoon in the car. Good thing I wasn’t driving.

Alas, we did not leave the house early enough to make it to a shipping store before it closed. I thought I could chuck my package in one of their shipping drop boxes, but it was too big. Anyway, no stores are open after 1 in the afternoon.

Had I known, I wonder how stressed I would have been if I tried to get us out of the house early enough to send off my package. My only thoughts were, oh well, I’ll do it tomorrow. The sheer fact that there was nothing I could do, and that I hadn’t stressed myself to high heaven, made this simple inconvenience less bothersome.

While not in stores, I successfully ignored my phone. I definitely was watching the clock as my husband suggested additional errands. I felt the old anxiety creeping back in. I forced myself to pay attention to the sunlight. And not think about how it was after 4 and we should get home to make dinner and do all of those things so I can get the baby (a toddler, really) in bed before it gets late.

Needless to say, we made it home within a reasonable amount of “time.” Without the clock back in the house, I was able to function a little better. Although I constantly had this nagging feeling that it had to be almost ten o’clock. My husband kept reminding me, it’s not as late as you think. A small comfort for the girl out of time.

Day 4Sunday (Superbowl Sunday)

I had two goals for today: Walmart and Kroger. Very simple. And then get my daughter to the park because the weather was uncharacteristically beautiful. It was warm. Had I been thinking about the time the whole day, I may have decided to skip the park because I would have felt there wasn’t enough time. I’m glad we went.

I still felt myself concerned with guessing the time. When the amount of people leaving the park started to exceed the number arriving, I surmised that the Superbowl would be starting soon. (I’m on central time, while early, it also had to be later than I wanted to be out.) Although, I had no idea what time the Superbowl was supposed to start, so there’s that.

I’m still in awe at how much can be accomplished when generally ignoring the time. This day never would have occurred as beautifully as it did had I been staring at my phone clock, or checking it impulsively.

Image by chezbeate from Pixabay

Day 5-Monday

I woke up in the middle of the night feeling semi-rested so I decided not to check the time. I took a chance that my alarm wouldn’t go off in five seconds and went back to sleep.

This was probably the busiest day.  I had to rely on the in-classroom timer to know when to start class. What started out feeling like an un-rushed morning slowly spiraled into a small panic over IT issues. Technical difficulties on the teacher’s end can cause a big problem with my job. Fortunately, everything was sorted out in time.

After class was the doctor’s appointment. I got us ready and out the door five minutes later than intended, but we still made it on time. I only checked the clock one time while getting ready, and again as we were walking out the door. In the car the time watched me again, but I didn’t dwell on it this time. Also, I didn’t check the time once during the doctor’s appointment. (We ended up being there for an hour and forty minutes.) My stress levels were at an all-time low.

Today, I had to pick my husband after work. This necessitates clock awareness. I decided, that after spending a little while playing on the neighborhood playground. We would go spend the afternoon at his practice before bringing him home.

It was colder than I thought it would be outside on the playground, so I kept checking the time to see if we had spent enough time there to justify leaving. If I wasn’t cold, and if I wasn’t checking the clock, we probably would have been out there longer. We dressed more appropriately for the weather at practice, and I was able to leave my phone in my pocket. The nice thing about ignoring the time is I can play with my daughter without worrying about what must be done.

My daughter took an early evening nap. She had been up since my class at 5:30am and I felt bad, so I let her do it. Usually, the consequence of my daughter taking a late afternoon/early evening nap is that she is up until 11 pm, or later.

I was not supposed to know the time, but I saw it a few times. I managed to get her ready to get in bed by 8:45. Way earlier than I would have had I been monitoring the time every five minutes. And I was way less stressed about her not getting in bed “on time.”

My girl has now figured out that she can delay bedtime by going to give her daddy more hugs and kisses. So there was that. I have no idea what time we actually went to sleep. But I managed to go to sleep earlier than I usually do when I have early classes the next day

Image by nile from Pixabay.

Day 6-Tuesday

I think I got too lax and checked the time overnight too much. I woke up a few times, and since I had a class this morning I wanted to know if I should go back to sleep or not. I am not one of those people who likes to sleep 5 or 10 minutes if I know my alarm is going off soon. I usually won’t go back to sleep anything if I have anything less than thirty minutes. But I checked. I still went back to sleep though.

Except for last night, the clock time has less meaning for me these days. I’m sad to think that the last day of the experiment will be tomorrow.

I can’t believe how much MORE time I have because I ignore the time. Making decisions based on how soon sunset is, feels more natural. And I’m not sitting around calculating how long different things are going to take. Which inevitably takes up a ton of time and causes me to procrastinate. Now, the question now is, can I finish before sunset? Its usually a yes or a no. And it’s way easier to decide if I want to start on something.

Using the proximity of sunset as a litmus test helps me tune into my daughter’s sleep/wake rhythms a lot better. It helps me plan my cooking–I make many things from scratch. My latest project is sourdough bread, and there is often a ton of calculating involved. I was relieved to not have to think about it so much.

Image by Grégory ROOSE from Pixabay

Day 7Wednesday

I spent most of the day writing. I had my early morning class, for which I needed the time until the class got started. But after that I ignored it.

Today I served my daughter dinner really early, thinking it was late afternoon. An accidental glimpse at the clock told me otherwise.

My sense of timekeeping is very off.

I don’t plan on turning the clocks back on my computers or microwave once this experiment ends.

This week I experienced time in an expanded way. My days have felt infinitely longer. I’m not sure how that it is possible.

All week, when the sun went down, my body started to tell me, “go to bed.” I think the sun goes down around 5 or 6 pm here. Most days I was sleepy way before my usual bed time. But it occurred to me. I’m usually sleepy by 8 or 9 pm, but I often ignore that signal because “I have stuff I wanna do.” I may have stayed awake past my initial sleepy time cue this week, but I went to bed far earlier than normal, and with the exception of Tuesday, felt more rested all week.

I engaged in far less emotional eating, and eating because it’s “meal time.” Without knowing the actual time I was forced to eat when I was hungry, and not eat when I wasn’t.

Without the clock as my master, I can hear my inner voice telling me to do things. I don’t want to listen any better than normal, but I can hear– I’ll have to come back and write a little later….

Image by WILLGARD from Pixabay

Conclusion (TL;DR)

This week was amazing. It was far from perfect and I checked the time more often than I intended to. I still managed to live most of the time without knowing the time. The week overall was very insightful and gave me the opportunity to live differently.

I am doing everything I can to extend this experiment and make it into a way of living. I check the time on my phone, occasionally, on purpose. But deep down, I don’t want to know. It is very difficult to stop a lifelong compulsion. Part of me still feels like some things have to be done by a certain time. When in my situation, adhering to a clock serves very little purpose (except when I’m working).

I still wish there was a simple way to hide the clock on my computer taskbar and phone, and this will be a factor I’ll consider when I’m shopping for a new phone.

Ignoring the clock helps me live in the moment and attune myself to my body’s internal rhythms and needs (and my daughters rhythms and needs). I’ve noticed I need more rest. I noticed I’m feeling way more tired than I’d been willing to acknowledge before this experiment.

Before this experiment, I stopped trying to make my daughter take a nap. She’s only two, and she definitely needs one. But according to all experts, she needed to take it early in the day, preferably ending before 3:30pm. Well experts be damned, she would want her nap at 3:30 or later. Thus impacting her night sleep and creating a cycle. Without knowing the time, I could let her be. Let her sleep and wake when she wanted. And in a way, that is easier than trying to conform to all the research that says I’m doing it wrong. Now all that matters is that she is getting enough sleep.

And quite frankly, with her naps on most days restored, I’m feeling a bit more like myself. Also, she might not need a nap every single day. Experts, how does that factor into your research?

I still turn my head to the microwave clock every time I pass by. I still pick up my phone like I’m going to check the time–for no reason at all. The compulsion is still there, but it is one I’m working to break.

I realize not everyone has the luxury of attempting this experiment or living completely clock-less. Clocks are great for collaborating with others, but they aren’t so great when they cause stress. For the sake of living a slow paced life, significantly reducing clock use is something to work towards.

If you work full-time and rely on the clock for your job, consider ignoring it on your days off. Consider turning the clock off on your taskbar (if you’re a PC user). Consider setting “warning” alarms for meetings, appointments, and “clock out” time. Find a way to minimize staring at the clock all day.

If you’re a stay at home-mom-with kids in daycare or school, consider setting warning alarms to drop-off or pick up your kids.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom like me, with few time-specific obligations, I encourage you to try this experiment.

Every thing doesn’t work on schedule but everything happens on time. I believe that now.

Have you ever tried ignoring the clock? How did it go? Would you live without clocks if you could? Tell me about it in the comments.

Published by Talia Clay

The author is a graduate from the University of Miami who studied English and Psychology and a graduate from the Nova Southeastern University with a Master's Degree in Writing. She loves salsa dancing and spending time with her friends and family.

2 thoughts on “I lived without time/clocks for a week. Here’s what happened.

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