10 ways to break free from the clock

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

A slow-paced life is about not being tethered to this society’s rules and standards. It’s about operating on your own time and moving at your own pace.

Most of us aren’t going to go live alone in a cabin in the woods, free from our responsibilities requiring adherence to the current standard of timekeeping. That being said, we each can do small things to change the way we live. And change the way we interact with time.

If you want to break free from artificial time, here are my suggestions:

Forget the idea that things should be done at a certain time.

The cacophony of experts (and company supervisors) have instilled a schedule for life. Wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, lunch at noon, work until 5, home, dinner, TV, sleep. Wash, rinse and repeat.

It took 2 weeks at my first “real” office job out of college to find out that living this way made me miserable. I could never envision living this way until retirement.

Your individual body has rhythms, cycles and energy peaks. There is nothing wrong with keeping your own cycle–days in which you choose do certain things (i.e. laundry). But you don’t have to choose to do certain things because of the numbers on the clock.

Things can get done when they get done. Doesn’t matter the day, time, or year.

If your body needs to do something, get up and do it. Don’t look at the clock. I have a habit of checking the time to see if I “have time” to do certain things, or if it is “right time” to do it.

You need to pee? Do it now.

Hungry? Go eat something.

Thirsty, drink water.

Body wants to move? Get up and exercise.

You could adhere to what experts say about what you should do when. (Exercise in the morning, eat three square meals, etc..) But I bet your body could tell you. Now obviously, addictions (food, drugs, tv, and others) disrupt the body’s ability to communicate with you properly. But for most of us, listening to our internal cues will serve us well. Plus, this is a gateway to hearing that inner voice.

Maybe you’re like me and you’re committed to posting a blog post on certain days of the week or have work deadlines at a specific hour. Stick to it. But watching the clock during the entire process ropes you into artificial time.

The key to reducing the pressure of getting it done “on time” is to avoid procrastinating (and perfectionism).

Don’t let people force you onto their schedule.

In American culture, being “on time” is being polite and considerate of others. Understandable. However, having someone stand over you, barking out the minutes as they pass causes too much tension.

Seek ways to add flexibility to your life.

If you work for a company, ask to work from home a few days a week if possible. Negotiate different work hours. Consider a new profession. Find another company that recognizes that you are a human being who might prefer to work outside of 9 am to 5 pm.

What about overbearing deadlines? Are you always running out of time? Ask for an extension. I did it all the time in college. If you’ve already proven yourself to be reliable, an extension should be granted. And if extensions aren’t permitted, maybe you are in the wrong business or work for the wrong company. A business that values products and money more than your health and sanity isn’t a business for someone wanting a slow-paced life.

Change how you think about what is “on time.”

There are vast cultural differences in what is considered on time. In Japan, one minute is considered late. In the United States, five minutes of tardiness is about all we’ll tolerate comfortably. In the Caribbean, parts of South America, and in other parts of the world, anything from 30 minutes to an hour or more “late” is still considered on time.

In the business world where time is money, it may be difficult to throw American conventions out the window. But you can decide how to schedule meetings and appointments. Consider being spontaneous.

Consider giving other people “more” time.

Don’t force your expectations of “timely” on other people. Give people room to be “late.”

Instead of saying, come by my house at 4 pm. Tell them to come by anytime between 3 and 6, or after four, or in the late afternoon. If you’re really feeling bold, say come by “later” without specifying a time. Giving people a range of times gives them an opportunity to move more at their speed.

If you are in a position of power as a supervisor or manager, and set schedules and deadlines for others, consider how people are able to function in the time you give them. Instead of asking for that report on your desk at noon, tell your employees anytime today. Or instead of today, say this week.

If you are a parent, you are in a position of power over your children. You set their schedules. What you envision as a quick trip to the grocery store when it opens, may not be possible. Your child may need time to play before they are ready to get dressed. You may not make it to the store until midday. Not to mention, your child may want to look around the store a bit longer than you intended. Forcing them to move at your pace will undoubtedly result in a yelling or tantrum–by them or you.

Stop making other people adhere to a minute by minute, or hour by hour schedule. Stop watching the clock and pushing them along. Allow others to have flexibility and move at their pace.

Practice patience.

Time your usage of screens and artificial lights during daylight hours, otherwise, use sparingly.

Artificial light will disrupt your circadian rhythm. If you want to end your dependency on the the clock, you need to be able to operate in sync with the day. If you want to go to bed when you’re tired, and not when the clock says you ought to, avoid using bright artificial lights and screens after sundown. It will be easier to notice when the wave of sleepiness hits if you aren’t under a bright light or staring at a screen.

In my experience, bright screens and artificial light affect me less when I use them during bright day light hours. However, 6.5 hours of screen time, can delay bedtime by 3 hours.

Turn off clocks where they aren’t necessary (and can be turned off)

If I hadn’t turned off my clock in the task bar, I would have looked at it 20 times since starting this post. To what end? My daughter is currently sleeping. I know it’s still morning. I know my husband wont walk in the door in five minutes hungry for dinner.

I just looked at the clock area again. If it was there, I would know the “time.” And what exactly would it tell me? If it is 9:32 am central time, and I have no specific obligations today, what good will it do for me to know that information, right now?

Watching the clock allows me to check my productivity–Making sure I’ve accomplished enough before I “run out of time.” I will spiral into negative thoughts if I haven’t “achieved” anything at a fast enough rate:

If I’ve been sitting at this computer for 3 hours and haven’t written a full blog post with pictures and all the good stuff, what the heck have I been doing? Can’t I be more efficient? Why aren’t I better writer? I’m a procrastinator. I waste too much time… The list goes on and on.

Without the time, the post gets done when it gets done. I might need to warm up my brain by writing a post that may never get published. I might need to clear my mind of all the junk that’s currently festering.

If I’m operating by the clock, I’m on an achievement mindset. A business mindset. A time=money mindset. I’ll think, I’m wasting time and money. I’ll stress myself out and wont move in sync with the natural order of things.

But if I’m operating with my natural rhythms,and the rhythm of the universe, the post will get done at the “right time.”

Turn off phone notifications- they tether you to the clock.

Useless notifications, the ones that notify you about things you don’t care about will have you looking at your phone every 20 minutes. And looking at your clock. And not making good use of your “time.”

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Lose yourself in something you love (preferably not on a screen) and don’t worry about how long you’re at it.

Play an instrument, read a book, go for a hike, draw, paint, color, play a sport, or write poetry. Well-loved hobbies have the ability to suspend you from space and time. They allow you to live in the moment and enjoy life.

Listen to your inner voice

We each have a quiet little voice inside that tells us what to do. Much like the body’s voice, its always there. Some people call it God, some people call it your soul, your intuition, your gut… Whatever you call it, your inner self knows how to move in tune with the universe. If you follow it, everything will be done “on time.”

Do (almost) everything your children want to do for a day. Play on their schedule!

Young children have no sense of time. Obviously, you have to set limits. Meal times and sleeping have to be prepared and monitored by adults. But my daughter did a great job helping me make pizza. It became a fun activity instead of something that needed to be done “on time.” If you want to take “kid’s day,” seriously, plan in advance: meal prep and just go with the flow.

You probably shouldn’t stay at the park until midnight or in the bath after the water gets ice cold. But play is a great way to immerse yourself in life.

Give up clocks for a day/the weekend and live by sunrise and sunset.

I did this for a week and it changed the way I think about time. It helped me stop assigning meaning to certain times on the clock. If I’m hungry for lunch, I eat. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 am or 2 pm. I don’t force myself to wait until lunchtime to eat.

I’m more in tune with my body’s needs and my daughter’s needs.

And the day has more than enough time in it.

How do you stop living by the clock and live in the moment?