When I was young, my grandmother promised to buy me a watch when I learned to tell time. With Mom’s help, I did learn, but I wasn’t fast. Not content to give approximate times, I’d carefully count the dots between the major divisions and announce the exact time, as in “It is 10:23.” Then Grandma bought me my first watch.
From them on, I always wore a watch. It was inconceivable not to. How could anyone function without a watch?
But one day, I realized I’d become compulsive about checking the time – even when there was no reason to. I looked at my watch during each of life’s pauses and even more so when I had some place to go. I was preoccupied with time, and that fixation heaped added stress on my day.
I tried to retrain myself, but the habit was ingrained and refused to leave. My only alternative was to go cold turkey. I ditched my watch.
That was over a decade ago. The result is less stress, more focus, and the opportunity to live in the moment. Life is better without a watch.
Now I shift my focus to nighttime. A light sleeper, I never make it through the night without waking up multiple times. My alarm clock taunts me: 12:07, 1:22, 3:15, 4:29, 4:43, 4:57, and so on until morning. I get up exhausted.
For the past two months, I’ve slept in a room without a clock. Frustrating at first, I now accept that I don’t need to know what time it is when I wake up prematurely. Though I’m still waking up throughout the night, it seems less often – and somehow less infuriating. My lack of sleep is less stressful when I don’t have a clock watching over me.
We live in a time-crunched society, with clocks dictating too much of what we do and when we do it. But knowing what time it is won’t give us any more of it and may hurt what time we do have.
Minimizing the number of clocks around me is my small effort to reclaim life and make the most of the time I have.
[This is from the September 2014 issue of Peter DeHaan’s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]
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