It’s about time

by Pari

"What is it with all the clocks in this house?" complained my husband the other day. "None of them have the right time."

"Yeah . . . well," I said.

"You know, if you'd just leave them alone, we wouldn't be so confused all the time."

Ah, time.

You see, I have this incredibly weird relationship with it. Basically, I think that time is a stupid human construct with no real purpose but to make us all miserable. So, I mess with its instruments whenever possible. In real terms, that means that all our clocks are off by minutes . . . or hours.

After 16 years, you'd think my dear hubby would be used to this, but it still drives him batty.

On the plus side, my children are both quite good at math. You'd have to be in our house; every clock is an equation waiting to be solved.

Given this strange quirk, you'd might assume I'd eschew timers. But I noticed a couple of weeks ago that my efforts to free myself from the confines of time were thwarted by the little, accurate, clock on my computer. It's a damn distraction.

What could help me focus more on the task at hand and less on the passage of minutes that meant I'd have to stop what I was writing to go pick up the kids or get dinner started?

A timer?

When I was a child, my mother used one to get me to eat my meals faster. So, I had some emotional baggage there, too. Still, when I looked at the tool as a possible aid for my work, it made sense.

Guess what?

A cheapo deapo timer has made a tremendous difference in my focus and output. I'm able to let myself go in deeply to that creative place because I know that no matter how long or short the session, I won't lose myself so completely that I shirk my family responsibilities.

Who'd would've thought that something with a crappy display and an obnoxious alarm could be one of my best friends in my professional endeavors?

So there you have it. Nothing earth-shattering or profound about a timer, but it's really shaking up my way of working.

What about you?

If you could only have one new tool to help you work more efficiently — something small and inexpensive (I'm talking about less than $10) — what would it be?

22 thoughts on “It’s about time

  1. Stephen D. Rogers

    Actually, I’d like a timer, but an electronic one that ran on the laptop.

    As to time, my watch and car clock are ten minutes fast. After my daughter asks me what time it is, she goes, “Okay, so subtract ten minutes. That would be….”

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari

    Nice post. I used to have a digital watch, but I realised after a while that nobody needs to know that it’s 10:02 and 15 seconds. My Other Half has one of these amazing things too upmarket to be called a mere wristwatch – it’s a chronograph, thank you very much, and even has the facility to light up the display so it can be read while wearing night-vision goggles. I kid you not.

    But I now have a very plain watch that doesn’t even have numbers or a second hand. It tells me whether I’m early or late. No more, no less. (It’s also largely ceramic, so I can’t scratch it, even though I’ve been wearing it for year on the arm closest to the ground when I’m hanging out of cars taking very low angle moving shots. It still looks like new.)

    I’d second Louise – I never go anywhere without my Swiss Army knife. I’ve even done DIY emergency dentistry with it – on myself, I might add. No shades of ‘Marathon Man’ here …

    But if I could have one new tool to help me work more efficiently, it would have to be a bit more faith in my own ability to put words on the page in an interesting arrangement.

    How much of that can you buy for $10?

  3. pari

    Stephen,You’d really like one ON your computer? I guess that would work; anything to keep the focus and eyes on the work rather than on distractions. Right?

    As to the ten minutes, well . . . watch out! That’s where I started too.

  4. pari

    Zoe,Wow. I’ve never considered having a “watch” like your Other Half’s. You and I share the same taste in time pieces: simple and durable.

    As to the desire for more faith in what we put on the page. I hear you loud and clear.

    Alas, $10 wouldn’t buy either one of us much.

  5. joylene

    I’m hooked on time. I have a clock on every wall. On the living room wall above the TV there are 3. One is EST, one is Kandahar (our son’s there) and one is PST. I feel like I’m in the news room at CNN.

    Time means everything, and these days, I feel like I’m running out.

  6. J.T. Ellison

    Ah, time. A topic near and dear to my heart. I can’t tell time. A congenital tick, I’m afraid, something in the way my brain works. Some people can roll their tongues over, into a curve, etc. – that’s hereditary. I blame this on my ancestors.

    I can’t glance at a clock with hands and immediately grasp the time, I need to count. Isn’t that terrible? It drove my parents nuts – still does. It’s always a bit embarrassing when people ask me the time, it takes me a second, I have to explain that I can’t read my watch. And I REFUSE to get a digital one, though that was my parents solution when I was younger. Don’t get me started on daylight Savings time… what a joke that is. Messes with me for days. Time zones I can handle, for some reason.

    All my clocks are set five minutes fast too.

    A tool to help me be productive? It might cost me more than $10 in the long run, but since hubby started his own business and is working from home, my productivity has skyrocketed. I’ve found I can’t dilly dally with him in the house working so hard on his own stuff. A good thing for me and my work.

  7. pari

    Joylene,I was just thinking about time and strange it is that we supposedly have all these instruments to give us more of it, but we feel more harried than ever.

    Why is that?

    It’s very cool to learn about your approach to it — utter awareness rather than my odd fight with it.

  8. pari

    J.T.,That’s just fascinating about telling time on a non-digital clock. I wonder what short-circuits the process for you? Curious and curiouser.

    But it doesn’t matter; you’ve come up with a workable solution, though I have to admit I was surprised to learn you’ve got your clocks set ahead. I think of you as such an orderly, organized person that I would’ve expected them to be right on time .

    And it’s interesting that having Randy there makes you more productive. I want everyone GONE! though I don’t get that often–and not for long when I do.

  9. Lisa Hendrix

    I have a timer on my MacBook (a program called, in a burst of programmer creativity, Timer). It sits in the background and pops up front and rings just like my old wind-up alarm clock (it will also count up, stopwatch style). I also have the oven timer, a timer on my cell phone, and an electronic timer.

    Why? Because I left my kids sitting at the school too many times to count because I was writing. Because I start dinner and write in the other room, where I can’t hear the oven timer and too many dinners have burned. Because I write faster when I set a timer for 30 minutes — the “I can do anything for 30 minutes” syndrome. Because even when I try to watch the clock, it’s inevitably those last 5 minutes when I get involved in the story and utterly lose track of reality.

    So yeah. Timers. Lots of them. The most useful under $10 item in the writing world that isn’t pencil or paper.

  10. toni mcgee causey

    JT, thank you for posting that. I have always screwed up the time when glancing at a clock and it frustrated my parents, too. (Who also resorted to a digital watch when I was in high school.) If you asked me the time in the morning and I glanced at the clock and it was 9:30, I would immediately say “a quarter to three” and take a heartbeat to realize, duh, it was morning. Not possible to be a quarter to three yet.

    When I had to travel for appointments (sales), I was always early. I had built in an innate sense of time. [My dad just read that and his head just spun. Yes, dad, I was never ever late, not for a single appointment. I know. I know. You have gray hair because you couldn’t dynamite me out of the bed when I was a teenager.]

    Now? I hate clocks. I used to set them all early, and at different times, too, like Pari, but it drove my husband nuts. I got rid of all the clocks except two — the kitchen clock is mostly for my husband, and we have an alarm.

    My one cheapo tool? A cheap leatherman multi-tool — I think we paid $7 for it: at some sports store. I keep it in my purse (which, surprisingly, has made it past airport security multiple times.)

  11. Jake Nantz

    If it has to be less than $10, I’d say an old-school walkman. Anything to drown out the rest of the world and let me think and live in my own head without the distractions of the TV, or, y’know, a tornado or something….

  12. Catherine

    I came across a new tool(well new to me) the other day while my daughter was about to tear her hair out at purchasing IKEA stuff and then not finding any allen key… The next door neighbour had a thing like a swiss army knife, but it bristled with allen keys of different sizes. In that moment, best thing ever.

    I put a clock next to the mirror that we use to put makeup on/or the simple brush your teeth and get out the door…I think it cost me $5.It’s harder for me to zone out with a big clock face. For some reason I keep thinking I can bend time and put another load of washing on, or tidy this, or answer that email before I get out the door. A dirty great clock is great reality check.

    This just helps me get out the door without that anxious argh I’m going to be late feeling, which in turn is more pleasant for everyone that encounters me.

    Oh and it worked a treat with teenage daughters.

  13. pari

    Lisa,Yep. That’s what I’m talking about! I’ve done many of the same things because I was so wrapped up in my writing that nothing else penetrated my awareness.

  14. pari

    Toni,Getting rid of clocks makes a lot of sense.

    But then what would my children do to continue to hone their computational skills?

    I’m going to check into that leatherman.

  15. pari

    Jake,I went to the library the other day and used those Flints (or flents?) ear plugs. Wonderful, wonderful silence. Got quite a bit done, too.

  16. pari

    You know, a big old clock might be especially good with my daughter who has the visual impairment. Though she’s ALWAYS the punctual one.

    However, like you, I really don’t like to rush; it makes me quite cranky.

  17. Mothrababe

    I can’t wear a watch. They stop while I’m wearing them. When I take them off, they start again. Go figure. Last trip to Japan, I bought a couple of fob watch style things to clip to the purple tassle on my handbag. It was silver with a – you guessed it – purple face. Two hands, not three. I’m sorry, but digital readouts just aren’t classy. :-DThe watch cost me USD $6. 😀 It keeps time beautifully…


  18. pari

    Marianne,I’m convinced that some people have different electric signatures than others . . . or something. I know that I can’t sleep under electric blankets without having shooting pains in my legs AND when I was much younger and was living for a few months in a Ford Van (traveling through Mexico), I could tell whenever we’d parked under power lines because of the same pains.


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