An awareness of the passage of time – and where you are in it 

Like the knowledge of truly understanding how long activities require (see my last blog post), it’s vital that you can place “where you are” in your day in order to stay on target.  Being able to sense whether you’ve spent an appropriate amount of time on a task or if it’s grown to consume your entire morning is key. 

We’ve all heard the saying “Time flies when you’re having fun!”  That’s so true.  And I’d suggest that it doesn’t happen exclusively with tasks we find “fun”.  We all lose track of time on occasion but for some, it happens regularly.    It can feel great to immerse yourself in an activity, but not if you end up overlooking, or lacking time to accomplish, other – also important – tasks.

If this is an area you want to improve, here are a few ideas to try

  • Use a Timer.  Yep, that simple kitchen timer concept is a classic.  This works great if you have a tendency to hyper-focus.  The idea is that you identify how long you want to spend time on the task, set a timer to notify you when time is up and then get to work.  When the timer goes off, stop the task.  You can then decide if more time is needed – and if you should do it now or schedule it for later.  You may even find that the awareness of a “deadline” helps you stay focused on the end goal with less chance of getting side-tracked of spending too much time trying to make it “perfect”.
  • Set audible “reminders” to note time.  Think about that clock you may have had – the one that chimes the hour (or maybe even every 15 minutes).  Well that frequency may be too extreme but the point is, you’d hear it chiming off in the distance and could note the time.  You may find that an hourly notice is helpful; others may opt to do it more infrequently.  Maybe mid-morning, lunchtime, mid-afternoon, and 30 minutes prior to the end of the workday.  Whatever works for you.   Having it be a regular notice can help you start to pick up on where you are in your day.  It may not signify that you need to do anything or switch tasks, rather the goal is to improve your awareness of how those sections of time pass – what it feels like to have that section of time (15, 30, or even 60 minutes) pass  and how much you are able to accomplish within it. 
  • Set routine activities you do at the same time daily.  Whether it’s having a prescribed time to check email or get up and walk around the office to stretch your legs, building routine can help ground you time-wise.  Think beyond the workday too.  Having a set time to wake up – as well as to turn in – is great for helping set your mental clock. 
  • Switch to analog clocks.  That good old-fashioned clock face gives a visual that digital just doesn’t provide.  Similar to watching a timer count down, being able to “see” the arms move on the dial can make minutes and hours seem more realistic.  You can easily change the clock on your computer face and if you are one of the few who still wear a watch – make it analog.
  • See the sun.  Use that walk through the office to stretch your legs as a time to also go look at the sky for a bit.  Working in interior offices or keeping our focus on our desktop can hide the reality of time for us.  If you can stop and look outside at least several times through the day, you can sense time with the placement of the sun. 
  • Don’t view computer or phone screens in the hour leading up to sleep.  I’m sure you’ve all seen studies done recently on how this “tricks” your mind.  It perceives the light as daylight and triggers our natural pattern to wake up.  If you already struggle with time awareness, you really don’t need to throw in extra tricks to help throw off your body clock.

Cindy B Sullivan is a Time Management Consultant and Certified Professional Organizer.  She works with individuals and businesses to help them be more effective, efficient and productive.  Connect with us online (www.cbSullivanConsulting.com) to receive regular tips, links and events.   Free consultations available.  Email [email protected]