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Killing time: Do more by ignoring the clock

Mike Elgan | Oct. 2, 2012
Twitpic CTO Steve Corona really knows how to kill time.

Twitpic CTO Steve Corona really knows how to kill time.

He threw his wristwatch in the trash, turned off his microwave oven clock and disabled the time display on his PC. According to a recent blog post chronicling his timeless experiment, he "unsubscribed from the clock."

(My editor might say that I unsubscribed from the clock years ago.)

Corona stopped using clocks, he wrote, because they're stressful and counterproductive. Without obsessing over the time of day, he has become "totally devoured and consumed by creating things."

He says he decides when to stop work and go home by "reading" the sun. (Maybe he needs a wristwatch like this.)

Is Steve Corona nuts? Or is he just ahead of his time?

Why kill time?

Clocks have two basic purposes. The first is to synchronize activity between two or more people. The meeting is at 10 a.m. Let's have lunch at noon. I'll pick you up at 8.

But people are already drifting away from using clocks for this purpose. Instead, we arrange for alerts to sound on our phones and PCs. If we have an engagement, we set it and forget it. When the alarm sounds, we obey.

Theoretically, people no longer need to know what time it is in order to synchronize and coordinate their activities.

The second purpose for clocks is personal time management. Many people take the tasks they want to accomplish, then cram them into time slots. OK, I'll get up at 7 a.m., do email from 7 to 8, drive to work by 9, try to finish my report by 11, return calls from 11 to 12, and so on throughout each day.

This approach is nice in theory, but it gets wrecked on the shoals of today's distraction- and interruption-filled world.

The reality is that when you sit down to do your email, the first message is a link to a YouTube video. The second one is a notification that your friend posted pictures of you and others at his barbecue. Before you know it, you're getting sucked into an Internet black hole of distractions.

By the time you recover and force yourself to get back to your email, you have only 10 minutes left to do it. Then "Rrrrrrriiing!" -- it's your boss calling to interrupt you.

This is why your in-box has 4,391 messages in it. You give yourself an hour a day to do email, but rarely spend the hour actually doing email.

This tug of war between distractions, interruptions and the unyielding fascism of the ticking clock leaves you exhausted by the end of the day with little to show for it.


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