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A conscious relationship with time

Getting the time has been a remarkably irritating experience lately.

The time is everywhere, yet I can't seem to remember it when I see it. It just doesn't register, and when I do, it's just an empty number.

Last year, I bought my first watch as an adult, a Casio 5600. My baby boy made his first teeth on it. Lost it. Twice.

I was hoping to recover some autonomy from my phone. It partially worked. I looked at my phone less while wearing it.

Then, I inherited a Fitbit that I wore for a couple of months. The tracking, poor fit, UI, and nature of the object really didn't work for me. Wearables, in general, seem to go against all rational intentions to have a healthy relationship with time by removing the "intuitive" aspect.

Nowadays, I use my phone. I got a case with really awkward buttons (unintentionally), which made unlocking/waking a terrible experience. So, I rarely do it. When I do, too much stuff on the screen distracts me. I tried a few configurations like no widgets, solid color background, turn off all the things... but with the latest iPhone, even the subtle motion of the wallpaper and the unlock icon seems to grab enough of my attention to rob me of the 1.5sec it would take to read time and shut down the screen. The swipe-up is so reflexive that I always end up on the home screen, where I have already forgotten why I unlocked it in the first place.

I have a particular hatred for desktops' default clocks. Squinting to see them at the top or bottom right corners reveals how pointless they are. Surely a computer should give the time, like a microwave, right?

Practically speaking, I need to keep track of time for many reasons. The big one, as a remote worker, is that daily life depends on improvised time management: the time between meetings and work blocks is where the soul breathes: walks, food prep, workouts, family breaks, appointments, and naps.

Most screen clocks use numbers to denote the time. They don't require any effort to read. Analog clocks require just a little more effort to read. This little bit of friction is what it takes for me to register. Beyond the simple numbers, the dial and hands visually convey times in meaningful chunks. These days, the only time chunks I see are on my calendar, oppressively stacking, leaving gaps of « free » time.

So I got another watch—an analog one. The presence of the object on the wrist feels odd. It's underwhelming. There is no screen, no steps, no heart rate, no battery indicator, and a real strap! It's barely legible at night!?

I grew up with an analog steel watch. I remember liking it because it made me look and feel like an adult. I vaguely remember my parents prompting me to teach me how to read the time. Beyond this, I never cared much about watches. I know there are the geeks, bros, and elites out there, knee-deep into it. Of all the rabbit holes, the watch enthusiasts community is one of my favorite. Because the gear ultimately leads to contemplation. Whatever the kind, it's ultimately to stare at it and look at time pass delightfully.

I'm not nostalgic about analog watches, though. I like the idea of journeying from wearables back to analog. At the same time, I also concede that modern tools are relevant in dealing with the contemporary world.

I don't need to reclaim my time. I've never had a great relationship with it. As a new dad, I've only recently realized how much time I waste as the cost of my quirks and OCDs.

If what is out of sight is out of mind, then having the thing on my wrist is a potent way to develop a conscious relationship with time. It's a backward move, but it may be what it takes.

← Index / Published on 2024-04-01