Minding Time, Or Not

We had a thunderstorm at 4:30 in the morning, I woke to listen for a while smiling when I realized that I didn’t know if the power had gone out or not. Gone are the days when worry about the clocks being disrupted by an interruption in electricity.

Then I wondered, how did we ever allow ourselves to become so fixated by knowing the exact time? There’s a simple answer, we moved from agrarian to industrial society.

Before the industrial revolution time keeping was less important. You worked on your farm or wove your cloth at home, to your own timetable. There were no trains to catch or business meetings to miss. You had a set amount of work to do in a day or a week and you just got on with it. Only with the introduction of factories and factory-like systems did it become important to work the hours rather than doing the tasks.

When I left the work force to stay home with my children, home schooling them, we had little need for watching a clock and began to experiment with avoiding looking for the time.

We realized that if we wanted to wake at a specific time in the morning we simply told ourselves what time we wanted to wake before falling asleep and found we woke up at the proper time.  This was a relief for me as I  hated being woken by the jarring sounds of an alarm clock.

How exactly does it work to tell ourselves when to wake? I don’t have a definitive answer but came across an interesting piece of research that might be connected.

We all have a set of so-called clock genes that keep us on a 24-hour cycle. In the morning they wind us up, and at night they help us wind ….You can think of them as sort of the conductor of an orchestra.  They make sure all the other genes keep time.

We soon found it fun to look at the sky and placement of the sun to se if we could tell what time it was. I still do this today. Upon waking in the morning I often take a guess at the time and then check to see how accurate I was. I’m usually pretty close.

I can’t ignore time completely there are appointments that must be kept. My solution has been to eliminate all clocks from  my home except the one on my cell phone.  On that I will set appointments to notify me a half hour before I need to leave to make the appointment.  This strategy keeps me from constantly checking the time but once notified by the scheduler on the phone of the appointment I have plenty of time to finish what I am doing and clean up without being rushed.

Guests to my home have mixed reactions to the absence of clocks. One in particular is jarred so much he pulls his phone out to check the time so often I joke he might as well leave the phone out.  The grandchildren love the freedom they feel. They wake when they are ready and sleep when they are tired. We eat when we are hungry not when the clock tells us we are supposed to.

I don’t see the day coming any time soon when we can retire all our clocks but limiting them to specific areas of the home helps us to live more intentionally. Just because appliances or electronics in our homes have clocks doesn’t mean we have to set them and have them as a constant reminder of society’s obsession with time.





  1. very interesting

    I think it is les stressful (no time/no clocks) especially for kids….

    mostly what I check times for, is when I want something to cook a certain length, although, I am pretty big on “Oh, it is done, it smells done”

    and, as you, do appointments

    I too can “Tell my mind” when towake, and pretty much do. I will set an alarm, if there is some particular reason to “make sure”, but pretty much wake in time to shut it off


    • It has been my experience both with my boys and now my grandchildren that they are less stressed and tend to listen to their bodies which is how I believe we were meant to live in the first place.

      You are the first person I heard of who can tell themselves what time to wake up. It’s so nice to know my boys and I aren’t the only ones who figured this out.


  2. I totally LOVE this post. If it weren’t for the fact that CatMan and I schedule our phone calls, I’d totally be doing the no clocks thing.

    I watched the movie Cast Away last night, and although I’ve seen it before, it once again filled me with perspective on stuff and time and the craziness of our modern society. While I’m not sure I’d like to be lost on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, the idea of a more basic existence certainly is appealing.


    • Do you have a clock, maybe on your cell phone, you could set an alarm to notify you it’s time for your calls with CatMan?

      I feel for those who still have to live by a clock whether for work, school, or other obligations. One thing we found when we first turned off the clocks was that it was a good thing we weren’t into television because we wouldn’t know when to turn on a program we wanted to see. Of course, that’s a good argument for cutting the cord.

      I enjoyed Cast Away although I felt it was too long. As much as I love my alone time I don’t think I’d enjoy being stranded on an island alone.


  3. I agree that worrying about the time can be stressful and technology has made telling time very easy. But I have also seen that some people like the regimen of timing things and knowing what time it is. One of my sons is like this. He has never had a good sense of time. Has it been 5 minutes or 20 minutes or an hour? He hadsvery little natural body rhythm. His sleep cycles have always been highly variable. Some people, including him, have little internal structure, so they need to have structure from the outside including clocks. He would be lost without his watch. I am just thankful he’s figured out how to get to work on time.

    However, my other son has always had a good sense of time. As a very little child, he could often tell you exactly how much time had passed or how long something would take down to the minute. It was just one of his natural skills. Although he works with clocks now, he doesn’t really need one. I guess that’s good because most of the clocks and watches he is around are broken.

    I am still in the world of needing to coordinate with others in a timely fashion, so clocks are important to me. However, I would enjoy a little more flexibility to my time.


    • How funny that your son who enjoys working with clocks doesn’t actually need them instead of it being your son who does need to rely on them.

      Time hasn’t been an issue with any one in my family but sense of direction I can name several who are thankful for the invention of the GPS


  4. Many years ago I lived without wearing a watch. I had a pretty good sense of what time it was. I still have that ability when not around a clock. I don’t live a life that allows for total absence of time keeping devices. But I can see how it would be totally freeing. And I have never tried just noting what time I wanted to wake up in the morning. When I was working, I used to always wake up in advance of the alarm. Couldn’t stand the sound of it either. But I assumed it was because of a small sound generated by the clock before going off that would wake me … but maybe not!!


    • I learned I could wake myself up at a specific time because I wanted to beat the alarm clock going off. You might subconsciously be doing the same thing. Maybe there’s an experiment in there for you. 🙂

      I completely understand that not everyone has the luxury to live without alarms but I my point was to plant the thought that we don’t have to be slaves to a clock every minute. I’m sure you have days off when you can ignore the clock and do what you want.


  5. I have a very good internal clock and can usually tell you the time you within a few minutes without looking. As a teacher my life was timed to the minute, with the class changing every 50 minutes and material to be covered and activities carefully scheduled into each 50-minute period. All day long grating buzzers reminded me: hurry, hurry, hurry, move on, move on to the next thing. I seldom had enough time to complete anything to my satisfaction, always having to quit “when the bell rang,” and pick up the next thing.
    When I retired and was living alone I freed myself from all clocks and vowed I would never hurry again. It was wonderful! It was one of the best gifts of retirement.
    We have clocks around now but we only pay attention to them when we have an appointment that day. Otherwise we can live in our natural rhythm, which is how it would be. Not easy to do in the times we live in unless one is tired, though.


    • The freedom from clocks is an amazing gift, it’s a shame most have to wait until retirement to experience it.

      I am amazed by teachers, you included. Not only do you have the schedules and those bells going off all day but then the restrictions in how you teach get thrown at you. It’s surprising anyone wants to be a teacher.


  6. I stopped wearing a watch 20 years ago when I got my first cell phone, so that is my reference during the courseof the day/night if necessary. Yes, I can also tell myself what time to wake up! And I have a very punctual stomach – my husband jokes that he knows it is midday when I get hungry 😉
    Also, my dog is extremely punctual, she knows before I even open my eyes that I have woken up and if she gets up to stretch and looks intently at me late afternoon I know it is 5 pm – feeding time!! This has fascinated many over the last 13 years when I say oh, it must be 5, without looking at a clock. It always is.
    Although I do have a small clock in my home, I tend not to take much notice of time and to go by feel unless I have an appointment to keep or a train to catch. I set my cell phone clock good and early so I don’t have to rush and chose a more pleasant melody as my warning tone as I dislike loud jarring alarms (some people have the most awful tones on their phones :o). Visitors often suddenly notice the time and say it’s later than they expected so I’m guessing that’s a good thing?!
    However, not everyone has a good circadian rhythm (day/night) including my husband, and it seems to me that it makes life quite difficult not to be in step. But then it’s a cultural thing, too – if there was no need for clocks even my husband would continue to eat and sleep, just not at culturally “normal” times!


    • This is amazing to learn so many other people are in touch with their own inner clock! I’m a lot like your husband. While I know what time it is in the day I am a night owl who prefers the quiet of the middle of the night hours and sleeping in to late morning. So definitely not cultural normal times here.

      I’m lucky my cell phone alarm starts off really quietly and gradually gets louder. I notice the horrible ring tones on some people’s phones too. I notice it in those people who crave attention because the remarks they get about their ring tones lights them up.

      I wonder if you dogs are sensing the change in your breathing or something that lets them know you are waking. Dogs are being used now for children with epilepsy because the dog will alert that a seizure is about to happen.

      And as for people losing track of the time when visiting…I’d say that means you are a wonderful host. 🙂


  7. We’re not as dependant on time when we are ‘on the road’ but it can get confusing as we head north and the days get shorter. When we’re getting near to a time zone change it really throws the body clock.


  8. When I retired from my work three years ago.. Yes.. 3 yrs have flown.. 🙂 I stopped wearing my watch and have not bothered putting one on since.. If I do need the time while out, such as to get back to a parking lot in time.. I use my phone.. My hubby has an internal clock.. He only has to set his intent on waking at a certain time and he does. Years of getting up at 4 am for the bakery I think..

    But the more you go without using a time piece.. the easier it is to tell the time of day..
    Try it.. I often when out walking with my hubby will say I bet its about such and such a time.. and he will look at his wristwatch and I am only usually 3 to 7 minutes out..

    The most important thing about Time.. Is to make the most of it, and not waste it..
    So Have a wonderfully productive week Lois..
    Love and Hugs
    Sue xx


  9. GREAT post on time, Lois. I have real issues with time. I am always with a clock and a wristwatch. Even at night. When I wake up at 2:30 or 3 a.m., I have to check and see if it’s reasonable to get up or roll over and pretend to sleep some more. I am also blessed with the ability to wake myself when I have to be up at a certain time. I can usually guess what time it is and am usually right. Don’t know why I can’t let the watch go.. I’m very time oriented. Maybe one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My main problem with the people I know who live by the clock is that everything has to come to a stop for meal times. In the summer, who wants to eat until it cools down? Yet they stick to set times regardless if anyone is hungry yet. You will let go of the clocks when, and if, it feels right. Don’t force yourself before that.

      Liked by 1 person

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