I Removed the Batteries From the Clock. Here's What Happened

Auriane Alix
Enjoying life without incessant ticking.
Photo by Adomas Aleno on Unsplash

What is time?

Numbers. A loop. An endless repetition. A human invention, based on the phases of the sun. An indication, intended to help us build our activities and life around it. A way of looking at our days objectively — which can sometimes be useful, for example in organizing meetings.

Time is nothing more than that. And I’ve come to realize that, for most of us, time goes beyond its status as a mere indicator to become an authority.

Hungry at 11 o’clock? No, wait until noon to have lunch, it’s not time yet! Sleepy at 10 pm? Come on, you won’t go to bed that early!


Spoiler alert: you already have a built-in clock

And it’s much more efficient. As long as you learn to feel it again.

According to Vanessa Ogle, assistant professor of history at UPenn and author of “The Global Transformation of Time”, before the end of the 19th century, time was not so important. Precise time was important to sailors and some businessmen, but for most of our ancestors (who made a living by working the land), a general sense of day and seasons was enough to get by. (source: GBH)

“This all changed with the Industrial Revolution, and new technologies like the railroad and telegraph, which made the world increasingly connected. Without accurate, globalized time, though, a burgeoning era of commerce and travel could have faced some serious roadblocks” — (source: GBH)

So time was invented to take the train and work in the offices. That’s why you wake up in total darkness every morning and starve in front of your computer every day at 10:30 am.

We are totally disconnected from our internal clock. Why would we need it, since we have an objective one, running at the same time for everyone? It’s much simpler, isn’t it?

“The disconnect between our internal, biological time and social time — defined by our work schedules and social engagements — leads to what Roenneberg calls social jet lag, a kind of chronic exhaustion resembling the symptoms of jet lag and comparable to having to work for a company a few time zones to the east of your home”, explains Maria Popova in BrainPickings.

Except that there is a problem behind it, which we tend to ignore: we are individual human beings, with individual needs and desires. Since we can’t decide that from now on, on Monday everyone should eat pasta and on Tuesday meat, we can’t decide that noon is devoted to lunch and 2 p.m. to siesta.

I’ve always had a problem with schedules. This was especially evident at work when I was locked in an office for whole days, a situation that made me question a lot of things about the meaning of life. I never really understood why we would have to work from 9 am to 6 pm, if basically at 1 pm we couldn’t concentrate anymore, and that concentration comes back in the evening. And why should we wake up at 7 o’clock if our body needs more rest, or wait until 9 o’clock to sit in front of our laptop when we are ready to work at 6?

Well, I do understand. Our societies need order, and objective time is part of it. We couldn’t organize some aspects of our world if we didn’t have specific business hours, meeting times, etc. So it makes sense. But the authority we give to the clock may be excessive.

For the past few years, I have slowly but surely removed the batteries from the clock, without really being aware of it. I work for myself, as a writer and translator. Which means that I don’t have a boss. The only boss I have is deadlines. If I meet them, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Recently, I have also started to live my dream life as a digital nomad. I am writing this from Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and two weeks ago I was in Lisbon, Portugal. Actually, it’s Sunday morning, and I’m working.

Why am I working on a Sunday morning, you may ask?

Well, why not?

It’s time to get rid of all those absurd schedules you’ve locked yourself into

If you have a day job, fine, you probably can’t do what I do. But you can still do part of it.

I already mentioned that you have a built-in clock. It’s time to live more according to it. To learn to listen to it again. To feel it. It’s still there. Society has only taught you to ignore it.

Have you ever waited for the clock to show a specific time to eat, even if you were starving? Have you ever delayed bedtime, even if your eyes closed? Yes, so have I. But I don’t do that anymore. If I’m hungry at 11 o’clock, I eat lunch. If I’m not hungry at 1:00 p.m., I don’t eat. It’s as simple as that. You have a day job and you can’t eat whenever you want? Pack easy to eat foods and eat them at the coffee break.

Don’t let the numbers on a clock dictate what you need. Have you ever heard of intuitive eating? Well, the principle is the same. Eat what your body tells you when you feel the need to. No more limits or rules. Just you and your needs.

Do you wait for certain hours to pee? No. Then why do you do it to eat, or to take a break? Because you’re afraid to go nuts if you remove the limits? I don’t think so. On the contrary, the more limits we impose on ourselves, the more the cravings take over. Look, you can drink water whenever you want, right? Do you abuse it? No. There you go.

Getting back in touch with such signals, with your body, is incredibly liberating. It gives you a different perspective on your days and saves you from the many inconveniences we inflict on ourselves, just for the sake of numbers.

This is nonsense. If you pay attention to the signals sent by your body, you will hear your own clock. And living according to that clock, and nothing else, is the key to certain well-being, both physical and mental. It is a very basic, but thrilling freedom.

Final Thoughts

Why would you want to apply the rules of time to things that absolutely don’t need them?

I understand that depending on what your life is like, your obligations, engagements and so, you cannot be totally free with the use of your time. But there are still some aspects of it that you have control over. Find them. Find what’s right for you, and throw out the rest.

Take back control over the areas that you can control.

Get back in touch with your basic instincts, your basic needs. Take the batteries out of the clock, and enjoy the feeling of living without a constant ticking.

From now on, your day is no longer divided into portions, into segments, into immutable parts. It is now a continuous thread of time, a moment in perpetual evolution, which is your rhythm as you wish.

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