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Running out of time? Wear a watch.

January 26, 2014

Everyone loves their smartphones, I know. Why wear a watch when you can just look at your phone? It’s gotten to the point that many offices and conference rooms don’t bother with wall clocks, presumably because anyone in the room that might care about the time of day will just look at their computer or phone when needed. What’s the problem with those options?

Well, for one, electronic time keepers tend to display the hour and minute in digital format, rather than analog (more on that in a second). Two, it is actually kind of cumbersome to pull your phone out of your pocket to check the time, especially if your hands are full. If you’re on the phone, you might find yourself pulling the device away from your ear, missing out on what the other side of the conversation is, and then having to wait impatiently for the screen’s face recognition software to turn the display back on so you can see the time. And, of course, it’s often difficult to look at a phone without someone you are speaking with getting the distinct impression that you don’t have time for them. Though it’s less of a problem for the younger crowd, older folks (you know – over 30) have a hard time digesting the concept of chunks of time when looking at a digital read out, as opposed to the very visual information found on the pie-shaped analog clock face.
Aside from all the social issues of using something other than a standard watch, lacking a wrist piece can also cause you to miss out on some prime time management help. I’ve already mentioned the visual nature of an analog watch – somehow, it’s easier to grasp the relative amount of time passing, or remaining, when you have a big circular gauge to go by. If it’s 9:00AM and I have a noon appointment, I can obviously determine the three-hour difference regardless of the clock I use, but the analog face instantly tells me what portion of my day that actually represents. It’s one thing to know you have a two-hour meeting, and another thing entirely to know that it will take up half of your afternoon. This kind of visual representation can make it easier to quickly weigh your decision to accept or reject certain appointment requests.
Another great benefit of watches is something I use in any size meeting. At the beginning of a meeting that requires a time limit, I take off my watch and set it on the table in front of me, about two feet away. I use the band to prop up the face and just leave it there without mention. What this allows me to do is check the time at my leisure without anyone actually seeing me do it. In a typical conversation, people tend to look down a lot. When seated, one tends to look at another person’s hands on the table. These visual cues are indistinguishable from checking a watch sitting on the table a couple of feet in front of you. Of course people notice the watch, and of course they know why it’s there, but they will forget it right away and not think of it again during your conversation. Can the same be said for checking your cell phone, looking down at your own wrist, or looking over their head at the wall clock?
One last benefit I’ve found with wearing a watch is a feeling of synchronicity. In the morning, a couple of times a week, I take 60 seconds or less to synchronize my watch with my cell phone. It’s a simple task that helps me bring my mind back in line with the world around me and the tasks ahead of me. It’s not often that my watch is off, but the act itself has the same effect.
When it comes down to it, a wristwatch is a statement – both fashion and personal – that lets you take back the one thing technology never seems to grant us more of: time.
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