Time management Monday: Early planners and the beginnings of clock time

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Great Clock

Last week I mentioned I was reading Molly McCarthy’s excellent book The Accidental Diarist: A History of the Daily Planner in America. You can only imagine how much a planner-person like myself loved this book! It has loads of great examples of how people used their planners back in the day.

But something I had never really thought of before, which Molly does a great job of discussing in her book, is the comparison of early planner use and the beginnings of clock time. In the 17- and 1800’s, clocks were unreliable and had to be set and maintained regularly. They could easily be off not only by minutes but by hours. During this time, people who had clocks and watches noted significant times in their diaries, but generally did not use clock time as strictly as we do today. Train times were accurately noted, and times of births and deaths were recorded. But the majority of users seemed to feel more comfortable with the general times of morning, afternoon or evening rather than specific clock times.

This is so different from how many of us view time today. Of course there are still cultures in the world where clock time is not as rigidly held as we do in the West. But for many of us, if a meeting is to be held at 10 o’clock, we will be considered late if we arrive at 10:01.

Modern planners are designed to help us work according to clock time, to keep us on schedule, and to function in a society where people are expected to be relatively punctual both in work and social situations. Planning your day in your planner improves efficiency and prevents wasting time. After all, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Time is money.” We can’t afford to waste either, can we?

I admit I work to clock time, and use my planner to help me stay on time. But I realize not everyone works by the clock like I do.

Do you work primarily on clock time? Or do you focus less on time and more perhaps on tasks?

One thought on “Time management Monday: Early planners and the beginnings of clock time

  1. One of the greatest pleasures of working for myself is slowly weaning off clock time to “functioning” time except for the days when outside world appointments interrupt. I’m so much more productive working according to my own pacing than I ever was jumping back and forth between tasks according to the whim of the latest management fad. Faster, too! Ditching those interruptions via Apple’s “Do Not Disturb” is the best thing that ever happened to my work day. Too bad corporate America can’t fathom the self-disciplined worker!

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