The time I was a able to experiment… with time

We’re probably talking about 15 years ago now… my youngest daughter hadn’t been born and I was working for IBM.

When working in their Global Services division, you are often moved between customer accounts, particularly as they flex how many staff are allocated to different customers. This happened to me – they removed me from one account and put me “on the bench” (their term) whilst they allocated me to another. It was only once they did this that they realised they had a problem – my contract, which had been inherited from my previous employer, had a restriction on where, geographically, I could work.

It took them 2.5 months to realise there was only one solution and assigned me back to my original account. Meantime, I had 10 glorious weeks, fully paid, at home, with nothing to do.

So, with that kind of rare freedom available to me, I decided to experiment.

I’ve always been a believer that we’re way too bound up by the conventions of time. We eat at set times, get up to an alarm and do everything according to a clock or watch, one of which is rarely out of our sight. What happens if you ignore all of this? Eat when you’re hungry and sleep when you’re tired. So that’s what I did.

And, it turns out that I’m a natural “night owl”. I would usually go to bed at 5-6am, get up around late morning. I often only had around 5 hours sleep but, because I did so when I was “ready to drop” and only woke when I wanted to (i.e. no alarm clock), I felt fully refreshed, as if I’d just had 8 hours sleep. Instead, I had 3 more hours each day. Memorably, my wife got up to work one morning, to find me in the living room, ironing, whilst watching The Matrix. After she went to work, I went to bed.

I slept less but also ate less too, as I found that I was eating when I was hungry rather than “because it’s breakfast/lunch/dinner time”.

If you ever get the chance to do this yourself, I’d recommend it. If you do, hide your clocks, otherwise, you get bound by the usual conventions again. Use timers instead and, if you do need to know the time for a particular event, set alarms rather than rely on glancing at clocks or watches.

I may never get a chance to do this again but, whilst it lasted, it was an interesting insight to how we’re bound by the conventions of time, all of which has a negative impact of our health as a result.


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