Just a few weekends ago, I had the most unusual experience of waking well rested and blissfully unaware of the time. For the mere moments before I dared to look at the clock, my mind raced with the possibility of the day ahead. Considering Sunday unencumbered by the passage of hours, minutes and seconds was pure joy. What I had to do and what I wanted to do seamlessly melded together leaving me ready to embrace all of it instead of parsing out the imperatives from some stolen bits of pleasure.
That particular vantage point reminded me of research I’d recently heard about clocks and creativity. The study’s authors suggest that there are two kinds of people: those that follow clock-time and those that adhere to event-time. People who abide by the clock are more concerned with efficiency when working at planned tasks whereas event-driven folks are concerned with effectiveness and doing things well (Avnet & Sellier, 2011). The researchers say an individual’s preferred approach depends on societal and culture factors along with how her brain is wired. Everyone apparently uses a mix of the two but greater reliance on one may impact how we feel about how much control we have over our lives, productivity, creativity and happiness.
Naturally, business has an affinity for clock-time devotees. Deadlines matter, especially in the marketing communications world. Thankfully, we get paid for thinking and acting well within some very short windows of opportunity. I can’t help but think this isn’t truer now when electronic devices put time within arm’s reach and more often in the palm of the hand. We seem to operate in a constant of acceleration where moments matter—and not the Hallmark variety. A colleague recently shared a pointed story about this very notion.
While on vacation, he and his family consciously chose to be present with one another during dinner by avoiding use of phone or tablet. They tossed their devices along with $20 to the center of the table. First to reach for technology lost his money. What would happen if for one day—from dawn to dusk—we employed a similar exercise while on the job? Might we challenge ourselves to work differently? Would turning off the clocks and the accompanying sense of urgency actually heighten our ability to problem-solve and rev up creative juices? Could you…would you…even just for a little while?
I can’t imagine resolving to do many things including committing to being an entirely event-driven worker. That said I am willing to try just about anything once. As I look forward to new and exciting work in the next weeks and months, I will endeavor to spend time at thinking and doing sans clock. I will happily report if this effort leads to an awakening—creative or otherwise.