In the 21st century we are living in the fast lane – constantly juggling multiple projects and responsibilities, while facing pressure from all angles to be the best we can be in the limited time that we have.
For many, this time pressure is at its most acute in the workplace.
Here looming deadlines and growing to-do lists are inescapable, and according to one researcher, the resulting harm to our health and happiness is exacerbated by one fundamental element – clocks.
Anne-Laure Sellier – an associate professor of marketing at HEC Paris business school and TED talker – believes running on “clock time” alters our worldview and makes it harder for us to feel content.
“When you rely on the clock, you put control of your schedule outside of yourself,” Sellier said last year.
“And we know from psychology that when people do that, they tend to believe that things happen in the world as a result of fate, chance and powerful others… [Since] we increasingly relied on the clock to schedule our activities, we also started to perceive the world as a more and more disconnected place.”
Although it is healthier to live in a less time-focused way, in western society living by clock time is second nature.
We have always gone about planning our day in tightly packed time slots with defined start and finish times. These can be moved and rearranged as necessary and allow us to set deadlines (real and imaginary).
Sellier however believes “event time” is far more effective in terms of productivity and overall happiness.
Event time makes the task at hand the primary element rather than time itself. This means we do one thing then move on to the next thing as soon as we’ve finished. This allows for us to spend as much time as we need on certain tasks and events rather than fretting over whether they get done by a specific deadline.
Adding to the clock dilemma is our increasing use of digital devices.
Recent statistics revealed the average person checks their phone up to 150 times a day (roughly every six minutes) which means we are constantly being notified of the time.
While in some ways deadlines and time slots can keep us motivated and help us put aside time for the things we enjoy, there is always the possibility of greater stress and unhappiness living in a constant state of time keeping.