Making Life Better with Clocks

Effective time management is valued by society.

Posted Mar 20, 2019

Punctuality still matters in most of our worlds; society still values effective self-management. The majority of us still need to leave particular places at certain times to ensure that we get where we’re going by the time we need to be there, for instance—whether that next place is a wedding reception, a flight to vacation, or a root canal at the dentist.

Even though being on time is still of great importance to most of us, our wrist watches are not. Wearing expensive, or high fashion watches is a way that some of us send important signals about who we are and what’s important to us but lot’s of people have moved away from wearing watches and rely on their smartphones, laptops, and similar devices for moment-to-moment information on what time it is. And therein lies a problem.

Just as society still generally values punctuality, it also sets great stock in comfortably maintaining eye contact. Those of us raised in the West tend to be a little more bullish about eye contact than people raised in the East, but continuing eye contact is usually seen as indicating concern about what is being said.  

Universally, brief, gracefully made “eye breaks” are important because 100 percent eye contact 100 percent of the time seems domineering and a little creepy, even to people who think very, very highly of eye contact. One of the reasons that table centerpieces of various sorts are so important, for example, is because when they’re present they seem like logical items to catch our eye every so often and capture our attention;  we can look at them without seeming to send a negative message to anyone we’re talking with. 

Whether someone is telling time via a wristwatch or a smartphone, eye contact stops when telling time begins. Maybe because we’ve had so many generations to practice maneuvers for looking at watches, eyes gently drifting to watches occasionally are much more discrete than fingers that need to jab phones so that they display the time. Activating a phone is a clear indication that the activator might have another place where they’d rather be or need to be more than wherever they are now, in whatever conversation is taking place. Tapping on a phone to tell the time is a clear signal to even the most self-centered of conversation partners that the person they’re talking to has the need, for whatever reason, to see if they should be moving on.

To replace those easy, and relatively inoffensive, slides of the eyes to wrists and wristwatches, we need to increase the number of clocks on walls, tabletops, and elsewhere—one needs to be on view to people with all of the likely lines-of-sight in a space. Timepieces that continually display their information can be viewed during the breaks in eye contact that we all need to make from time to time because we’re not sociopaths—because as popular lore details, only sociopaths never break eye contact. Looking towards a wall clock, etc., every so often doesn’t have the unpleasant “I may need to be somewhere else” connotations of bringing a cell phone to life.

As long as society remains committed to being at least somewhat punctual and fewer people are wearing wristwatches, we’ll need to make sure clocks are visible—lots of them, wherever we are.