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Time Management

Designing to remember "when."

In our pandemic-ridden world, time seems to have developed a whole new cadence—sometimes faster than expected, sometimes slower, rarely “just right.” It’s hard to keep track of whether a week has passed since a discussion or an accomplishment, or a day. A year ago seems as distant as a decade ago.

To help us all keep track of time, we could fill our homes with clocks and calendars, and a few of each are definitely a good idea, but there are more sophisticated ways we can use design to help us deal with our time miasma.

This is the moment to commit to natural and circadian lighting—both will help your body stay in sync with your location on the earth, which is a fancy way of saying help you keep track of what time it is, and reduce your stress levels, too, all while boosting your mental performance and ability to interact positively with other people. So, open your curtains as wide as the thermal power of your windows permits.

To circadian light without fancy investments, make sure that in each room of your home there are some warmer white light bulbs and some cooler white ones. Turn on the fixtures with the warmer lights in the morning and evening and use the cooler lights during the middle part of your day. To even more closely support natural lighting with your electrical lights, it’s great if, during times when you’re featuring warmer lights, that light levels are, relatively, a little dimmer and if cooler lighting, when it’s turned on, is relatively brighter. Whenever possible, it’s also best to place warmer bulbs in lower sockets, such as in lamps on tabletops, and cooler ones higher up, say in ceiling fixtures.

Another way you can mark the passage of time in your home, and to live biophilicly, is to actually change up your décor every few weeks—and rearranging/using what you already have is a great way to do so without spending a dime. Rearranging/reusing can do all the same things for you that buying new might.

This means 2020 may well be a great year for you to actually decorate for the holidays, whatever the holiday season means to you.

Once the holidays have past, look in the back of your closets, under your bed, and wherever else you might have stashed things that now can be swapped into more prominent places in your home to change things up. To keep visual clutter in check, tuck away out of sight one thing currently out on a tabletop, etc., for each one that you “free” from your closets, etc. When the paintings in the living room are relocated and changed out, one by one, over time, for example, and you look up from whatever you’re up to and try to remember when something has happened, you can help identify that past time with clues such as whether the painting of the purple cows was in the living room or front hall during the event in question—and you’ll find out that making changes in places over time will help you develop your inborn natural ability to remember specific elements of various settings.

And modifying things every so often adds a new ritual to your life; rituals also help us keep track of the passage of time. They create a mental latticework that can help you keep track of when things have happened.

Directly considering the “evolution” of the places in which you find yourself, moment to moment as light changes and, over time, as objects change, will make it easier, short-term and long-term, to remember “when.”