Being Perpetually Late & The Cure Called Hourly Chimes
This 1-minute life hack rescued over 200 hours of my time and solved an incurable chronic disease - being late to literally everything!
This one’s about saving precious minutes.
A Story For You
”Hey, where are you?” is the question I get asked the most.
I’m chronically late but never purposefully so. It’s happened enough, for me to identify and label it as second nature. I’m coincidentally successful at showing up late for things that just need someone to be right on time - I was once late for my own birthday party… in my own house. But that’s a story for another newsletter.
I’ve been late to classes, to Uber rides that have threatened to cancel multiple times, to dates, to movies, and unfortunately to other people’s birthdays too. And to all those of you who’ve characterized me as lazy at this point of the story, you’ve not been the first. My closest companions had a customized invitation for me whenever we had to be anywhere. ‘Dinner at 8 PM IST, that’s 7 PM NST (Nikhita Standard Time) for you, Nikhita.’
Even though this probably feels like an advert at this point, there’s more to come. Like any good story with a context and a problem, the following is about a different time: a time when I learned about curing my chronic lateness.
I had a crucial event to attend - a wedding. I needed to be ready by 4:30 AM for the two-hour drive to make it in time. My unsolicited condition had me line up alarms from 3:30 AM all the way up to 4:00 AM. I needed to be up. At. Any. Cost.
But I woke up scatterbrained and half an hour late anyway. I rushed through my morning routine while profusely apologizing to my cousins who were waiting to pick me up. They threatened to buy me a huge clock with deafening chimes for an alarm for my birthday but sweetly followed it up with forgiveness.
After the commotion died down, the car grew silent and I watched the morning sky fade into a soft blue from the window. I unplugged from the world and started listening to an audiobook that had me hooked for the past few days- Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey. In his book, Chris Bailey brought up one of the most fascinating ideas that I’ve ever tried out. It revolutionized my relationship with time and I hope it can change yours too.
It’s called ‘Hourly Chimes’ and apart from showing you exactly where your time and effort are going, it shows you how to manage your days and your life.
Here’s how it works:
As obnoxious as it sounds in the effort of understanding time, you need your phone for this one.
Set up an alarm for every hour of the day from the hour you wake up until you go to bed.
Every time the alarm goes off, scribble the activities you were engaged in, in the past hour, in your journal.
These chimes allow you to reflect if you’re doing what you need to be doing right now.
I know it sounds counterintuitive to interrupt yourself each hour. But these one-minute-each-hour interruptions bring you back to the moment and allow you to understand yourself in more ways than you realize.
I learned so much about myself and how absolutely horrible I am at managing my time. I didn’t know that I spent an hour on breakfast. Or that I only work out for 30 minutes, it’s always felt way longer.
But now I know that if I need to make it to a party at 6:00 PM, I need to start at 5:30 PM since it turns out that I spend around 30 minutes searching for my sock’s soulmate in the laundry hamper.
Now, I know that to have made it in time for that car drive at 4:30 AM, I should have set up alarms for 3:00 AM and gone to bed earlier.
Time feels like a concept that is not understood until a much later stage in life. To realize where my time is spent, I could better allocate it to areas that required it. I don’t want to waste time dwelling over what to wear in the morning when I could have clearly picked it out the night before. I don’t want to be stuck in traffic for more than an hour just because I couldn’t get out of bed 10 minutes earlier. The mantra of ‘Hourly Chimes’ is less of an inconvenience and more of a long-term solution to living a life with few regrets.
When I look back at everything I was late for, it made me realise the domino effect I had on other people’s lives. If I was 10 minutes late, the ripple effect was felt by someone else. That’s a horrible, horrible feeling! And it unfortunately compounds.
‘Hourly Chimes’ has helped me measure what I thought was immeasurable and the truth of life is that you can only change what you can measure.
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A Story From Someone Else
This one’s been around for a long time, even as a couple of forward messages but it is insightful nonetheless.
I attended a seminar once, where the instructor was talking about time. He reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouthed jar. He set it on the table and filled it up with rocks. Then he asked us, “Is this jar full?” Everyone looked at the rocks and said, “Yes.”
He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar so that it fit in all the little spaces left by the big rocks.
He grinned and asked again, “Is the jar full?”
“Probably not,” we said. This time he brought out a bucket of sand that snugly filled in all the spaces left by the rocks and the gravel.
“Is this jar full?”
“Yes,” we replied.
At that point it didn’t seem like anything else could fit into the jar. But then he grabbed a pitcher of water and poured a quart of water into that jar.
Then he explained that the point of the entire experiment was ‘Putting the Big Rocks First’.
The rocks are things so important to you that if lost, they would destroy you: mental and physical health and family.
The gravel is symbolic of all the big things that matter less: your career (don’t be surprised), house, friends, or your car. The sand is everything else, the other “small stuff” in life.
If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. So if you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, you will never have enough space for the things that are truly most important.
A Story From You
Try Hourly Chimes! Of course, it’s going to be annoying to be poked every hour, but you can turn it off for work hours and try it on weekends.
Find out where your time is spent, and if you decide to try it out, tell me how it goes. You have no clue how much I’d appreciate it. I’ve been telling so many of my friends about it, being Chris Bailey’s own ad campaign at this point.
But humor aside, I want you to try this out because it’ll teach you more about yourself than any self-help productivity book ever will. And if you’d like to share one of your days with me, I’d be honored.
Till next time,