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On several failed experiments in schedules and timekeeping

I have no clue why, but I regularly convince myself that living by a 24 hour clock and 7 day week is somehow okay for everyone else, but not for me. For me, there must be a better way.

So far, it looks like I’m wrong about that. Here are a few things I’ve tried that absolutely did not work.

Biphasic sleep

In 2018, my wife and I read some article (maybe this one) about how people in the middle ages used to wake up in the middle of the night and … do stuff. And then go back to bed.

We both had schedules flexible enough to try it, so we did.

After a week of exhaustion and disorientation, we settled into the habit. We would wake up at 3am or so and write, or read, or do work, for a couple hours. Then sleep again for four hours, then wake up mid-morning and go do a normal-ish day.

It lasted a few weeks before we gave up. Turns out it takes a lot of thinking and planning to map a nonstandard schedule onto collaboration with normal humans who keep normal schedules.

It’s 3:30am and I’m writing an update for someone on my team—if I want to propose a meeting at noon, is that “today” or “tomorrow”? Or do I find a way to phrase it that avoids using either word? Great, now it’s 3:30am and I’m trying to decide what “tomorrow” means.

I gave up. Now I just sleep at night. It makes communication and collaboration much easier. But you know what doesn’t make communication and collaboration easier? Timezones.

Only UTC

This was a well-intentioned and extremely dumb experiment.

I decided that I’d use Coordinate Universal Time for all my scheduling needs. Changed my phone and calendar timezone to UTC, sent meeting invites in UTC. Tried to retrain my brain on fundamental concepts like “6am” and “12pm”.

I succeeded only in making myself think harder and feel confused more often. After about 5 days I went back to living in my local timezone and have not looked back.

Lunar newsletter

After writing a Friday newsletter for months and months, I decided I needed something new. I don’t think about my newsletter as a businessy thing, so why am I on the standard five day workweek cadence? What if I sent out a newsletter every full moon, and every new moon?

That’s half as many newsletters as the weekly schedule; hopefully I’d find I have more to say. But most importantly, hopefully the ritual would drive me to pay more attention to rhythms that actually exist in physical reality, rather than some arbitrary divison of time.

I got a lot of nice feedback on this change! I’m clearly not the only person longing for a closer connection to natural cycles, or feeling constrained by the seven day week, or both.

But here’s what I found: sometimes a full moon falls on a Saturday. And I usually don’t sit down at my computer on Saturdays.

Because no matter how much I might wish to transcend, hipster-like, all normative conventions of timekeeping, I still participate actively in the economy. Which looks like typing on the computer Monday through Friday. And I need periodic breaks from that activity, which looks like not typing on the computer quite as much on Saturday and Sunday.

So I missed a moon, and then another, and finally decided to go back to sending a newsletter every Friday. And you can sign up for it at the bottom of this page.

    © 2024 Brian David Hall