There are 24 hours in day, 168 hours in a week and 8736 hours in a year. In 1953, Larkin wrote that “days are where we live”. In 2006, our collective attention deficit disorder means that we now live in hours. No doubt people will soon start living in minutes, but that’s their problem.
If you allow that a third of those hours are consumed in sleep (an activity that it is very unwise to avoid) that still leaves 112 hours a week at your disposal. Well, almost. Eating, drinking and cooking takes up around 2 hours a day, leaving 98 hours a week. Another hour every day for hygiene (showers, shaving, toilet) gives us 91 hours a week or just 13 hours a day to play with. Then, of course, you have to do the shopping, tidy the house, run errands and perform other miscellaneous tasks, meaning you only have about 12 hours a day, or 84 a week, to create, work and live. The question is: what can one do in 12 hours?
Fortunately, I am lucky enough to work freelance and, thank god, don’t have to commute anywhere (if I was working in central London and still living in Colliers Wood this would have meant about 3 hours a day walking, waiting and tubing). Unfortunately, I am an expert at procrastination and never seem to achieve anything. Days are consumed without a single notable event or accomplishment. I looked back at an old diary and found myself noticing a frequent single word entry: Nothing. Surely I must have done something. But what?
And so, at 4.30pm on the 8 May 2006 and with a sense of expectation in my heart, I activated the hour chime on my Casio F91-W, determined to put my days under the harsh scrutiny of empirical analysis, accounting for each hour as it was lived.
8 May 2006
1600 || So far – after 30 minutes – I have been feeling a kind of disengaged self-consciousness, like that of a group of children happily playing suddenly aware that they are being closely watched by a teacher. What have I done then? Apart from write this, I mean. Well, I’ve read Momus’s blog entry which ends with him proudly noting that he has been called ‘Cunt of the Week’ by some idiot whose idea of satire is to create a website called ITV is Shit. I’ve checked my emails. Downloaded photos. And nothing.
As well as wondering what I am doing with myself, perhaps it would be useful to think about what I ought to be doing. I have spent the day reading, Nobody’s Perfect by Anthony Lane and Time Out of Joint, a superb Philip K. Dick novel about a man who realises that his reality is carefully constructed by the government. Incredibly modern, even though it was written in 59. Very Zizekian as well. Anyhow, I think I’ve probably done enough reading for one day. And, anyway, all my bones ache after getting a big shopping by foot.
Listened to a little bit of Little Atoms. Sorry …
1700 || … all of Little Atoms. Reading political blogs and comments on the internet is a bizarre waste of time. If it weren’t so fantastical it wouldn’t seem real. Feel guilty about not doing Suzi Livingstone. What am I doing? Must. Do. Something. But what. I suppose I could do a weekly review. That might help. Instead, I waste time on the internet, idly clicking around, faintly fascinated by Theo Walcott’s call up to the England squad. I also read 15 ways to live longer which told me to be optimistic, eat kidney beans and get a pet. Oh, and sleep less. 7 hours a night.
1800 || What now? I ring Laura. She says she’ll be home in 15 mins. I make dinner. She isn’t back. I eat alone whilst watching the news.
1900 || Absolutely nothing. Importing songs into iTunes.
2000 || More songs. Songs to upload. Difficult to do anything else because itunes uses up so much memory. Laura’s business card grinds everything to a halt. My photos are awful. Laura shows me photos taken by her Dad. I look asymmetrical and nostrilly.
2100 || Watched Wife Swap. It concerned a family who lived in the Highlands (Isle of Lewes) and a family who lived in urban Burnley. The contrast between the vulgar authenticity of the former and the vulgar reality of the latter was interesting to behold.
2200 || Weekly review … or not. Watched HIGNFY. Started reading Emotional Intelligence.
2300 || To bed … or not. I ended up talking to Laura about how I am obsessed with meta-linguistics, a self-contained loop of meaning that needs to be broken out of if anything is going to be done. She offered a good interpretation of Martin Creed’s The World + The Work = The World by saying that it refers to the fact that in the vast macrocosm, man’s addition is small, but in the microcosm it is big. The Girlfriend + The Boyfriend = The Couple. She says I should think less and do more and I agree.
0000 || After she went to sleep I planned my visit to Loch Lomond. It only takes 30 mins to get there and you can cycle to Ben Lomond in an hour. I want to climb mountains.
9 May 2006
0830 || Supposed to get up at 0600 but my alarm clock didn’t go off (or failed to rouse me). Listened to radio, made breakfast.
0900 || Reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and writing this.
1000 || Meditating. Reading Seven Habits, thinking about how I need spirtuality in my life, how everyone does.
1100 || As a book it has some precious insights, but it conflicts with much of what I know already. It talks of the gap between stimulus and response, but the unconscious plays a far greater role than Covey seems to realise. People fill their lives with negativity and are shocked to find that it is bad. I have to shake off this amazing lethargy somehow and don’t see why it shouldn’t help. I need to be more sociable, involved with people. I need principles. I need to regularly remind myself of those principles. Writing down material from book, listening to Jackson 5.
1200 || Typing up notes from Seven Habits. A couple of more insights. The importance of principle centredness being one that I have most difficulty with, simply because I don’t see myself as being able to keep to principles. I look at this Anatomy and I see that I am looking for answers and values. What are my values? I believe in harmony with reality. I had a quick look at Lao-Tzu today and it was startling.
I had lunch and watched the news. A couple of Tasmanian miners were trapped for two weeks in a cage. They emerged joyously. I can only imagine what it was like for them down there, so intimate. They survived for days on a cereal bar. Australian values of good humour and common sense are far more attractive to me these days.
After them, they turned to David Blaine in his fishbowl for two weeks, attempting to break the record for being underwater. He managed 7 minutes. I wonder why he had chains and cuffs, probably to distract him from the pain and urge to emerge? Cretins with camera phones whooped and shouted, which must have been distracting. He cried. I admire him though. I wonder what motivation he had for doing it.
1300 || Typing up Seven Habits. Asserting myself in my mission statement. Showering, shaving, etc.
1400 || Awaiting the estate agent gentleman. Collating my Sulking Ape notes. Feeling more confident about the efficacy of my Reminders.
1500 || Writing up Sulking Ape Syndrome.
1600 || To work.
2100 || Got back early after a dull time and had an argument with Laura. Watched a bit of TV about Gretna FC.
2200 || Emailed Stephen. Wasted time online. Transferred system back to Entourage.
2300 || Got all my next actions more or less up to date.
2400 || To bed to read Gladwell’s Blink.
10 May 2006
0730 || Woke up early. Neat trick of leaving the curtains open. Worked almost straight away on the Suzi site.
0800 || Breakfast. More work.
0900 || Was rather rude to Laura. Gladwell says that contempt is the sure sign that something is wrong. No, really?! Got quickly ready (though not enough to print maps) and went to Queen St. to catch the train to Balloch to see Loch Lomond.
1400 || Back early, after an exhausting and slightly frustrating experience. V. healthy, idyllic, beautiful, good exercise, but I couldn’t find the mountain. Really need maps next time.
1500 || Feeling achy, I have a long bath reading Blink.
1600 || Sleep and reading. Mainly reading.
1700 || Reading and sleeping. Mainly sleeping.
1800 || Finish book. Listen to news, tidy up, then David Baddiel’s Heresy programme.
1900 || Awaiting Laura’s call. Blink is an interesting book that utilises his unique narrative voice to collect lots of disparate information. It is great journalism, but familiar to people who know something about the unconscious (see Tallis and Goleman). I love the idea of thin slicing, of taking from instinctive judgements from things you know about, I was fascinated by the autism that takes hold of people when their adrenalin is pumping. It all ties in with my current interest in Lao-Tzu and the idea that you should think much less self-consciously. The story of the military simulation where lots of information tends to distract your focus is recognisable in my own working habits.
13 May 2006
1531 || A break from The Hours as I do … nothing. Well, apart from indulge in the basest of soft addictions. I really am a slave sometimes. Have been reading Emotional Intelligence and am fascinated by its insights into growing up and how one is affected by one’s parents emotional reactions.
1600 || Morality and Design notes.
2100 || Another hiatus. Dinner, football, television, hair cut. Christ, when will I ever get anything done? Even watched something on telly about the Da Vinci code (and M:i:III this morning), dearie me. Anyhow. A new routine based on being someone who can become absorbed in his work without becoming self-conscious. Thus, mindful and flowing. To do this, I need to be very disciplined and have the ability to know what I can do and when: in what frame of mind (speaking of which, my hayfever tablets have really got me down). Listening to Chris Morris whilst editing VoodooPads. What a waste of time all this crap writing is.
2200 || Eh?
14 May 2006 – Experiment Aborted.
As we all should know by now, the experimenter cannot help but influence and become involved in the experiment and soon enough (after two days) I found myself living an hourly existence. That is, if I was watching television, I would watch it until the hour was up. If I was reading a book, the same. Life was being distorted. I was becoming hyperaware of the hours of my life, possibly interfering with my potential flow experience as a result. The lulls before the hour ended failed to be transformed into a boost when the new hour began.
Retrospectively, though, it is fascinating and I would recommend undertaking it for that very reason. So much minutiae disappears without a trace that it is haunting to see some of it return.