A Chindogu Clock for Procrastinators

From the 2007 Archives Personal, Productivity #SILLY 68 Comments

The Procrastinator's ClockSetting one’s clock ahead by 15 minutes is a useful trick for procrastinators. I do this myself with my alarm clock, not that it ever does me any good, in the hopes of being a little bit earlier out of bed. This comment by “Vadi” in Academic Procrastination gave me pause:

If this advancing clock can be done for dates it will be great. Perhaps you have a Calendar that is a day in advance? But somehow that idea still looks far fetched. Any good suggestions?

That does seem far fetched, but I got to thinking about why the “set your clock ahead” trick works. I think it presumes the following:

  • You have a terrible sense of time, or are obsessed by last-minute details, either of which cause you to be late.
  • You actually do care being on time, but your friends have started keeping a separate timetable just for you thanks to your legendary unreliability.
  • Enough awful things have happened because of lateness that you’ve resorted to pre-emptively tricking yourself by advancing the time on all your watches and clocks.

Now, the problem is that you know that I know you know you’ve already set your clock ahead, so you cleverly take this into account and end up being even later. It’s a vicious circle. What we need is a way to channel fear and anxiety positively, while keeping you from getting too comfortable with your clock.

Enter the Procrastinator’s Clock. It’s guaranteed to be up to 15 minutes fast. However, it also speeds up and slows down in an unpredictable manner so you can’t be sure how fast it really is. Furthermore, the clock is guaranteed to not be slow, assuming your computer clock is sync’d with NTP; many computers running Windows and Mac OS X with persistent Internet connections already are.

So why go through all this trouble to make a clock that’s sometimes fast and sometimes not? FEAR, UNCERTAINTY and DOUBT, my friends! If you use this clock to keep appointments and deadlines, and you really care about being on time, you have to assume that the clock might actually be telling the correct time though it’s likely to actually be up to 15 minutes fast. Yikes! All that anxiety should give you a good kick in the pants to get moving, because you can’t really trust the clock to be anything but on time, even though it probably is fast.

Get all that? Click here to try it out. It will open up into a small window.

I offer this clock in the spirit of Chindogu, the Japanese art of creating almost useless objects. Technically, the clock maintains a “time buffer” of “fastness” measured in milliseconds. This buffer is modified every second by a certain amount, either adding or subtracting a number of milliseconds. Every once in a while, the delta value changes and the rate of change may increase or decrease. The time buffer is added to the actual time before the display calculations are made. The whole point of all this is to keep ya guessing as to what the real time is. The clock should be, on average, about 7 minutes fast, but betting on the law of averages in the short term is a good way to screw yourself. So just assume the clock might be on time, but accept it’s probably fast. Since you don’t know if it’s fast by just a few seconds or several minutes, it’s safer to assume the clock really is telling the right time, which is just what you should be thinking :-)

Incidentally, there’s a Procrastinator’s Watch that weights the minutes instead, which is genius. However, it’s far too reliable and therefore relatively easy to “game” by clever procrastinators. To be useful, we really do need a clock that’s reliably unreliable and predictably unpredictable to keep them guessing—and motivated—in the right way.

There are now three versions:

Enjoy! ;-)

If you liked this, you might find Regift Receipts, Chain Letter Breaking Certificates, Social Yardsticks and Gauntlets of Productivity interesting too. For more serious tools, check out the Printable CEO Series.

UPDATE: For those of you asking for physical versions, I’ve been made aware of a patent already covering the same idea.