The wrist watch experiment

I haven't worn a wristwatch for over a decade. That is, until about three weeks ago. And not because it was a deliberate plan. I was on a weekend away when I visited a little shop where I bought myself some clothes. At the counter, it turned out everybody spending €100 or more, would receive a free watch. I did not spend that much but I guess the shop was stuck with a lot of them, because they still gave me one.

I thought about giving it away, but then figured it might be an opportunity to experiment. Like many people, I use my smartphone to check the time. But, by doing so, I often get sucked into other distractions: checking mail, messages and other notifications. While all I wanted was knowing what time it was.

By wearing the watch, I could check the time whenever I wanted, without being exposed to the attention-grabbers on my phone. I have turned off many notifications and alarms already.  Often my phone is on "Do Not Disturb" mode, to prevent getting distracted by notifications. But as soon as I look at the screen, I still get sucked into the distractions.

I have been trying to use the watch instead of the phone for telling the time for the past three weeks. Here's what I found so far:

1) It is really weird to be wearing a watch again. I have not gotten used yet to the feeling of something permamnently touching the skin of my wrist. However, it is not as bad as it was the first few days. I kept wearing it for about a week, then decided to put it away for a few days, then gave it another try. Though it still does not feel normal, it is bearable.

2) Old habits die hard. Really hard. I keep picking up my phone to check the time, even now that I am wearing a watch! For the first days I wasn't even aware that the itchy thing on my wrist was there to provide the service of displaying the time. Since then I have become more conscious about wearing it, but I still pick up the phone unconsiouscly to check it. Quickly followed by the realization that I am supposed to use the watch for it. Today, I noticed that as soon as I felt the watch on my wrist again, I check the time on it. I guess that is some form of progress, because it does mean the phone remains untouched.

3) Now that I do start to check the watch more and more, the benefits are more obvious. Especially with the phone on DND mode for a few hours, I am able to stay a lot more focussed on the task I was doing.

There is a whole different question to answer though: : if I am focussed on a task, why check the time? Apparently, I am not that focussed on it to bother to check the time. Or I somehow feel rushed because another appointment is coming up, which also means I am not fully devoted to that task. Most of the time though, I seem to just do it unconsciously and it still turns into a short distraction. Since I move my attention away from what I was doing, I start doing other things after looking at the watch. Strange how that works.

While I want to continue this for another 10 days (I like to give things a try for 30 days to see if they stick), the conclusion is already pretty clear: loose the watch again and be aware of the many times I get distracted  from what I was doing, which seems to start with checking the time. So, knowing what time it is, turns out not to be the goal but a means to break concentration. And that is a lesson learned, and an unexpected result. But a result I can learn from.