The Time-to-Go-Home Clock

It’s Works-for-Me Wednesday, and I’m very busy at work today with not much time for writing, but I’ve been thinking about a simple thing here in my office that really works for me:

I have a small digital clock-radio plugged into the same power-strip with my computer and monitor.  At the end of the day, I shut down my computer and then turn off everything at once using the button on the power-strip. (That saves energy, compared to leaving the monitor in sleep mode all night as many people do.) There’s no battery in the clock, so it doesn’t keep time overnight.  That’s a problem, right?

Wrong!  My handy clock tells me how long I’ve been here!  When it’s blinking 08:00, it’s time for me to wrap up what I’m doing and go home!  This has saved me untold hassles and childcare overtime fees.  The clock sits on the desk just behind my mouse pad, where its blinking doesn’t annoy me but I see the number every time I glance toward the mouse to align my hand on it.

I don’t need a clock to tell me what time it is because my computer (which does have a battery) shows the time in the corner of the screen.  The thing is, what with child- and transit-related delays, I don’t arrive at work at exactly the same time each day, so I used to waste a lot of time trying to recall exactly when it would be time to leave.  More importantly, I tend to do my best work in the mid-to-late afternoon, and it’s a kind of work (data management for a multi-year research study) that can become very absorbing as I figure out what went wrong in which algorithm that led to this pattern of encoded responses . . . so once I get going, I can keep working happily while I become late for everything and get overtired and hungry.

Originally, I bought the clock-radio so I could listen to the radio, but I discovered its time-management ability when I was pregnant and coming to work at strange times because of my unpredictable hours of morning nausea.  Even when not queasy, I was very tired all the time, but I was determined to live up to my bosses’ trust in me to work 8-hour days with flexible starting times.  Instead of thinking, “Okay, I got here at 12:45, so I can go home at 8:45….  Now, what is the deal with this skip pattern?  124 people answered -8 to Q5E, but only 45 are -8 on Q5F; 124 minus 45 is 79 minus 5 is 74….  Ugh, I’m tired; how long have I been here??” I could simply glance at the clock!

Of course, there are times when I keep thinking, “I’ll just finish this one thing,” for half an hour or more, as it turns out to be a bigger or harder problem than I expected, and if I don’t have to pick up my kid I may let that go on much longer than I should (considering that the kid and his father, who did pick him up, are wondering what happened to me!), but that’s my fault, not the clock’s!

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