Written by Steven Levy

Which clock hangs in your office?

secondsThe Seconds Clock

Every second counts. Rush, rush, rush. Try to do two three things at once. Hurry. Stress. Pressure.

This suggests your life can be reduced to seconds competing against each other for your attention. But life doesn’t work that way, especially a well lived life that returns value both to you and to those around you (e.g., your clients).

It’s a great clock for race-car drivers, or quarterbacks trying to get through the two-minute drill. But beware its use in your daily work life. It suggests you gain productivity by cramming as much into each second as you can, and being aware of doing so.

It lies.

dailyclockThe Daily Clock

The opposite of the seconds clock, the day clock shows only the days, with at best a vague sense of where you are in the day.

The day clock is good for weekends, or for sailing your boat through vacation isles (which is actually where I found this clock).

We know we wouldn’t last long in business using this clock, and few of us fall into its trap.

(That said, it’s not a bad idea to use it for a day or two each month – to get away from minute-by-minute concerns and focus on the big picture, on your overall goals. Maybe it’s no accident that the word for “sixty seconds” and the word for “so tiny it’s barely worth noticing” are both spelled M-I-N-U-T-E.)

miunuteclockThe Minute Clock

This is the clock that should govern most of our work days. (It gets extra credit for omitting the seconds hand.) Each minute is clear, but five minutes is the default division.

It encourages us to work effectively, but not frenetically. When Olivia in Twelfth Night says, “The clock upbraids me with the waste of time,” it is such a clock, I imagine, of which she speaks. It matches the rhythm of our days, at least the rhythm for which we should strive. Minutes matter, not individually as much as when we aggregate them into useful “focus blocks” of time.

daliThe Dali Clock

If your days feel like this, stop.

Take a breath. Slow down.

Stress kills.

Yes, we all have moments, even days like this. Life happens. But when it does happen, we need to not just respond to immediate pressure but take a step back as soon as possible and assess our needs – and client needs – in terms of bigger pictures and longer-term goals – client goals, firm goals, your own work and life goals.

And you if you get confused between the Dali clock and the daily clock, you may discover….

fiveocklockThe 5:00 Clock

If life is stressing you out this much, that you either can’t wait to quit the office or get out the margarita mix, whoa.

Too much of your work life lived under the tyranny of the seconds clock or the Dali clock can drive you to this.

Even the most frantic legal job shouldn’t drive you here. But then, that’s why you’re reading the article on this site, right?

Remember, we’re here to help. (Literally. Contact us for some coaching and suggestions!)

oldofficeMy Old Office Clock

Here’s a picture of the clock that hung in my office at Microsoft for fifteen years. (Or maybe that should read 1111 years, fifteen written in binary form.)

It served as a reminder that we worked in a technology environment, and that our job – no matter what the role – was to find the right balance for our customers between the binary world of one/zero, on/off, yes/no and the analog world of complexity, approximation, and contradiction.

Nah, I made that up. I built this back in 1992 or so because I wanted something unique in my cookie-cutter office.


About the author

Steven Levy

As the CEO of Lexician, I help lawyers around the world manage their projects, their time, their teams, and their clients. I am the author of four books for legal professionals, including the new edition of the groundbreaking Legal Project Management and the time-management guide, The Off Switch. Before founding Lexician, I was the former head of Microsoft’s Legal Operations / Technology department. You can contact me at steven.levy@lexician.com or learn more at Lexician.com.

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