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Moving Beyond Type A: Taking Off Your Watch

Type A's are obsessed with time. "This is taking too much time," "Damn it, it's getting late — I'll never get finished on time," "I wish they would hurry up."

Type A's have an accelerated sense of time. They feel time "slipping away" more and more as the day goes by. This leads to an increased feeling of time anxiety or what the originators of the Type A concept (Dr. Meyer Friedman and Dr. Ray Rosenman) called hurry sickness. And, that explains why Type A's get so irritated when circumstances and people slow them down.

The irony, of course, is that this perception that time is passing all too quickly is false. Time passes at the same rate for Type A's as it does for Type B's. The difference is that Type B's are more in sync with time — they have a more accurate perception of how much time has elapsed from one moment to the next.

To test how aware you are of time, have someone you know pick a time anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes — but tell him not to tell you how many minutes he picked. Then ask the person to engage you in a conversation for that length of time. (Oh, by the way, you can't have a watch on while you're taking this test — that's cheating!). When that set amount of time has passed, try telling that person how many minutes you think elapsed. If you're Type A, you'll most likely overestimate the actual time. If you're Type B, you're more likely to either be right on the mark or underestimate how much time has gone by.

One of the best ways to become a Type B is to quit wearing a watch. If you're a Type A, I'm sure your first thought as you read that was, "My God, I can't do that — how would I know what time it is, how would I stay on my hectic schedule, how would I get all this stuff done?" The answer is that you wouldn't — but, guess what? The world wouldn't end. On the other hand, the quality of your work might improve; in fact, people are much more creative in their thinking and problem solving when they aren't bound by deadlines.

For a Type A, taking off a watch is like asking a lifetime smoker to hand over his pack of cigarettes or an alcoholic to get rid of all the liquor in her house. It's asking a lot. You may be able to go cold turkey, put your watch away, and never look back. If you're like most people, however, you'll have to wean yourself off your watch slowly.

Here are some helpful hints on how to wean yourself from your watch:

  • Think about which part of the day or week would be easier for you to not wear a watch. Then see if you can take it off for an hour or two during those times.
  • When you're in your office during the day, put your watch in your pocket or purse and rely on a desk clock to keep track of time. Only put on your watch when you leave the office.
  • Wear an old-fashioned pocket watch. You still have a way of keeping time but it's not as obvious, staring you in the face all the time.
  • Set a timer on your watch to let you know when it's time to move on. For example, when you're having lunch with a friend, set the time for when you need to wrap up the lunch. Then put the watch out of sight.
  • See how many new, interesting, nice-looking people you can meet throughout the course of a day by asking for the time. It's a great way to start a conversation!
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