–by Sally O’Dowd
Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.
It’s actually O.K. to resist the gods of productivity.
–Anna Della Subin, journalist
–Scott Thrift, inventor of ThePresent
In yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Review, Anna Della Subin opines on “How to Stop Time,” arguing that procrastinators don’t have anything wrong with them and that it’s okay to take a nap. She questions society’s “canonization of productivity” linked to tight schedules.
In fact, businesspeople who regularly check the time are less creative than those who focus on the work and not how long it takes, according to a study presented in June by Anne-Laure Sellier, assistant professor at French business school HEC. Ms. Sellier also observed students of yoga, reporting that yogis who watch the clock during a class enjoy it less than people who simply focus on the stretch.
Scott has invented ThePresent, a clock that tells time not by the hour but by the year. In our fast-paced world, he reminds us that an ability to multitask, respond to a text in a flash or receive an immediately gratifying “like” does not define us. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, or as Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”
Scott is a philosopher for the present day; here’s my exclusive interview.
Sally: Technology and social media have made us wait in anticipation for the very next thing, and it needs to happen now…what made you so countercultural?
Scott: Wouldn’t it be nice to slow down? Our sense of time and space has become a bit crowded because of the non-stop flow of everything — constant updates of every “newsworthy” event on the planet, friend requests from everyone we’ve ever met, access to the entire history of human knowledge at our fingertips.
But the problem started well before the Internet. Breaking time into the minutiae of seconds gave birth to the industrial revolution, and I’m convinced its sole purpose now is to aggravate our proclivity to become anxious about the moment.
Sally: What happens when we watch time pass by the year instead of 60 minutes?
Scott: ThePresent–designed to reflect the changing of the seasons–helps us change how we look at our lives. In fact, ThePresent has a calming effect: You only notice the hand’s movement every three or four days. A slower passage of time provides a broader perspective and more room to breathe.
In my case, I developed ThePresent as a reminder of the sheer size of life, a way to remind myself of experiences that have transcended a given moment. It helps me make more sense of the world, and it gives me a sense of time that feels a lot less like a machine and a lot more like life.
One of the joys of life is the process of expanding the boundaries of the mind; for once the mind is expanded, it cannot return to its former size. That is the fundamental reason why we read books, go to school, meet new people, form lasting bonds, have children, watch films, try on new clothes, dare to eat sea urchins and reach, however clumsily, beyond ourselves.
Scott: Grounded. This is about context. We’re all in this together, on one habitable planet hurtling through space. A 365-day clock is time from the perspective of the sun. It’s eternal, so why rush?
Scott: ThePresent is hung in people’s homes and offices in 38 countries. It is set to the same “time” everywhere on Earth, giving every nation something to agree upon.
Thankfully, people send me their feedback. I know of a man from Redmond, Wash., who was inspired by ThePresent to foster a deeper connection with his son. And a woman in Louisville dropped terrible habits and lost 100 lbs by deciding to eat healthy–all because she saw the relatively slow, annual passage of time.
Sally: Where can people get it?
Scott: ThePresent is a MoMA Design Store exclusive and people can order it here.
Sally: Like all entrepreneurs, you’re taking a risk. What gets you up in the morning and tells you that you need to do this?
I see now that my invention is making a positive difference in people’s lives. And then I see the clock in the window at the MoMA Design store on 53rd St. How could I not make more? That sounds like a much more terrifying risk.
For more thoughts from Scott, check out his PSFK presentation here:
To purchase the Present via the MoMA store, please click here.
Sally O’Dowd is founder and CEO of New York-based Sally On Media, an integrated marketing and PR firm.