Clockwatching

Years ago I worked in a discount store every Saturday. I showed up at 9am, went home at 6pm, and got paid £20 for my troubles. At 16 it seemed like a good deal! Those Saturdays dragged though, because between 11 and 5 we had to “watch the shop”. The owner wanted all of us to be a physical presence, a deterrent against thieves. We stood on our aisles, waited and watched for six hours.

I watched the clock. I made games of it. Another minute gone. Another ten. I broke hours down into quarters. I worked out my pay per hour. Then per minute. Watching the time didn’t make the standing around easier, quicker, better or less boring! If anything, it just frustrated me. The clock just ticked on as always. Clockwatching never helped.

A decade passed and I was in my viva, and I found myself watching the clock again. I stole a glance when we finished talking about my first chapter and felt worried: 45 minutes on one chapter… I had seven! We took a break as we finished chapter four and we were two and a half hours in! At least in the discount store there was a time the clock was moving to when work would be done. Two and a half hours… Was this good? Was this bad? How much longer would it be?

I stopped watching after that point, kept my eyes on my examiners and the room. Watching the clock didn’t help. Clockwatching in the viva never helps. Knowing the time doesn’t help you to answer a question, to think or to be engaged with your examiners.

Take off your watch. Take down or cover the clock. Don’t worry about how long the viva might be. Put your attention on being your best self.

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