Tag Archives: aaron dragushan

A Look at the “Mental Calendar”

Our idea of a calendar is ingrained from early in our school years. Teachers have large, colorful calendars with monthly tear-off sheets or calendar banners that scroll across the top of the chalkboard. Some take that image and it becomes their concrete idea of time.

However, there are many people who visualize a year in a completely different way. Whether they have trained themselves to see it in a certain light, or the mind has already decided what these months will look like, they view the calendar in a seemingly odd sense.

Is it possible to combine what others innately see, and productivity, to force yourself to visualize a calendar in a more efficient way?

Calendar Synesthesia

Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which the mind mixes sensory signals. People with synesthesia, known as synesthetes, may associate numbers with a certain color, or order. They may perceive a certain smell or taste simply by looking at something, and visa versa.

Calendar Synesthesia is the unofficial/non-medical term for people who have sensory association with days, weeks, months, and years.

There is a great discussion on a ‘Mental Calendar’ at this Metafilter thread.

Examples of Mental Calendars

The following examples illustrate that people have a firm idea of how a year looks to them. The mental construct is formed, and they can pull it out of their brain at any time.

Mark Jaquith

Mark Jaquith, a WordPress developer, created a mockup of how he visualizes the months.

From his article:

When I think of “now” in a month-to-month sense, I visualize myself as standing on the appropriate month on that layout. If I think about another month, I visualize myself looking at the other month’s placeholder. So when I look at September from April, I’m standing on April, facing south.



I illustrated Lobster Mitten’s idea of a mental calendar for him/her. The following comment is how one person sees time:

Mine is like the face of a clock. Jan1/New Year’s Eve is 12:00. Dec 1 is 1:00, Nov 1 is 2:00, Oct 1 is 3:00, and so on. Or sometimes I think the equinoxes are 3:00 and 9:00, and the solstices are 12:00 and 6:00.


UPDATE: 5/11/2010

The following calendar is from Dana in the comments section. He describes his mental calendar as a, “3D circle tilted at about a 30 degree angle, which January 1st at the highest point. Each month of the year takes up varying amounts of space on the circle (summer months are typically bigger) and each month has a very distinct color associated with it.”

Have an example of how you see time? Leave a comment or design it yourself and I will update this page with your example.

Common Themes of Mental Calendars

Some of the common ideas that I have seen from comments are indicators that the mental calendars are not the same as ones that are constructed from paper.

January is Not the Beginning

A comment from the same Metafilter thread from above explains that linear is not always the case. InsanePenguin writes:

It’s pretty hard to explain but by my best estimation, it begins with Aug/Sept (perhaps because my birthday is in August, or the school year begins in September) and continues in monthly blocks to the right. That is, up until we hit December and January. January takes a sharp 90 degree turn straight up and continues that way… June/July and August/Sept never actually connect in my mind. I simply can’t figure out how the blocks would connect.

“The Pull”

Visualizing time as distance is reoccurring. Imagine the farthest distance being the latest month and January being right in front of you. As time passes, your mind pulls the calendar closer to you.


Sara Anne’s comment illustrates that time and colors blend.

Each month has a color: January is brown, February is pink, March is green, April is white, May is peach, June is turquoise, July is blue, August is gold, September is orange, October is black, November is gray/green, December is red.

Partial Bologna?

One of the most intriguing comments was not about those who see a solid picture, but rather the conscious forcing of an image:

gauchodaspampas notes,

Since it’s not as concrete, some of this may be biased by the fact that I’m actively trying to visualize it the way I usually do, which inevitably means that it is definitely not accurate.

Top to Bottom, Left to Right

This is how I see a calendar. Not because I mentally see it like so, but because it makes the most practical sense. It has become the easiest method to force upon myself. As below, the practical sense of top to bottom, left to right, can be taken to a new level.

Going Forward

Aaron Dragushan’s Method

When discussing time with a good friend, Aaron raised the idea that calendars, in reality, can be displayed as they are envisioned in the mind. He took the time to cut apart his calendar and paste it together in a way that worked for him.


What does your mental calendar look like? Leave a comment below!

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5 Tips for Starting a Fresh Work Week


When Friday rolls around, the weekend is your only thought. During the weekend you are mentally preparing for Monday—what to wear, who to talk to, what is to be accomplished. Let Monday be your springboard for the rest of the week.

Here are some tips on how to do that.

1. Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero is when you have no emails staring you in the face and causing stress.

Many times, our email inbox is our to-do list, idea bank, and main communication. When you first turn on your computer in the morning, start with getting to Inbox Zero. This is a literal accomplishment. We want to achieve an empty inbox, and settle for nothing less.

Before plugging at your excel page, writing your blog post, or making the first call, you have to free your mind from the number that haunts your sleep; the stressing ‘emails ’ count.

Move the Necessary

An unanswered email, phone call, or contact sheet should not be in your inbox. Most of your emails have a place other than the inbox. Move the necessary emails where they belong, making sure you have not lost any important data.


References, pictures, and funny work emails should not be in your inbox. Archive them into appropriate folders and move on.

Delete the Rest

Unless it fits in the above categories, delete it. If you are afraid to lose the item, it should have been moved or archived. Delete the items you can do without.

2. De-Clutter Desk


Your desk clutter does nothing good for you. An important mental step is to stop making excuses. Your desk clutter is the worst kind of to-do list possible.

Spending 10-15 minutes each Monday (or every day) de-cluttering will be a worthwhile investment in your time.

Productivity501 recently published a post called “5 Questions to Help Organize Your Desk.” The questions they ask force readers to think about the real reasons behind desk clutter. You can read the entire article here, or read my summary below:

Reading Materials

Be honest with yourself, and rid of the stuff you don’t need to read. Other tips include the use of RSS, getting a bookshelf, or listening to the audio version.


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