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