Will Time Matter When SHTF?

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The other day I talked about another power outage we had and while I was sitting there mostly in the dark because my family didn’t want to run but one single, dim lantern in the pitch black darkness (don’t ask me why) I began to ponder time and whether it will mean anything when SHTF.

Ultimately, I’d decided that if this were SHTF time wouldn’t matter too much. That is, the actual counting of hours, minutes, and seconds wouldn’t matter much… keeping track of the seasons is another matter and likely still important.

During the power outage, however, my kids didn’t want to go to bed because it wasn’t “time for bed” which we still had an hour or so to go until then even though it was nearly pitch-black dark outside. If there was no time or clocks to keep time my kids obviously wouldn’t have known any different. I sort of smiled under my breathing wondering how long it would take post-SHTF for folks to go back to what we’ve done for most of time, that is, to go to bed with the sun.

In fact, going to bed with the sun and rising with it is only a part of the way most people lived not too long ago. Apparently, folks used to actually get up in the middle of the night and do chores–or other activities–for a few hours and then go back to bed for their “second sleep” as they called it. I would assume this was common practice because they went to bed early with the setting of the sun, at least, during the winter which would have meant they slept for more hours than they were awake. I know a few people who can do this without batting an eye but not most of us.

Anyway, I wonder if this is why I often wake up at night and will literally stay awake for hours until I’m able to sleep again? No… it’s probably that our country is going to “hell in a hand-basket” and it worries me, a lot. 😉

It’s interesting that we humans have felt need to add such an artificial concept as time to life. I’d suspect that humans got along fairly well throughout most of our history without a watch or really any clocks for that matter. Realize that I’m not talking about the ways we’ve tracked the sun to know when to plant and harvest crops (such as with obelisks) but with tracking hours and minutes of the day. Yes, I know ancient civilizations have used all sorts of interesting inventions, including the sundial and water clocks to track time but these weren’t terribly accurate in most cases.

It wasn’t until the 1400’s or so that mechanical clocks started to show up which made keeping track of time much more reliable and in the 1600’s the pendulum clock made timekeeping VERY reliable. We’ve never looked back since.

But why? Why is it so important for us to keep track of time?

Well, for starters, time does make many things work much better in our modern lives, including obvious uses like knowing when to be at work, school, or attend a meeting. Keeping track of time has less realized uses too, such as making computers run and keeping GPS satellites in orbit but also touches every aspect of our modern lives and, no doubt, makes society hum like a well-oiled machine.

But, I’d say it’s more than that. In fact, I found this interesting quote about how keeping track of time has drastically influenced our lives:

In 1983, the Harvard economic historian David Landes wrote an influential book called Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World. There, he argued that timepieces (more than steamships and power looms) drove the economic development of the West, leading it into the Industrial Revolution and eventually into an advanced form of capitalism. Timepieces allowed us to measure time in accurate, uniform ways. And, once we had that ability, we began to look at the way we live and work quite differently. Landes wrote:

“The mechanical clock was self-contained, and once horologists learned to drive it by means of a coiled spring rather than a falling weight, it could be miniaturized so as to be portable, whether in the household or on the person. It was this possibility of widespread private use that laid the basis for ‘time discipline,’ as against ‘time obedience.’ One can … use public clocks to simon people for one purpose or another; but that is not punctuality. Punctuality comes from within, not from without. It is the mechanical clock that made possible, for better or worse, a civilization attentive to the passage of time, hence to productivity and performance.”

But when SHTF, will any of this matter? Probably not. Not for a while anyhow.

Yes, we will still do our best to artificially keep track of time by any means necessary, be it your grandfather’s windup pocket watch or maybe even sundials and water clocks again… it seems we just can’t help ourselves.

My advice? Worry less about the hours of the day when SHTF and more about the bullets flying over your head… that’s what’s really going to matter.

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Author: Damian Brindle

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20 thoughts on “Will Time Matter When SHTF?”

  1. Years ago my children and I lived without power or runnning water for several months. I made sure to finish my chores before dark. Because they were young I only used one oil lamp for safety reasons. We had a battery powered radio to “watch” as we sat around the table together or I would read aloud. Bed time was about an hour after sun set. No one had trouble sleeping. We all woke around the same time when the sun came in the window. Once school started some how the kids made it to school on time. We must of had a wind up clock, but I don’t remember time being very important. I was really sorry once we finally had power and TV again. We sat in the same room watching TV but no longer shared quality time together. Our life was more chaotic once we stepped back into the moderen day. I believe man was intended to live by the sun. I think once SHTF we will be to busy thinking about food water shelter and safety to worry a lot about time. I would think we would soon learn to have a general idea of the time by watching the sun over head. I found myself guessing the time that way all those years ago and got pretty good at it. Personally I’m going to be too busy digging up worms and finding water to care. The Tribulation will only last 7 years. Ah there I go counting time.

  2. Stockpile/rotate some treated gasoline away from living quarters or in a storage unit to get a few hundred miles at least. Gas could be hand pumped from an underground tank with the right hand pump if tanks are accessible and/or not guarded.

  3. Part Four (as fas I’ve gone, so far.)


    Before there is time, there is place. The first premise, you are in the continental United States. If you are somewhere else, like a different hemisphere, you must adjust accordingly. You must be in a “known” location. If you know your latitude and longitude you are almost done. If you are on the move, there isn’t much point putting any effort into this, unless and until you can stop moving. You must have a clear and flat surface, that receives a few hours of sunlight everyday, between 10AM and 2PM. A yard, field, parking lot or a flat roof. Procure two straight poles, pipes or sticks. One of the poles should be longer than the other, by 20% – 50%. Procure ten small, but, similar items, coins, washers or stones.

    Configure the longer of the two poles to be vertical. It should cast a shadow. As you stand behind the stick, such that, the stick is between you and the Sun. Using the stones, mark the tip of the shadow every few minutes. After the tenth coin is laid, retrieve the first and continue to mark the tip of the shadow, using the second, third, ect. When you discern the shadow has begun to turn, such that it is to your right and moving further right, place one more stone. Leave the stick and the stones in place. Wait for tomorrow.

    The following day, or as the availability of bright sunshine allows, more precisely mark the longest point on the tip of the shadow. Now, place the second pole, vertically, at the point of shadow. You have a very primitive Sun dial. This will tell you when noon is, but, the length of the shadows will vary by the season. June 21st-ish, the Summer Solstice, the day will be longest. December 21st-ish, the day will be the shortest. The shadow is inversely proportional to the length of the day. A short day has a long shadow. What does Wikipedia say?

    “The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet’s semi-axis, in either
    northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the star that it
    orbits. Earth’s maximum axial tilt toward the Sun is 23° 26′. “

  4. Part Three

    My sources;

    Old School NOAA

    New School NOAA

    Wikipedia page for Mathletes
    -good to know – The Earth rotates at an angular velocity of 15°/hour.
    If you can accurately measure 15 degrees and fractions thereof, you
    will have the Timex of Sun dials, during daylight..

    This is a good site to calculate specific user located times.

  5. Part Two

    If, or when, the SHTF scenario occurs, one element of life will interact, control and dictate your decisions and actions. In a SHTF situation, time or more precisely, timing could be critical. Seconds and minutes can determine life and living. You have all types of media and do-dads to keep time, by the second, by the day, by the millenia. But, what happens when SHTF turns to EOTWAWKI?

    Time is measured differently for different reasons. There are few examples of recorded human existence that do not have a reference to time. As a personal observation, most of us could come up with a dozen time references we have heard since we could hear. Time is money. Time and distance. All in good time. That time of the month. Time and time again. It’s time to pay the piper. Rarely, in these type of examples, is a specific reference made to seconds, minutes, hours, years or eons.

    Now, what happens when there is no longer a way to quantify time? No Timex. No satellite data relays, so no GPS. No constant media reminders to the next great event you can’t afford to miss. No more free calendars from your insurance agent or credit union. Life becomes that existence, between dawn and dusk. Silently ticking…counting down…waiting for…uuuhhh, dusk.

    Well, just because it is the EOTWAWKI, you can’t stand around, like you’re waiting for an Uber ride. Wait a tick. That Casio is working just fine. That battery will last two years or more. Except that EMP fried it. That cheapo wall clock in the basement still works, as long as you can feed it AA batteries. Hey, I heard about this web site that has world time or something…oh yeah, EMP. Hey, I have an app and my phone still works, because it was inside my truck, that was in the metal garage. Hmmm, the phone works, but, I’m not getting a signal. If you’ve ever longed for the GOD (good old days), welcome back. How’s your Greek?

    Time keeping has been with man since the beginning of time. You may forgo the rest of this writ and proceed directly to the sources I have used. All I intend to do is put together a one or two page guide. My sources are far more technical, interesting and will explain the how-to and the what-for, but, if you’re like Sweet Brown, “ain’ nobody got time fo’ dat!”

  6. Part One


    Time quantification may be considered a science and it is tied directly to navigation. One of the best and easiest books about time and navigation is, “LONGITUDE – The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time”, by Dava Sobel. Published by Penguin Books, copyright 1995. ISBN 0-14-025879-5. If you choose to read this book you will not only feel smarter, you will be. And, in the event of EOTWAWKI, you will begin to realize, starting civilization over will be slow and much of what we take for granted will have to be reinvented and rediscovered.

    The following is on page 4 and 5 of “LONGITUDE”;

    “The measurement of longitude meridians, in comparison, is tempered by time. To learn one’s longitude at sea, one needs to know what time it is aboard ship and also the time at the home port or another place of known longitude-at the very same moment. The two clock times enable the navigator to convert the hour difference into a geographical separation. Since the Earth takes twenty-four hours to complete one full rotation of three hundred sixty degrees, one hour marks one twenty-fourth of a spin, or fifteen degrees. And, so each hour’s time difference between the ship and the start point marks a progress of fifteen degrees of longitude to the east or west. Every day at sea, when the navigator sets the ship’s clock to local noon when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, and then consults the home port clock, every hour’s discrepancy between them, translates into another fifteen degrees of longitude.
    Those same fifteen degrees of longitude also correspond to a distance traveled. At the Equator, where the girth of the Earth is greatest, fifteen degrees stretch fully one thousand miles. North or south of that line, however, the mileage value of each degree decreases. One degree of longitude equals four minutes of time the world over, but, in terms of distance, one degree shrinks from sixty-eight miles at the Equator to virtually nothing at the poles.” end of quote.

  7. had to laugh …. you talk about bullets flying over your head but don’t think timely coordination of a guard duty roster is important ….

  8. How can a modern car be converted to old style without the electronics and circuit boards that will get fried in an EMP? Furthermore, why would electroncs enclosed under a metal hood and a metal in in dashboard get fried?

    1. why bother? an EMP will not only shut down the power grid by frying all the transformers and connectors, there wont be any fuel in the filling stations as the pumps wont work either as a direct result of an EMP frying the computers that control the pumps or because there is no electric to power the pumps.
      you’d be better of looking at horses, ponies and other 4 legged transport, or either a bicycle!

    2. I don’t understand what you’re asking. If you want a car that’s relatively EMP-proof then buy one of those. That said, some suggest a majority of modern cars may still function after an EMP. Personally, I’d suggest that a functioning modern car is low on the list of priorities post-EMP.

  9. One point not discussed (that I could see) was the real importance of time keeping – the ability to accurately coordinate individuals’ activities outside of shouting distance.

    If you are planning an important meeting of your survival team, how will you know when to meet (other than dawn, noon, or dusk)? You don’t want to ring a bell or otherwise give away your location.

    If you have a battle strategy than counts on several steps in order, and you can’t see your comrades, you need watches to tell when to start.

    Coordination of human activity is important to magnify the power of the individual.

  10. I have never understood preppers preoccupation with keeping time, go on any forum and they go on about this or that watch for the apocalypse.
    personally I will get up when it gets light, probably pre dawn, and go to bed once its too dark to do anything by. jobs will take as long as they take, its not like we will be punching a time clock or filling in time sheets is it?

  11. I totally disagree with this for several reasons:

    1. Humans today have lived by the clock for their whole lives. The human brain is now wired for accuracy in time. When things fall apart out there, we will need all the security – physical, psychological and emotional – that we can retain

    2. Once things fall apart out there, you will have to have security patrols 24/7. Anyone who has been in the military and has pulled guard duty of any kind knows how unhappy one becomes when one’s relief is late; ergo, clocks will still be necessary

    3. One’s tribe should have a set “time” for a community meal at least once a day. If no one keeps relatively accurate time somehow, people will not be happy

    4. If we get hit with an EMP (Congress is [finally] acknowledging this possibility), everything based on computers (which, today, is almost everything) will cease to function

    These are just a few things I can mention about the importance of keeping time. When the grid goes down, electrical and electronic clocks will be worthless, so everyone should have at least three wind-up clocks (yes, they still sell them). The Bible says a series of catastrophic upheavals will occur before Christ returns, so being prepared for such is an obligation every Christian should prepare for. Part of that obligation is keeping a sense of organization in one’s tribe, and whether we like it or not, part of that organization will be based on relatively accurate timekeeping.

    Perhaps after a generation-or-two passes and the United States as we now know it has become a country of city-states separated by vast wastelands, our grandkids and great-grandkids will learn how to live without accurate time. But as long as those who can read this are still around, accurate time will be not just nice, but absolutely necessary.

    1. In response to your points:
      1. Yes, there’s something to be said for the human brain being “wired for time” but I’d also suspect that getting away from the constraints of time does well too. Just ask anyone who has gone camping for even a few days without watching the clock and they’ll likely say they feel better. Maybe it’s just going camping or feeling less stressed but I’d venture to say not being beholden to the clock has something to do with it too.

      2. Yes, you’re quite right about this one. It’s hard to be fair about such patrols without sticking to a clock.

      3. I hear dinner bells work quite well for this purpose. 🙂

      4. What does this have to do with keeping time? Humans can keep time in a variety of ways besides the digital clocks we do now. Even if it’s a rudimentary as just watching the sun rise and set that will likely be good enough for most post-SHTF.

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