What To Do About Time Zone Dementia

Do you suffer from TZD? That’s Time Zone Dementia. It happens when you work virtually and physically across so many time zones that events on your calendar confuse you completely.

You might have TZD if you show signs and symptoms like these:

  • Early morning wakeups. You get up at 6:45 am to dial into a conference call scheduled for 7 am Mountain Standard Time. But you live in New York.
  • Midday confusion. You go for lunch with a friend on Tuesday at noon, trusting the open space on your calendar. You miss an important online developer chat because you didn’t convert the time when recording it.
  • Self-centered meeting planning. You ask your colleague in Sydney to call in for a mandatory 8 am PST meeting, forgetting that it would be 3 am to her.
  • Disorientation when traveling away from home. You diligently record the details of an important webinar onto your calendar, but miss it anyway, because while you’re traveling your calendar still reflects your home time zone.
  • Socially inappropriate behavior. You plan a springtime brunch, only to be surprised in your pajamas by the guests who remembered to “spring forward” for daylight savings time.

What can you do about Time Zone Dementia? Here are a few suggestions.

Put a world clock on your start page or dashboard with the most important time zones for you. I work most closely with people in San Francisco, Denver, Austin, D.C., and London, so those are the times I have on my dashboard clocks. Besides making it really easy to see what time it is where your colleagues are, this ups your time zone awareness because every time you look at your start page, you are reminded of the time offsets between you and the geographic locations that matter to you.

Take advantage of the time zone support your calendar software provides. In the Mac iCal program, you can turn on advanced time support in Preferences > Advanced. This allows you to specify a time zone other than the default for a particular event, useful if you know the event time elsewhere but not for your current location. It also supports floating events which occur at the same time no matter what time zone you switch your calendar to. In Microsoft Exchange, you can display two time zones at once–you might want to try that if you travel regularly between two cities or work remotely from a company headquarters.

Try The World Clock Meeting Planner when you’re planning a meeting. You enter the cities for each person attending and it will show you what time it is in each place at a given time. Then you can pick something that’s reasonable for everyone.

Put the time zone right into your event names. If you’ll be traveling but need to take conference calls on the road, include the time zone right in the event header (for example, “call Rick 10 am EST”). Even if you check your calendar from your Blackberry or a start page that only shows only the barest of event data, you’ll be reminded of the actual time of the event.

If you have any tips for treating TZD, share them here.

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