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10 Most Typical Events People Count Down To But Why?

Mar 21, 2017 | interesting | 1 comment

Being time-conscious is almost as old as humanity itself. Sundials, oil lamps, candle clocks, water clocks, hourglasses, mechanical and digital clocks. These are all technological inventions we used or use to measure time.

The two aspects of time measurement

There are many different ways one can categorize the various time measurements. In this post, I’m not going to deep dive into the physical aspects with respect to absolute and relative time. (If you started reading this post, thinking that it’s going to be about that I have to disappoint you. I will do that in another post.) We are going to look at it solely from the aspect of human perception.

There are two major categories how humans look at and measure time. We either measure the Elapsed or the Remaining time. By the way, from these categories we can clearly see that as humans we always look at time as a relative measurement. To illustrate it with some examples, the following statements are all relative to another point in time.

  • “The shop closed 30 minutes ago.” – Elapsed time, relative to 30 minutes ago.
  • “I will call you back 5 minutes later.” – Remaining time, relative to now.
  • “The current men’s world record is 9.58 seconds.” – Elapsed time, relative to the start of the sprint.
  • “It’s 4:55 PM at the moment.” – Elapsed time, relative to midnight.
  • “It’s two minutes to midnight.” – Remaining time, relative to midnight.
  • “Einstein was born in 1879” – Elapsed time, relative to Christ’s birth.
  • “Caesar was killed in 44 BC.” – It’s tricky. It’s also elapsed time measurement. It basically means that Caesar had been killed 44 years before Christ (BC) was born.

Remaining time = Counting down

When we count down to an event we are always interested in remaining time. There are two canonical formats of counting down though:

  • Counting down to a point in time relative to now. This is when we set a 10 minutes timer.
  • Counting down to a point in time relative to Christ’s birth. This is when we count down to Christmas.


Counting down is usually associated with the following feelings:

  • Anticipation: counting the remaining time to an anticipated event is something people do very often. For some reasons looking at the remaining time and that it’s decreasing comes with a positive feeling. We feel that we get closer to the anticipated good.
  • Control: counting the remaining time can help people to be more aware of their time. Measurements help people to be more in control. Take the example of losing weight. Various research findings concluded that measuring your weight more often correlates with more successful weight loss. The same is likely to be true for time measurement. Looking at the remaining time more often probably correlates with hitting the deadline more likely.

Let’s take a look at now the most typical events from these perspectives people count down to:

Typical events

Typical anticipation-driven events

  • Birthdays
  • Public holidays (e.g. Christmas)
  • Vacation
  • Movie premiers / Series starts
  • Weddings, Prom, etc.
  • Entertainment events (e.g. concerts)

Typical control-driven events

  • Project deadlines
  • Exams
  • Tax return deadline
  • Discount periods

As I mentioned humanity produced many technological inventions to measure time. Smartphones fit into this category. If you would like to increase the positive feelings related to any future event or would like to be more in control of your deadlines then download the Timer & Timer app for iOS and countdown to basically any event you wish.

Let me know in the comments what other events you’re counting down to 🙂

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