Baxil Standard Time

The NEW! Improved! introduction to draconic timekeeping

When I was in college -- keeping an erratic schedule, chatting with friends all over the globe, and pulling all-nighters with the frequency of a politician's lies -- I began to realize that traditional methods of timekeeping were serving me poorly.

It was virtually unheard of for me to go to bed on the same day I awoke. The same clock time, depending on weekday and obligations, might see me getting up or preparing to sleep. And greeting someone in England or Australia with a cheerful "Good evening!" at sunset was likely to get me a good-natured rebuke.

Clearly, a new way of looking at timekeeping was necessary.

A way less tied to the arbitrary ticking of a clock. A way that was simpler to track over the course of a nonstandard waking cycle. A way that honored different people's different schedules (at the nominal cost of synchronization). A way that didn't suffer as many conversion problems when communicated to others around the world.

Baxil Standard Time was the result. It's been surprisingly resilient and useful over the last decade. As such, I present BST to you here in its streamlined and expanded form. It has just six rules.

Rule One. A sleep cycle has four (plus one) phases.

Baxil Standard Time consists of four basic time descriptors:


and Night.

During Daylight Savings Time periods, Afternoon is added after Day. If you live in a nation or region that does not honor Daylight Savings Time, then Afternoons are added during your summers.

The phases progress in the listed order. A sleep cycle begins with Morning (waking up) and ends with Night (being asleep).

Rule Two. Phases progress based on your daily routine.

When you stagger out of bed, having just irritably woken up from a sound, comfortable sleep, it is Morning. Even if the sun is setting, or below the horizon.

No matter how late you sleep in, you can't escape mornings. The phases cannot progress beyond Morning until you eat your first meal of the cycle (or go to bed again).

It changes from Morning to Day when you first eat.

It changes from Day to Evening (or Day to Afternoon in BDT, Baxil Standard Daylight Time) when one of the following events has occurred:

  1. You finish with school/work, or
  2. People around you (those not on BST) start going to dinner.
When does it change from Afternoon to Evening? Simple. When the sun goes down.

Once it's Evening, it doesn't change until you go to sleep. If the sun sets and rises, it's still Evening if you've pulled an all-nighter.

It becomes Night when you go to sleep, no matter what phase you were on.

Skipping: If more than one phase-shift condition has occurred, the phase advances as far as possible, skipping forward if necessary. Which means if your first meal of the cycle is after sunset and other people's dinners, then it skips from Morning to Evening. Too bad, you've missed out on a lovely day (and afternoon).

What sleep counts?: Naps are ignored. To keep things simple, Night only kicks in during significant sleep.

What constitutes a nap is at the reasonable discretion of the sleeper. However, virtually any sleep after 24 or more hours awake should be considered significant, and weird sleep arrangements such as "four two-hour naps every 24 hours" should be classified so as to limit Mornings to once per 24 hours. Mornings, after all, suck.

Rule Three. Midnight? No. Sunrise? Yes.

A calendar day ("day" in its traditional meaning of one rotation of the earth -- not to be confused with Day, which is a phase of your sleep cycle) starts at sunrise. Do not advance your calendar at midnight.

Whoever thought up that silly idea of starting "the new day" at midnight was misguided. This is an incredibly stupid thing for night owls. In the middle of the night, you have to keep one eye on the clock just to know what date it is! BST solves this dilemma by tying the rollover to a powerful visual cue. (Plus, if you're night-owling, sunrise is generally a very good hint that it's time to skitter to bed if you haven't already.)

Pinning the rollover to sunrise does have the disadvantage that it doesn't happen at exactly the same time every 24 hours. But let's face it, measuring a few minutes' shift here and there is against the spirit of BST.

If, for some ungodly reason, you need to get up before dawn, then I guess you can cheat and start the day with your alarm clock's ringing instead. But getting up before dawn is really against the spirit of BST.

Rule Four. Weekdays track your sleep cycle.

Weekdays can only advance when you reach a new Morning. When you wake up, the weekday advances to what it would be if you were following the Gregorian calendar. (And remember Rule Three.)

This means that the weekday of you and your fellow BST practitioners may differ depending on your sleep schedules. This is a feature, not a bug. Communicating your weekday to others can give them valuable information about your current lack of sleep.

Example 1. You get up when the sun is shining on what a calendar calls Monday -- and then pull an all-nighter. Even though the sun has set and risen, it is still Monday for you. Your friends Albert and Beth, instead of pulling an all-nighter with you, get a full night of sleep while the sun is down. It is now Tuesday for Albert and Beth.

Example 2. After Example 1, you proceed to pull a second all-nighter in a row. This time, Albert stays up with you. Beth goes to sleep again. The sun sets and rises. When Beth gets up, her weekday advances to Wednesday. Since Albert has not slept, it is still Tuesday for him. Your weekday remains Monday, and you need sleep badly.

Example 3. You finally get some sleep later that Evening. The sun sets and rises. When you wake up, it skips from Monday to Thursday.

Rule Five. Dates are strictly Gregorian-calendar.

... But remember Rule Three!

Since there is no easy way to reconcile the sleep pattern differences of everyone who uses BST, this is a concession to record-keeping -- there will be times when more precision is needed than "two mornings ago," and this is the fallback system to provide it.

If you tell a fellow BST user that you need to have that essay written by July 8, or that you called in sick on September 22, it carries the standard meaning. No matter your sleep cycle in the named 24-hour period, the event falls within those 24 hours. (You can even use a clock time here for more precision, although clock times are frowned upon in BST.)

Rule Six. Interpret future projections generously.

"I'll get it done this evening."

If you've been paying attention, you'll know by now that a BST user uttering that isn't talking about anything to do with sunset. The expressed intention is "I'll get this done before I go to sleep" -- before Night.

Of course, if they end up pulling an all-nighter, Night can be many, many hours away. If you need that essay before sunrise, "I'll write it this evening" can leave you stranded.

A good guideline is to only ask for (or offer) something to be done "today" if you want urgency but no specific deadline. Otherwise, "before sunrise" or "by June 8" or even (shudder) "within X hours" offer more precise communication.

To complicate matters further, a BST user may plan an all-nighter to finish a project "tonight" ... but collapse from exhaustion, sleep at their desk, and then finish it up when they wake up. While a strict reading of the rules would then classify that "tonight" project as late, obviously their sense of urgency on that project wasn't diminished, and most good dragons would agree that it was on time (or very close to it) despite breaking the letter of the promise.

So it's courteous to offer a calendar day or two's worth of leeway (even on "same-day" projects, if circumstances allow). It's a mark of real class for a BST-savvy person to offer that leeway even if their collaborator is on a regular sleep schedule with no planned all-nighters; what's a sunrise or two measured against the span of a lifetime?

Of course, dragons can also be notoriously lazy, so be careful not to let BST turn into an excuse for indefinite delay. "Tomorrow" should still mean within the next sleep cycle or two.

That's it! I hope Baxil Standard Time comes in useful for you.

Got any questions? Let me know!

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Page last updated Aug 24, 2006. Design © 2000 Tad "Baxil" Ramspott.