Do You Fool Yourself? a guest blog by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Julia Spencer-Fleming: I’ve known Hank Phillippi Ryan for mumbledy-some years now, and for as long as I’ve known her, I’ve been amazed at the sheer volume of stuff she manages to get done. She’s an investigative reporter for WHDH Boston. She writes mysteries. She has her own blog and contributes to two more. She tweets. She Facebooks. Somewhere in there, she must get her nails done and work out, because she always looks fabulous. And the really amazing part? She does it all well. She’s won 27 Emmys, ten Edward R. Murrow awards, and the Anthony, Agatha and Macavitiy awards.

I figured her secret was cloning, but it turns out it’s something more subtle than making multiple copies of herself. It turns out she’s living in her own time zone. Hank time. Here she is to tell you about it:


Television is all about time. Getting breaking news on in time. How much time there is until the next deadline. How much time they’ve allotted for your story.  How much time there is until someone is going to tell you you’re late. There is no late in TV.

But if you want to know what time it is, don’t ask me. I only know what time it is for me.

I see you looking baffled. But here’s what I mean. I don’t know what time it really is—because I’m fooling myself about it. And somehow, it works. How can we fool ourselves? I mean, we should know, right?

For instance. The alarm clock-radio on my nightstand is set nine minutes fast. So when it rings at 7:30, the time I usually have to get up, I creak open my eyes, try to focus on the green numerals, and my brain yells: GET UP! It’s 7:30.

Then there’s a pause, while the other half of my brain happily reminds me that it’s really 7:21, and I delightedly hit the snooze.

Why? Why not just set the clock for the real time? Then set the alarm for, say 7:21, then hit the snooze for nine minutes and get up at  the real 7:30?

Because then I don’t get the precious nine “extra” minutes of sleep.

There’s a clock in the bathroom where I do my hair and makeup—I set that one about 12 minutes fast. Here I’m fooling myself to get me to hurry up. I look at the clock, mid-mascara: it’s 8 o’clock already! I panic. Hurry! Then I  realize it’s actually just  twelve minutes until 8 o’clock, and I have plenty of time, and I can relax a bit. I’m no longer behind—I’m ahead.

Does that make any sense? Do you do that?

I do it with the clock on my wall at the TV station where I work as a reporter—I set that fast, too, but it makes sense in the world of unmissable deadlines. I suppose. I can’t be late, so if the clock is fast, it’s less likely that’ll happen.

My husband says: why don’t you just set the clocks to the REAL TIME?  And I see his point. Kind of. But faking myself out works for me.

I also fool myself with money. On payday, I enter the income into my not-so-perfect checkbook register—but I put the deposit amount as less than it really is. So I have a little pad.

My husband says—why don’t you just write down the real amount? So you know how much money is actually there? Not some theoretical amount? Yeah, I see his point. But that doesn’t work for me.

I also hide money from myself in my wallet. The other day, I unzipped a little pouch on the side and there was the secret 20 dollars I had tucked there for emergencies. But I had forgotten it was there! So much for the emergency idea. But  see—I’ve done that several times. And I always forget it’s there. Then I’m always delighted to find it.

Is reality so complicated and unmanageable that we have to fool ourselves into making it all work? My little self-trickery makes me happy, and it makes my life work very nicely.

Do you face reality? Or do you have your secret ways?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN is the investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. A television journalist since 1975, she has won 27 Emmys and ten Edward R. Murrow awards for her work. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution.

A best-selling author of four mystery novels–the newest is DRIVE TIME–Ryan has won the Agatha, Anthony and Macavity awards for her crime fiction. Her newest thriller, THE OTHER WOMAN, is coming in hardcover from Forge in 2012. (Lee Child says: “I knew Ryan was good, but I had no idea she was this good!” Lisa Gardner says: “A rocket ride of a thriller! Brava!” )

Hank is on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America (and an instructor at MWA-U) and will be president of national Sisters in Crime in 2013.  

She’s been a radio reporter, a political campaign staffer, a legislative aide in the United States Senate, and in a two-year stint in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Washington Bureau, worked on the political column “Capitol Chatter” and organized presidential campaign coverage for Hunter S. Thompson. She began her TV career anchoring and reporting the news for TV stations in her home town of Indianapolis and then Atlanta.

She and her husband, a nationally renowned criminal defense and civil rights attorney, live just outside Boston, Massachusetts.




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11 Responses to Do You Fool Yourself? a guest blog by Hank Phillippi Ryan

  1. Deanna says:

    Before I retired my clocks were set 5 minutes fast! I did the checkbook thing too! Dee

  2. Welcome, Hank,
    And here I thought it was the shoes! The clock thing is brilliant. And it made me realize I probably set my deadlines ahead for the same reason. The pressure is there to get going and then there is a big sigh of relief when I realize I still have time for a little more tinkering.

  3. Rusty Fairbanks says:

    And she’s nice, too.

  4. Barb Ross says:

    Welcome, Hank! So great to have you here.

    My husband does the clock thing and it drives me crazy. In our bedroom in Massachusetts we have two different clocks set to two different times. Mine is the real time. Fortunately, time and technology are on my side. Here in Maine we don’t use clocks in our bedroom, just our phones–et voila! always the right time (except when the battery dies).

    Similarly–what’s a checkbook? Can’t imagine. Haven’t entered anything in decades–since the world went to direct deposit and I could get my balance at any ATM. Now I can check my balance on my computer or phone. And no one’s direct depositing anything–but that’s a different problem!

  5. SO funny! What’s a checkbook? I am leaving the check-writing thing with much joy. It’s llike–whoa. NO more faxes. And remember 24 hour photo developing? Oh, well.

    It’s fifty millon degrees in Boston! How’s the weather up there?

  6. Fine. So I misspelled my own name in the website. It happens. Next life, I’m gonna be Hank Ryan. Big, bold, easy, and not a lot of “l’s.”

  7. Well, Barb, TWO mens names is pretty good… 🙂 And I cannot tell you –seriously–how many people ask me if I’m related to Ryan Phillippe. I mean–WHY would you anyone that? It kills me.

  8. Coco Ihle says:

    Hank, Hank, Hank, I do all those things you do and I still don’t have enough time! Frankly, I think you’re magic…or maybe the good witch. Come on, fess up!

  9. Julie Kramer says:

    I also set my clock fast. Having spent a career in television news, I will have to conclude it’s a TV news thing. But it really doesn’t work for book deadlines. You’d have to set your calender fast.

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