How I visualize the months of the year

This is going to be a strange post.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve visualized the months of the year as being physical objects (like pages from a monthly calendar) arranged in a specific fashion.

This is how every year looks in my mind:

months of the year, arranged in a three-sided box with January in the upper-left, May in the upper-right, August in the lower-right, and December in the lower-left

When I think of “now” in a month-to-month sense, I visualize myself as standing on the appropriate month on that layout. If I think about another month, I visualize myself looking at the other month’s placeholder. So when I look at September from April, I’m standing on April, facing South.

I don’t know how this started. It changed a bit, over time. It used to transition from down to left after September instead of after August, but it eventually blended into this form. Note that on midnight on January 1st, I don’t visualize myself jumping across the gap (nor do I jump between any other months). I just warp there.

I’m unusually conscious of this physical layout when I’m playing Tetris. When I say things like “I can’t believe it’s June already!” I’m actually thinking “I can’t believe we’re headed down already!”

The sections (January to April, May to August, September to December) roughly match Florida’s three seasons (which are Summer, Fall, Still Fall But I Guess We Can Call It Spring). I was home schooled for K-11, and I didn’t get summers off, so that doesn’t explain the direction change for summer. Sometimes when I count out months, I tap out this pattern.

Anyone else have anything that they visualize in a non-traditional manner?

48 thoughts on “How I visualize the months of the year

  1. David Szpunar

    That’s weird, but cool. Always good to run into a fellow homeschooled-er (K-12 for me)! And better if that person is a WordPress core dev–two awesome things at once! That calendar thing though…that is weird. I am usually good at remembering strings of numbers (like phone numbers) if I try, and I do it by figuring out “random” ways they are related to each other (by their even/oddness or some other mathematical relationship). But it doesn’t usually involve visualization, and definitely not in the same way.

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  3. Jim Michael (subscribed)

    Wow, this is the first time I’ve heard of someone else visualizing the months as “oddly” as I do! I’ve polled friends and family for years and all of them nearly universally say they just see the months laid out flat, like a yearly calendar.

    My calendar can best be described as a running track, like you’d find at any typical high school. The track is 3-D, looking down on it from maybe 45 deg. above. January is at the 3 o’clock position and then the months progress counter-clockwise (just like a running track) linearly in a complete oval, until the year starts over. The year is indeed “oval” for me, with summer and winter being the longer “sides” and spring/fall being the shorter.

    I also have a weird visualization of numbers…

  4. Mark Post author

    filosofo, no — but thanks for the link! I knew about synesthesia with regard to numbers, but I didn’t know that it also included calendar associations.

    And holy crap, I found someone whose mental calendar almost exactly matches mine. I’m seriously freaked out by this. What is really strange is that my calendar used to be exactly like hers, with September in the lower-right slot. And she’s right about January and December seeming closer than they should be. And it does that without and warping or shortening of the summer months. It’s almost like a mirage… it looks one way when I stare at January and December, but changes when I look at it as a whole.

  5. bnpositive

    I don’t think I imagine my calendar in that way, but I remember when I was a kid and freaked out when I realized my name was spelled out by the first letters of July-November. I use some spatial relationships for single digit numbers when I’m counting in my head sometimes.

  6. Anna (subscribed)

    That is so funny! I have also done this my whole life. But my vision looks more like … well, a monopoly board with the months in a circle around an empty center. And I view it kind of from a tilted angle.

  7. Dave Cantrell (subscribed)

    Actually, I do much the same thing, and more to boot. Prepare to enter the Twilight Zone… :)

    For me the year looks like an oval on its side, with December at the top, and the months going clockwise with March at the far right, June at the bottom, and September at the far left. The center is hollow. I don’t know why it looks like this.

    Going further, the days of the week are weird too: blocks stacked five high, similar to your calendar only vertical, with Monday at the bottom and Friday at the top. At Friday make a sharp left turn and you have Saturday, and below that Sunday, then go right and back to Monday. And the *really* weird part is that Saturday and Sunday are each the same size as the other days of the week, but that can’t be possible since going left from Friday to Saturday then down to Sunday then right again should take you back to Thursday, not Monday… agh…

    And even THAT is not the REALLY weird thing. I think of ALL NUMBERS in a bizarrely visual way, with similar block structures for different sections of numbers, i.e. 1..10 goes straight up, then right for 11 and 12, then up 13..100, then turn left for 101-200, then up again for 201..1000, then right to 10,000, etc etc etc. It’s like a really weird long maze that makes no sense. Frankly I think that’s why I struggled with math in school, because I have to map numbers to this visual matrix that makes no sense and does nothing to help me solve the problem but instead just gets in the way.

    I’ve never known anybody else who thinks in this fashion, so its interesting to see that somebody else does the same kind of thing. I’m definitely a visual learner, and I’d be willing to bet you have a strong visual learning aspect as well.

  8. Jay

    This is fascinating! My attention was grabbed by the diagram of the calendar. Mine is not the same, but I do visualise the year’s months laid out always in the same way, and not exactly straight. Mine are linear, and each month occupies a square with its name written on it, but the ‘track’ begins with January about two thirds up on the left of my mental image and goes down to December near to the middle on the right. The track does a half twist in the middle to achieve this. The month’s names are written on the squares sideways, but I read them straight. Also, whichever month I am in, I’m standing by its left bottom corner looking towards the right, and that month is bigger than the others, the rest fading off right and left like a wide angle lens. When I’m in January I’m at the top of the track looking down its length, but in December, January is off to my right, heading off back the way I came. However, when I get into January, I’m back at the top of the track on the left again. I’ve always thought that was a tad weird.

  9. La Shawn

    Same here, Mark. I’m listening the audiobook of Musicophilia. The author discusses synesthesia, and like you, I thought it referred only to seeing musical notes or numbers as colors, or having smells and tastes. Had no idea there was “spatial” and “conceptual” synesthesia. I see the 12 months in a similar shape, but August, Sept, Oct, and Nov extend further down, and part of November and all of December occupy the bottom. Strange, eh?

    I went to public school and hated summer: long and boring! The summer months on my “chart” are elongated in my mind, and the rest of the year accelerates.

  10. Ellen Kennedy

    That’s remarkable! I see the year in a similar way, only in a sort of C-shape, and with the months of the year circling around to the left instead of the right.

    I also see personalities in letters (“A” is a jolly, cheerleader type, while “B” is withdrawn and shy, etc.), but that’s just probably my vivid imagination.

  11. Dick Bayerl (subscribed)

    I have always seen the months as monthy calendars from the left to the right. January is directly below December of the previous year. The calendars are standard calendars with each week starting with Sunday.

    The reason I came across this page is that I have always wondered how others visualize the number system. The whole scheme is rathe complex but it is primarily in ranks of numbers for each decade but the first two decades (1-19) are different. I have never tried to write it all down so I’m finding it hard to know how to do it succinctly. One thing about the numbers is that they are related to the history with the numbers below 1 are seen as years in the 19th century (again in decades). The earlier centuries are in parallel with each other with historic events popping up as I know about them.

    Strangely, when I think about the 1500s and eariler I am suddenly transported across the Atlantic to Europe. The centuries below what I could call the Dark Ages then migrate down to the Italian area ending at 0. Then the numbers continue to migrate to the middle east as the details become more obscure but definitely related to my knowledge of history.

    Much more could be said about the 1-99 number scheme and also about how the thousand, millions, trillions… work. Enough for now.

  12. dvg

    Wow. Way cool. My year is more of a doughnut, with June (my birthday month) the fattest and the middle of December to the middle of January as the skinniest. It’s hard to explain, actually. It’s kind of like a mobius strip, but without the twist. (Does that make any sense?)

  13. A

    Mine is a D shape but is not in a level plane. The months Jan through Mar are the bottom of the D as it goes counterclockwise around. However, this is down hill. When it gets to August, the D has a sharper curve to it (why?). Then Nov and December are the straight portions of the D.

  14. KMW (subscribed)

    I have been wondering for years about this! I see the months strung out in a big loop with a hole in the middle. The months take up different amounts of space and there are angles in the loop. It shifts depending on where I am in the year and what months I’m thinking about. July and August take up a much longer strip than the other months, and March April May are kinda jammed together.

    I’ve thought more about how I see numbers. One to ten march in a regular row ahead of me, 11 to 20 go in the same direction but are compressed; there’s a ninety degree right turn at 20, then a 90 degree left turn at 30, 70 degree right turn at 40, and then at 50 I have to make a leap in perspective to see to 100. I don’t have a clear picture of 50, 60, 70. I’ve found that doing multiplication where the answer is in the 50 to 70 range hard to remember. I wonder if I have trouble with the math because I can’t “see” those numbers very well, or can I not see them because I didn’t spend time on it way back when? (skipped a grade).

  15. Sara (subscribed)

    Wow! Great to finally stumble upon a discussion on the topic!

    I also have very developed (and never-changing) visual yearly and weekly calendars, as well as spatial representations for numbers and specifically numbers relating to age.
    Any info on what the proper name for this is? Does it really fall under the category of spatial synesthezia?

    Best wishes,
    s.

  16. Kitty

    I see the calendar almost exactly the way Jim Michael does: like an oval track, except that for me, January is at 11 o’clock, and the months go counterclockwise from there, with December at 12 o’clock. It was only a few years ago that I learned this was a form of synesthesia, and that not everyone “sees” the calendar this way! My mother has synesthesia as well, she associates days of the week with colors.

    1. Sarah R (subscribed)

      OMG, Kitty. You and I have the same calendar!! It’s counterclockwise. When someone says a date, it has a specific spot on the calender. The middle is hollow on mine, too. The months go with the circle rather than outward. I never knew there was a name for “this” and I have had the calendar in my head for as long as I can remember. I thought everyone had this! I can also memorize numbers (phone numbers, people’s employee numbers; birthdays) without having to try.

  17. LeAnn

    In my family, we’ve talked about this for years, and my daughter decided to do a science fair project on it. She wanted to see if gender or left/right handedness affects the way people see the days and months. It never even occured to either of us that most people don’t “see” them at all! I see them in 3-d, with Dec close to me and Jan on moving in an oval away from me and counter-clockwise. Dec and May are big and the summer months are squished together. So interesting! I found some info on synesthesia and found that associating days, months, and numbers with places in space is called spacial-sequencing synesthesia. Weird, my dad and siblings have it, too, but not my mom. I think it must be genetic. My daughter sees them on a 3-dimensional sphere that turns to show the current day or month. Wow!

  18. Dustin Harlan (subscribed)

    Wow, I was just discussing this with my Dad last weekend! I have visualized the calender as long as I can remember, mine is a circle. I see it with the months arranged similarly as numbers on a clock, with January in the 6 position and June around the 1 or 2 position. January-August are between the 6 and 11 positions and September-December are between the 11 and 6, all this going counter clockwise. Whatever month it is my viewpoint is from slightly above that month, with the previous month to my left and next month to my right.
    Days of the week are plain old boring squares with Monday starting the week at left and Saturday and Sunday ending on the right. Also Saturday and Sunday are of course bigger. Not very inventive.
    I am going to start poling people about this!

  19. Jennifer Helton Homan (subscribed)

    Okay — I am intrigued. I’ve described my “visual calendar” to my now ex-husband and he thought it was the weirdest thing ever. I am so glad I’m not alone!!!! (nice feeling).

    My calendar is eliptical. I can see the entire year in one three dimensional view, and I view it from the side, like a donut on it’s side, so the current month is up close to me and the rest of the months recede in the background in the eliptical shape, with the exact opposite month at the distance (ie: today is April 27th. April is in the forefront, March to the left and back, May to the right and back. Then the furthest away is September). The elipse rotates as the months click by and the current month is a larger size than the others (the furthest month is smallest receding in the background). I wish there was a way to send you a jpeg of mine. It’s pretty specific. The background is dark and the months tend to be colorful, but nothing specific — I don’t think in greyscale…always color.

  20. Twan (subscribed)

    This subject is really interesting, i’m fascinated by this since a few years. It was since 10 years that I’m aware of how I visualize a year, or actually 2 years in 1 eliptical shape. I’m 28 now and was searching for a subject to make a painting about. This looked a nice abstractive subject to me so I start doing research and read this topic.

    In my mind I see a 3d eliptical shape constructed by spheres, both halves represent 1 year so have 12 spheres. The current month is the biggest spere and the rest is ahead of me. December is situated slightly left in the back and time moves counter clockwise. This year I’m on the top half elips and from december it starts going down again. I’m not flipping with my head down but I continue to see it upwards. There is also some colouring involved, probably with the seasons but I’m not sure about it.

    When the painting is ready I will try to post it here!

    Nice to know that more people have this! Are there any studies available??

    Thanks for the tips and byby
    Twan

  21. David W. (subscribed)

    Jim Michael, mine is exactly like yours… a track shape or oval that’s somewhat three dimensional yet not perfectly proportionate. Also, it’s sort of standing on it’s end. The line between Dec. and Jan. is at the very top, July/August is at the bottom (not sure why it’s not balanced in that way). I usually see it from the perspective of whatever month it is.

    I’ve been fascinated by this since I was a small child and have always asked others what shape their mental calendar was in. Oddly enough, this is the first time I’ve searched it out online. Seems like a lot of people share common shapes.

    Dave W.
    NJ/USA

  22. TC (subscribed)

    wow! I’m not alone! I finally tried to figure out what I was doing – I visualize the days of the week in a spacial way, as well as numbers, the yearly calendar and centuries. In an odd way, but almost in a 3D way.

    Does this have a name? Does it indicate anything about the way our brains work?

  23. WSB

    Visualizing the calendar and days of the week is something that I first consciously thought about when I was in middle school. Looking back, it’s something that I can recall always doing, but for some reason I never consciously thought about it until I was in junior high school. This is when I first realized that not everyone thought and visualized it like I did or even visualized it at all.

    For me, the months are rather basic. It’s kind of like if you put them in a row starting with January and going through December, except instead of thinking about it like it’s on the wall or laid out if front of you, I think about it like I’m on the month looking down and progressing through it. So basically, this being July, I’m rest of the month is in front of me, while June is to my right and August is to my left.

    I think of the weekly calendar this way too and each day is basically a block or rectangle that I progress through. For instance if it’s Wednesday, I’m on Wednesday looking towards the bottom of the calendar and Tuesday is to my right while Thursday is to my left, and the previous week is behind me and the next week is in front of me. The quirky thing is the weekend. For as long as I can remember, before I actually consciously thought about it, I always progressed through the week as I stated, but Saturday, instead of starting at the top and progressing through it to the bottom, I thought of it as going in the opposite direction, and once I got to Saturday, the weekly calendar rotated (or flipped) so that Saturday was now butted up against the upcoming Sunday and as I’m progressing through the day I’m also going in the direction of looking down the calendar. I don’t’ know if that made sense since it’s hard to put it words, but I guess it’s sort of like a spiral. It’s weird but logically it wouldn’t make sense to just leap somehow from Saturday to Sunday. But once I got to the point of consciously thinking about it, the way I’ve always visualized it hasn’t always made logical sense to me either. Sometimes I wished I was one of the many that didn’t visualize it at all, or at least didn’t consciously think about the fact I was visualizing it.

  24. TJC (subscribed)

    Wow..I do the same…I see the months of a single year in a 3 dimensional, spacial way. I see the days of the week that way too. I see numbers in a sequence that turns left and right and has “up” and “down” properties. I see centuries that way too. I knew I was doing it, I just never knew what to call it. now I’ve found out. Again, nice to know I’m not alone. I was also happy to find out that it’s not some sort of disorder – it’s neither good, nor bad. It just “is.”

  25. RickC

    It’s a relief to find others who visualise this way! No point in describing my ‘pattern’ but enough to say that I think of Days, Months, Centuries, the Alphabet, Numbers and, well, any sequence that needs to be committed to memory, in the same way. I’m amazed when I poll friends that they don’t think of these the same way; there again I suppose it’s not something you discuss every day!

    Just a thought – how many of us ‘visualisers’ are left-handed like me?

  26. Cheryl V (subscribed)

    I see the months in a circle with the months being the color of the first letter of each month. So April is red because my A’s are red. June, July and January are green because my J’s are green.
    Does anyone see the decades in a particular pattern. And if so, does this make you more aware of the passing years and a sense of how much closer you are to death?

  27. Jennifer

    Ooh! My visualization of the months is almost exactly like the one you referenced here. The only difference is that December completes a side by itself, which is odd because it doesn’t seem any longer than June, July and August, which all make up the opposite side on the right.

    I also 100% agree with your visualization of “now” in a month-to-month sense (when looking at September from April, you’re standing on April, facing South).

  28. jv

    Wow this is seriousle kinda flipping me out. I’ve always seen the months in the exact same ways and its been bugging me for no reason because I know not everyone saw things like this, but now its weird to know people actually see things just like you see them.

  29. rhea

    i just found this while researching synesthesia.. i’ve been doing this for all my life

    I see the whole year in a square shape each month following the other on this shape like on a big ribbon and i usually, depending on the month i’m thinking about, find myself in a certain position to it.

    for example when i think of january december is to the left while november, october and september are one over the other over december to the left, august, july and june are straight ahead and may april follow under june to my right. to my right there is february and march and april.

    this happens to all months. but depending on where i am on the calendar the other months are to my left or right or ahead or higher or lower. for example in june i look down at may and april is even lower. when i’m in december i’m in a straight angle, with november to the left and january up. the square then moves again when i’m in january. i however don’t perceive anything or any sort of special acrobatic while moving from december 31 to january 1. and so on

    this all also happens counterclockwise.

    i see numbers in the same way and weekdays. same with historic periods or my own life chronology (with numeric milestones or important dates creating a bend in the ribbon). i’m gonna be 30 in 2 years and i realized that while there was no more special bent or change of direction after 20 till 100 (after which the sequence goes down) there’s starting to be a segment, between 30 and 40 bending again. heh

    sequential numbers are like on a ribbon from 1 to 10 in horizontal then till 20 vertical and down, then the rest horizontal. i don’t perceive any other bent after 20 and i see them all in a straight line. when i’m thinking about numbers i do however feel myself hovering (mentally of course) over this endless ribbon and in a certain relation to the numbers. i can tell which ones are bigger or smaller in relation to this arrangement in space. and there’s a bump of sorts on milestones (like 100)

    however i never really thought about it so much. i did think maybe my visualizing of the year and months may be a little weird but i thought we all do that. it may also have soemthing to do with a way of spatially visualizing things from since forever. i’m an architect btw.

    heh. weird shit. but i think everyone has a form of synesthesia in the end. i guess we just have to give it a name :P

  30. Tammy

    Working with my son who was forgetting August. We raced around the track me with mouse him by reading over and over. When I asked how he remembered, he remembers the corners, August on the corner.
    Thank you..

  31. kristael (subscribed)

    This is so great that I found this. I’ve thought about this a lot but have never brought it up to anyone until last night. I had asked my boyfriend how he visualized it. At first he was confused when I said that I pictured the months in different spaces, but then I got a little out of him. Mine is almost the same as yours only flipped. Mine goes counterclockwise for some reason. I am a lefty and I wondered if that had anything to with it, but my boyfriend is right handed and his goes counter clockwise as well. Jan, Feb, March, April and May at the top going to the left. May is maybe on the top left corner then down is June July Aug and Sept would be the bottom left corner. Along the bottom is Oct Nov and Dec. I’m not sure how Dec and Jan meet up, warping must be the only answer, haha. I just wonder what differs in each person that makes them see this differently.

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  33. filosofo (subscribed)

    I thought of this when reading the following passage from Fred Brooks’ essay, “‘No Silver Bullet’ Refired”:

    I have long enjoyed asking candidate programmers, “Where is next November?” If the question is too cryptic, then, “Tell me about your mental model of the calendar.” The really good programmers have strong spatial senses; they usually have geometric models of time; and they quite often understand the first question without elaboration.

  34. Fran

    Hi, this is really interesting because for as long as I can remember I’ve been able to see days in my mind… 3D and black and white, each day is a partitioned segment, unlike yours which seems to be months partitioned. From what I see of this image, your year is circular, whereas mine is linear. I cant see the present day, and I see ‘behind’ me the days that have passed and the further the future is the smaller and further away I ‘see’ it.
    I actually have a really bad memory so I don’t know if this concept of time is useful at all… I know that if you asked me ‘what are you doing on saturday?’ I would ‘see’ the weekend (slightly darker than the rest of the week) and have a feeling about it if there was something happening… but couldnt necessarily tell you what it was.
    Reading your entry, its very interesting to see that you have something similar.
    fran

  35. Ruth (subscribed)

    I see a year as an open circle, at a slight angle. The months move counter-clockwise (I’m a lefty too). I view the circle from the ‘bottom’ or fall position. Right now we’re in the end of summer/beginning of fall, so I can see that August is on my left, rust colored, and has almost no energy. As we approach September the energy increases and the color changes to a brighter wheat/yellow hue. The circle is three-dimensional. December and January are in a darkish, bottom right hand corner (if a circle had a corner), and they have a primitive feel. I’ve always thought of the year this way – it’s nice to meet others of my kind! I also see a week as an oval moving clockwise…and getting darker as the days progress. Weeks are 2-D and viewed from above. Strange that I’m never actually IN the shapes.

  36. Ree (subscribed)

    I just stumbled onto this blog, and I’m so glad I did. Until a couple years ago, I thought everyone visualized the months the way I did. Then I found out I am, as my kids put it, “weird.”

    My visualization is like three/fourths of an oval track. The clearest parts are the 2 months directly in front of me (I assume I’m “in” the month that is current). The next ones are in the loop of the oval and are a bit more faded out, a little dimmer. Example: this is the end of October, and I “see” November right in front of me, then December, and January is dimmer and at the top of the loop. February starts the downward part of the “track” and then so on, getting dimmer and less distinct until about May or June when that part of the “track” has faded off into a greyish nothing. As the year progresses, those months and the ones after move up, as if they were rotating. The oval doesn’t change, but the months move on it coming toward me. I never see the other end of the track, the other loop, though there’s an awareness that it’s there. I can’t see the months that have just passed either.

    I also “see” the days of the week this way. And I have discalculia, a learning disability with numbers and time concepts. I transpose numbers (my checkbook register is a horrible mess!), can’t visualize anything that’s described with numbers, such as 3 feet, 19 inches, ten yards, etc., totally suck at math, have trouble with analog clocks, and am late for nearly everything because I can’t accurately judge how much time passes. Also can’t recall names of people, songs, movies, books, but I can recite entire plots, sing whole songs without a problem.

    I don’t know if the calendar visualization connects to the discalculia or not, but it sure is good to know I’m not the only one with this visualization thing!

  37. tth (subscribed)

    I see months of the year laid out in a flattened circle moving clockwise. January starts at about 4 o’clock going around to December at 3 o’clock. Until a few years ago, I thought everyone saw the year this way.

  38. lesnzeb (subscribed)

    I am taking psychology as a biological science and we were introduced to synesthesia today. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing! I have always thought that everyone did this, but I apparently have calander synesthesia. My calendar is more pear-shaped with the summer months at the bottom. As I move through the year, the days are laid out like a sidewalk and zig-zag back and forth. I do something very similar with regular numbers and counting. I have always struggled in math and, while discussing this with my husband this afternoon, have begun to think this may be part of why I struggle in the comprehension of many math concepts. Anyone know how common this is or how many people actually have this condition?

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