How to Get Your Time (and Your Life) Back
Does it seem like days and months are just flying by? There’s an old saying of the older we all get, the faster time seems to go by. While that’s kind of true, it certainly seems as though older and younger people alike are bringing up that old saying more than usual.
Many people these days are feeling like their time is running in fast-forward and they’re starting to get frustrated as though their lives are being robbed from them with every passing moment.
We wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s a “time shortage” or “rapidity epidemic” or something silly like that, but it’s definitely an issue when a lot of people think time itself is speeding toward the end.
If you’re one of those people, you know time isn’t actually going faster, but as long as it seems like it is, you may wonder what difference it even makes.
Here’s what difference it makes: you can break the illusion. Time itself may not be in your control, but your perception of it is. All you have to do is change the ways you’re spending your time.
Easier said than done, right? If we could throw our stress off our shoulders, it wouldn’t be so stressful, now would it? But you may realize if you’re worried about time blowing past you, stressing out about it is just going to make the problem worse.
Whenever you can, try not to race the clock. We live in a modern society and maintaining a schedule is important, but don’t worry so much about making sure every individual moment is well-spent. If you get too wrapped up in your days being efficient, you won’t be able to savor them. If you race the clock, it’s going to give you a run for its money.
We understand this might seem like foolish advice in a modern world where people need to work efficiently to survive, but remember, stressed work isn’t necessarily efficient work.
Don’t multitask if you don’t have to; just focus on the one task at hand. Don’t push yourself past the point of diminishing returns. As they say, work smarter, not harder.
In some ways, it’s kind of like placebo-ing yourself. If you can get yourself to believe there’s no rush, it may soon seem like there was never a rush, only a steady stream of moments to enjoy.
You know how when you’re waiting for a specific event in the future, it seems to take forever to arrive? Well, there you go.
Have something to look forward to, whether it’s a vacation, a new season of your favorite show, or just meeting up with an old friend. When you’re just itching for a moment to arrive, you’ll realize how much time we do have right now.
Remember a few pages ago when we said it seems like more people than ever before are complaining about time going by too fast? Well, the studies have been done and the results are in: overexposure to the Internet is absolutely a contributing factor.
Even if you’re not one of those people who can lose an hour of your life scrolling Facebook, the time you spend on the Internet seems to go by much faster than it really does.
You see, when time seems to go by too fast, it’s because your brain is either wildly overstimulated from sensory overload or under-stimulated from boredom to the point that you’re operating on autopilot.
The Internet manages to make both of these things happen at once: you’re being bombarded by information, and yet the vast majority of it is so mundane, none of it really seems like anything noteworthy.
Since your brain doesn’t think there was very much there worth remembering, it barely remembers any of it. Those twenty minutes seem like two when they’re over, and unless you saw something online that was jarring enough to stick with you, you hardly remember those twenty minutes an hour later.
Of course, before the Internet, there was television, and concurrent to both are video games. While leisure time is important for keeping your head on straight, digital entertainment just drains time more than reading a book does.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, but it really flies when you’re being overloaded with fun… and yet not really enjoying it as much as you think.
A piece of media also gets more time-wasting points for the less it asks you to engage. Sitting and watching something that doesn’t require you to think or do very much will seem almost like they never happened once they’re over.
You don’t need to go Amish and abandon modern technology, but try to be picky with what you allow yourself to consume. Internet addiction is a very real thing these days, and like any addiction, it corrodes your life in more ways than one.
When we were kids, a day seemed like a week and a month seemed like a year. There’s a reason for that: the world was new to us, and our minds were occupied by observing and processing everything we saw.
Now as adults, we get into our rhythms and stick to routines, and days blur together until our birthdays come as a surprise to us. The difference is, for the most part, we stopped discovering.
For all our warning that the overstimulation of the Internet will send you into a time warp, the Net is a crazy off-the-charts exception that breaks the rule. Take it out of the equation, and the main culprit of time waste is boredom. What makes a moment feel like a complete moment is having just the right amount of stimulation and engagement.
For example, the antithesis of spending time in front of a screen is spending time outside. It’s not just because there are no clocks outdoors, it’s because engaging with nature is an excellent balance of mental engagement.
You’re taking in all the little details you never took the time to notice because you were too busy, but you’re not too mentally engaged by having a bunch of pixels try to tell you something you can’t really tell whether you care about.
They say we should get off our phones and just “live in the moment,” and while the joke is this is often said by old technophobes, it’s not bad advice.
Don’t meander complacently through your life; stop to appreciate the things you never noticed. Better yet, go look for something you’ve never seen before.
It could be as complex as teaching yourself quantum physics or as simple as walking on the other side of the street and rediscovering the world around you. If it seems like every day is exactly the same, then make every day different from the last.
We know we’re getting more and more abstract, but seriously: do. Anything. You will better remember the time you spent actively than the time spent passively, and in the end, time that seems to go by fast was time that wasn’t memorable enough.
“Do” really goes hand-in-hand with “discover.” The experts on psychology who’ve looked into how we perceive time unanimously give this piece of advice: do something new every day.
You may have heard that advice before and dismissed it as some cutesy over-idealistic goal that regular people can’t achieve. But it can be achieved, and it works.
To get the most fulfilment out of your day, try to discover some person, place, or thing in an active way (that is to say “in the physical world and not just online”).
Try to see some new sights, learn some new things, meet some new people, and find more spaces you haven’t spent time in before.
It will be harder for some than for others, but it’s a goal we all ought to strive to accomplish. Even people who aren’t paranoid about time slipping away could stand to benefit from opening themselves up to new experiences.
At this point, we could try to explain away how these new experiences translate to a sense of time going slower, but the fact of the matter is these moments may seem to go by very fast when they’re happening – again, time flies when you’re having fun.
But anxiety about time going by too fast always happens in retrospect, and we’ll feel like these were more fulfilling and full moments than the ones that were merely mundane. When no two days are the same, they won’t blur together.