Time: Where It’s Going and How to Slow It

This is the time of year where people say “where is the year going?” Time speeds up as you get older (or so it seems). When you’re young, months last eternities. But this year has already had two of them.

It’s a double blow when the days feel long and the years feel short. Where is your life going? What’s happening to it? Why is time slipping through your fingers?

What can you do about it?

There’s not a lot you can do about the rate of physical events. But time isn’t literally speeding up; only your perception of it. This is good news, since you can change any perception.

If you don’t think this is important… you should. It’s a symptom of a deeper issue. Time speeding up is like antibodies responding to an infection. It’s a sign of – and attempted treatment of – a problem your brain faces.

But don’t worry. It’s an easy fix (and a fun one, too).

When Time Speeds Up

Time is all about how you remember it.

As I write this, it feels like 2018 is racing by. Then I remember what I’ve done in that time. The content I’ve created for my site. The longstanding problems I’ve solved at work. All the things I’ve learned, the parties I’ve enjoyed, the progress I’ve made towards an ideal future…

Honestly, I’ve lived a lot in these two months. When I sit down and think about it, I’m amazed at how much I’ve done.

So, what causes the discrepancy? What stops us from experiencing every moment in time?

Like I say, it’s how you remember it. You remember things that are interesting, new and important to you. It also helps if you pay attention to what you’re supposed to remember.

When you’re young, everything is new and captivating. You can play with a bug and a blade of grass for hours. As you get older, things don’t surprise you as much. So more moments that are experienced but not remembered will slip through your fingers.

It’s natural to feel like time is accelerating. But too much of it ain’t good for you.

Your brain lives to create memories. If it’s not doing it much, it means it’s understimulated. Like a muscle, you either use your brain or lose it.

But more than that, wouldn’t it be nice to feel as though you’re really living life? It certainly beats the thought of suddenly waking up three decades from now, having only a vague sense of the years passing.

Slow Time by Living More

If subjective time is linked to new memories, then what can we do about it?

  • Stay healthy. If you eat right and exercise, your mind will function well. I probably don’t have to emphasise this point. You already know these things are good.
  • Train your mind. If your brain is like a muscle, does that mean you can develop it? Absolutely. We’re not sure what the limits are, but it seems like the brain can completely rewire itself. But if you neglect it, it can unwire itself too.
  • New information, new experiences and new mental models shape the way you see the world. This novelty is your secret ingredient to experiencing more time.
  • Slow down and appreciate what’s in front of you. When you sleepwalk through life, everything seems familiar. When you really pay attention to something, it’s like seeing it for the first time. There is so much detail in even a simple pebble. Take a moment to notice it. Reflect on the little things and happy moments.
  • Your fellow humans are wonderfully complex. Every conversation is something new. People are too sophisticated to be predictable, so indulge in a little unpredictability.
  • Do something that scares you. There’s no way you’ll forget it, no matter how much time passes.

None of these remedies are surprising. They are components to a great life. But I don’t often see this advice for the problem of runaway time.

If you are distracted, well, it happens. But if you stay distracted, you might just blink and miss out on life.

And like all my favourite advice, even if none of these solve the problem, they are still worth doing. The worst case scenario is your life will reach a new level of awesome. The best case scenario? Your attention will be around to experience it… and relive it.