A theory on time.


Ever feel like life is passing you by? Do days turn into weeks into months and years? Me too. And it makes me pretty nervous to think that I’m not making the most of every second. So for my five minutes of inspiration, I took a look into why time flies and how we can slow it down a notch or two.


Reflect for a moment, back to when you were a child. Did it feel like it went on forever? Apparently, the reason for this is because we’re experiencing lots of firsts. First Christmas, first ice cream, first school dance, first Tamagotchi (I had a dog, named Fred). These firsts built anticipation and novelty was high. So memories associated with firsts slow down our perception of time. And, looking back, this makes sense – we did experience a lot of firsts in those formative years.


 The concept of time perception is psychological and not linear. Put simply, novel, new experiences seem to slow time. Routine and repetition make it go faster. Think about a road trip you took somewhere new. Did it feel like forever to get there but way faster on the way home? That’s because en route you were absorbing everything, the smells, the scenery, the animals, but on the way back you’ve seen and smelt it all, you’re familiar with it so it passes by more quickly.

One example of speeding up time is when people are imprisoned. They lose the ability to distinguish one day from another as they see the same environments, the same people and have very little interaction. Time travels incredibly fast for them, years go by like they’re days. And when they’re released it’s a huge adjustment, like a time-machine that’s transported them into the future. So if you’re stuck in routine and the daily grind is getting you down, remind yourself that you have the freedom to mix it up.


Although we all read time in the same linear way, our perception can be different. Ask a few people around the office this question and see what answers you get back – “Next Wednesday’s meeting has moved two days forward, when’s the meeting?”

Spoiler alert: there’s no wrong answer.

If you said Monday, this is called a time-moving metaphor which means you see yourself as standing still in time, the future is coming towards you. But for you who said Friday, this is called an ego-moving metaphor, in other words, you see yourself moving forward in time, towards the future. Just like all perceptions in life, this one can change also. If you’re stuck in the departure lounge at the airport you’ll say Monday, because you’re bound to the lounge till your plane arrives. But in the arrivals lounge, you’ll say Friday because you’re free to leave and move forward with your life.




So what can we learn from all this? My take is that ultimately, we are in control of how fast our lives pass us by. We need to stop, reflect and act on it. Here’s a few tips to get you started:

  • Always push yourself out of your comfort zone to experience the new.
  • Take that annual leave and go on holiday, travel, see new things, meet new people.
  • Shake up your routines and get out of the daily grind.
  • Get off technology and get outside.

And ask yourself, what will be your ‘new’ today?

Melinda Parris