I’m sure I’m not the only person who sighs at the fact that half of 2016 has passed us by. Time passing all too quickly niggles at me often and so I approached Google for some insight. According to neuroscientist and science writer Jordan Gaines Lewis on www.scientificamerican.com, I am not the first to ponder this phenomenon.
My search revealed that a fair number of studies have explored the topic, one as far back as 1877. In her December 2013 article, Gaines Lewis writes: “Why does it seem like Christmas 2012 was just last week when, as a child, it seemed to take ages to arrive?”
She surmised some psychologists’ theories and I’ve added my own bits in:
- We gauge time by memorable events.
In other words the older we get, so the abundance of new memories diminishes. The somewhat mundane routine of ‘adulting’ tends to make life pass at speed.
- The amount of time passed relative to one’s age varies.
Simply put, for my six-year-old son, one year represents just over 16% of his entire life. For me, one year is just under 3% of my life. Lewis writes that this ‘ratio theory’, proposed by Paul Janet in 1877, suggests that we are constantly comparing time intervals with the total amount of time we’ve already lived.
- Our biological clock slows as we age.
Tick, tock. As we age, our metabolism slows down. Children’s hearts beat faster than those of adults as they breathe faster and the blood flows more rapidly. As their ‘clocks’ move through 24 hours faster than ours, they tend to live more simply. Thus time appears slower to them whereas for us, time moves faster.
- As we age, we pay less attention to time.
Lewis explains: “When you’re a kid on December 1, you’re faithfully counting down the days until Santa brings your favorite Hot Wheels down the chimney. When you’re an adult on December 1, you’re a little more focused on work, bills, family life, scheduling, deadlines, travel plans, Christmas shopping, and all of that other boring grown up stuff. The more attention one focuses on tasks such as these, the less one will notice the passage of time.”
- Stress, stress, and more stress.
Ah, the old adage ‘So much to do, so little time.’ When we slow our minds down, so too does time – or rather our perception thereof. I recently treated myself to a massage for my birthday. What felt like two hours of relaxation was only an hour. Yet, when I’m attacking deadlines on all fronts, I feel like there are never enough hours in the day.
Well, how does it help me, you ask? Here’s my take. We make the mistake of thinking we ‘don’t have time’. Nobody has time – because nobody owns time. We have to MAKE time. This has been quite revolutionary in my own life.
As a business owner, editor of this journal, a wife, a mother of two, and a children’s church teacher, among other things, I have to consciously make time to be the best of the aforementioned roles and to ‘make time for me’ so that I can capably carry them out.
We have to be intentional with our time and tasks. It takes effort and practice, and of course … time.
It’s about perspective
The beauty of the Internet is its hyperlinks to other articles. My trip along the ‘white brick road’ of my keyboard led me to a March 2016 post by Steve Taylor, senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Becker University. Uncannily, he is the author of ‘Making Time’.
He speaks about two perspectives of time – the ‘positive pressure perspective’ and the ‘transcendent perspective’. Both have pros and cons. The former views time as a ‘precious commodity’ that should not be wasted. This could also see us obsessing about not wasting time; every non-productive minute viewed as worthless, preventing us from relaxing.
The latter looks at time as a mere human construct. The past is not a real phenomenon. It simply exists as our memories and the recordings thereof. “In the present, there is no time”, states Taylor. “There is just a continual flow of experience” divided by our humanness into seconds, minutes, hours and days. “Time doesn’t pass away; it is always with us.” This could free us from stress but could take away our sense of urgency or motivation to get things done.
Similarly, says Taylor, the future is not real either. “It is only our anticipations, plans and upcoming meetings that form our ‘future’.”
“You don’t describe the future you see, you see the future you describe”
This is the mantra of Steuart Pennington who we have secured as our keynote speaker for the TAPPSA Conference. The future is what we make it.
Having delivered more than 500 talks on South Africa’s global competitiveness both here and abroad, Steuart maintains that if citizens and businesses understand both the good and the bad they are much more able, and willing, to make a positive difference to the bad. We look forward to listening to him.
In other conference news
The TAPPSA Exhibition space is fully booked with a contingent of five India-based companies and the response by students for poster presentations has been fantastic.
I trust you have a good time reading this issue. As always, I appreciate your feedback so don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
Remember, urgent things scream at us. The important things keep quiet. Make time for the important stuff.
Jordan Gaines Lewis. 2013. Why Does Time Fly as We Get Older?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/why-does-time-fly-as-we-get-older/. [Accessed 6 June 2016].
Steve Taylor Ph.D. . 2016. Living in Harmony With Time . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-darkness/201603/living-in-harmony-time. [Accessed 7 June 2016].
Samantha Choles | Editor, TAPPSA Journal