Time: why does it run faster as we age and can we slow it down?

Our youngest kid started school last week… (pause)

Allow me to repeat it once again as I still don’t believe it myself:

our. youngest. kid. started. school. last. week.

The moments like that make you think about time and how fast it flies by. It seems that when we were kids the period from September till Christmas was impossibly long. And look at us now… It is almost Christmas, when the first of September was last week, wasn’t it? But is it actually true: does time fly faster or is it yet another trick our brain is playing on us? If the latter is the case, can we “play back” and slow the lapse of time?

To answer the first question, it is indeed just a trick of our brain. Obviously, time doesn’t speed up, our perception of it changes.

The reasons for that were described already at the end of the 19th century in the book Principles of Psychology by William James. The author wrote that the main reason for such perception is that as we grow older we have less memorable events. We don’t have that much (or any) more “firsts”: first bike ride, first visit to the museum, first time of sleeping in a big bed… According to the psychologist, it is exactly the lack of new experiences in adulthood which is the cause of our distorted perception of the lapse of time.

Although this has some point, I cannot totally agree. I believe in this sense it has more to do with sincere emotions which accompany certain events for us. It is the same with music – the music of our youth seems better not because it was better, but because of the emotions and feelings which for us were associated with it. But coming back to time. When we were kids, waiting on Santa to come and bring presents, we were anticipating magic! Besides, we were much more conscious, aware, right there – in the moment. We knew precisely how many days, hours, even minutes are left to wait. When we grew up, although we all have a whole bunch of calendars and apps on our phones we don’t pay that much attention to the passage of time any more. There is rarely an anticipation of magic. Our biological clock also slows down. More than often stress adds to it and steals our joy. What we have by the end of the day is that we don’t even know where did that day go. We simply don’t remember.

Did you know that a popular leadership training amongst top executives is a mindfulness training? On one hand it might sound like another buzz-word, yet it has much more value that you might think at first. Aside from some other benefits, like improved resilience, enhanced capacity for collaboration and the ability to lead in complex conditions, mindfulness allows you to literally slow down time.

Did it ever happen to you that you went out of your house, locked the door, went to the car and then had to come back to check if you actually locked the door? There are a lot of moments like this that you just do things automatically, without thinking, without being there – in the moment. Some automation might not be bad. However, if we are not in the moment – how can we notice this moment?… 

Let me leave you with this –

If you really want to slow down your time:

  • be aware and mindful, thus be in the moment;
  • fill up your life with genuine emotions: big things, little moments;
  • capture valuable moments and emotions: write them down at the end of the day, or just think them through again (you might also be interested in To write or not to write: why it is a good idea to write things down?);
  • protect that naive and sincere child that is still alive in you, however tough you might seem on the outside;
  • don’t forget a good daily moisturizer (LOL).

I cannot say that I mastered the art of slowing down time for myself as I am still somewhat shocked that I have to prepare already two (!) school backpacks for tomorrow. Nevertheless, I am following the above advice myself and I can say that I am definitely on the right track.

What do you think? Do you have the feeling that the time flies faster? Did you find any other tricks to slow it down? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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