Wow, where has my life gone?
Life is just moving too fast!
Do you feel that the days just flash by?
Do weekends just not seem long enough?
Do you often find yourself thinking, “Surely, it cannot be Monday again already?”
Your free time is precious to you, yet there is simply not enough of it. You work hard, sometimes giving that 110%. So you know and understand that your free time is going to be limited, but the little free time you do have just seems to pass by way too fast.
Weekends can be the worst, you seem to have a thousand chores to do. You are desperate to just relax or enjoy yourself, so you put those chores to one side and try to enjoy some free time.
Those unfinished chores pull on you – now rather than enjoying or relaxing, you are now feeling conflicted, guilty and frustrated.
What you really wanted to do was get those things DONE, and then to be able to relax or enjoy yourself in whatever precious free time you had left.
But what did you actually do?
You ended up experiencing NEITHER the satisfaction that you did those things, NOR the enjoyment of feeling relaxed or pleasured, and then felt MISERABLE about both failures.
What could you have done differently?
Well, you could have chosen to use your time more efficiently of course, but that would not necessarily have made your free time experience any richer or rewarding – it might still have evaporated in a blink of your eye, even if you’d got all your chores done.
Now. You thought this was going to be about productivity or some such didn’t you? It isn’t!
So let’s not talk about productivity, motivation, goal setting, self-discipline or anything of that kind right now (if you do find yourself putting important things off, and want to tackle these issues at some point. I recommend that youRead this book, I have!)
So, for now, r-e-l-a-x and let us, just for a moment, talk about TIME and how we PERCEIVE it. Let us talk about how that oh-so-precious free time can be used to your greatest advantage and enjoyment.
The Lazy Hazy Days Of Youth
When you were young, do you remember how those wonderful, long hot summers just seemed to go on and on and on?
Do you remember that feeling you had when a year seemed like FOREVER?
Almost everything we encountered when we were young, was brand new to us. Everything was exciting and interesting.
It was so FIRST TIME, for so MUCH.
But as we age, we generally accumulate fewer and fewer new experiences, and we become saturated with the familiar.
Once we reach a certain age, we find ourselves working hard in our careers, in our relationships and with our families.
Those rich new experiences we encountered daily as a child are now few and far between, and time seems to have speeded up as our lives become filled with the routine of daily life.
An hour just doesn’t seem to last as long as it used to!
And therein lies the secret: it is the routine and familiarity of your life that has speeded up your perception of time.
It is your perception that needs to change. And If you change your perception, you can make your perception of time SLOW DOWN!
Don’t believe me? You don’t need to take my word for it. Science has already discovered this to be true.
Here’s Neuroscientist, Professor David Eagleman, in the New Yorker magazine:
“One of the seats of emotion and memory in the brain is the amygdala, he explained. When something threatens your life, this area seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.”
So. That’s all very good, right? But what are you supposed to do about it?
For now, let’s leave aside how to get into the moment, and assume you are in the moment.
What exactly are you supposed to do to make that precious free time seem to last for much longer?
The answer is surprisingly simple, and doesn’t necessarily mean scaring yourself half-to-death every day! Although scaring yourself a little every day will most definitely work!
“Do one thing everyday that scares you”
– Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune (not Eleanor Roosevelt)
The absolute best kind of experience would be to do something new that involves all, or nearly all of your senses – so watching a new show on TV is not what you need. That’s a very low-quality experience altogether!
For example, you could have a have a series of Micro-Adventures every week! And that’s a whole other subject right there, which I most definitely recommend checking out!
But, there are other small things you can do too; as long as the activity or experience is brand new to you.
“Time is this rubbery thing, it stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.”
So, let’s get some ideas…
The Slow Time Hit List
1. Live life in detail – Focus
Take the time to study the detail of something and really appreciate it; the clouds in the sky, the bark of a tree in your street, the bird sitting on the branch. Develop a presence in the moment.
If you are sitting, pay attention to your weight on the seat; if you are standing, the soles of your feet on the ground.
What do you smell?
What can you hear?
Is there a taste in your mouth?
Try to pay attention to the even smallest of details. Go really small and use your mind as a microscope.
Recruit all 5 senses, or as many as you can, while you do this
2. Meditation – Either do some breathing or guided meditation. Breath meditation is not at all difficult; just get yourself comfortable, close your eyes and focus on your breathing for 10 minutes. Count each breath in, and each breath out. Concentrate on the physical sensation of breathing itself, and how each breath differs from the other. Do not worry about your mind wandering – let the thoughts come and go as they please, and if you lose focus, return gently to the breath.
Guided meditations can be very rewarding, relaxing experiences. Sometimes you can feel like you have actually been to another time or place. There are hundreds of these on YouTube so you will be spoilt for choice!
There’s one here you can try!
Try to do at least one of these EVERY day.
3. Vocalisation – Performing repetitive vocalisations, such as chanting mantras are an ancient way of focussing the mind and reaching a trance-like state. Even singing will work just fine, or simply repeating the same phrase over and over. The key is to choose something meaningful, such as “I am calm, I am serene, I feel still”, or even just words from one of your favourite songs.
If that doesn’t sound right for you, you can simply listen to some chanting or some ambient music. Try Brian Eno or Biosphere.
Here are some Gregorian Chants combined with ambient sounds and music, for example.
4. Stop multi-tasking – Unless you happen to be in the 2% that are really good at it, it’s not only wrecking your productivity, but also the quality of your experiences.
There’s a 98% chance that when you think you’re multi-tasking, you’re actually just flitting from one thing to the next and back again in quick succession. In other words, there’s a 98% chance that you really suck at multi-tasking.
There are 2 main results of this:
1. You end up not performing any of those tasks half as well as you’re actually able to.
2. The time can appear to flash by for very little reward.
However, if you focus on one thing at a time, and fully engage with it making a mental note of every detail involved, and keep at it until it is complete:
1. Your productivity and the quality of your work will increase.
2. The time can appear to move more slowly, and you have your best work at the end of it.
Read more about the myth of multi-tasking here.
5. The same, but different – Do you have a daily routine that’s almost second nature? Most of us do.
But how well do you remember the details of any of the things you did during that routine? Not many, if any, I’d wager.
We all have routine patterns of activity in our life that can seem to run on auto-pilot.
So another good way to slow time down is that in addition to focussing on detail (we already covered that), you change your routine. This doesn’t mean doing different things, but doing the same things differently.
Do you take a certain route to work? Then go a different way, and if practical change the method you use to get there.
Read or study in different rooms in the house, or do it in the garden, a park or a cafe.
Prepare one of your favourite meals in a completely different way, use some different ingredients and different methods.
Whatever you do routinely, change how you do it.
Try at least three of the above on a daily basis, and you will notice a difference in how you perceive time.
Now, if you can do that, you can go the extra step and break away from the ultimate routine and learn how to live life on your own terms.