While researching Off the Clock, I came across a fascinating insight from Alan Burdick. He wrote: “Very often when we remark, ‘How did time fly by so quickly?’ what’s actually meant is some version of ‘I don’t remember where the time went.'”
Time perception turns out to be all about memory. The more memory units we have from any span of time, the longer it appears to be. That’s why the first day of a vacation somewhere exotic seems so long. Your brain has no idea what it needs to know in the future, so it’s remembering all of it. All these memories make the time expand.
The opposite is also true. When time isn’t memorable we don’t remember it. When too much sameness stacks up, whole years can disappear into memory sinkholes. We have no answer to the question “why is today different from other days?” and so the day is forgotten.
Some of this is inevitable. You are not going to commute to work 250 different ways this year. But in my Off the Clock time diary study, I found that some people were better than others about planning little adventures — little memorable adventures — into their lives.
I had 900 people with full time jobs and families track their time on a March Monday. I asked questions about how they felt about their time. The people with the highest time perception scores were highly likely to have done very interesting, very fun things on that March Monday. One person went to a big band concert. Another went to salsa dancing lessons. One went to a movie — on a Monday night!
Their evenings didn’t disappear into the familiar work-commute-dinner-TV-bed routine. They created memories, which helped them feel like they had more time.
Summer is certainly a prime time for adventure. Having such adventures makes time feel expansive. But adventures need not be confined to summer!
This leads us to the first challenge in the Off the Clock “Summer in September” series (which is all about keeping the summer vibe going into the school year).
Look at the upcoming weekend. What little adventure could you plan into your life? What could you do so that, come Monday, you’d think of September 8-9, 2018 as a memorable weekend?
And then the follow-up — more advanced! — challenge. What adventure could you plan into the upcoming work week? What could you do that would make at least one day stand out from the rest?
We actually have a long weekend coming up with Rosh Hashanah (our school district has Jewish holidays off), so I’m planning a zoo or apple-picking trip with my kids on Monday (possibly both, depending on the weather). I then have a much bigger (potential) adventure coming up the next weekend, but more on that when it’s finalized.
In any case, “memorable” need not mean elaborate. A weekday evening picnic at a park would be out-of-the-ordinary. Or even a picnic breakfast in the back yard!
What adventure will you plan to stretch the experience of time?