On Making Time When We Need It (Fast Time Versus Slow Time)

Remember the last time you worked on something you didn’t want to work on or studied something you didn’t enjoy studying?

Or when you were at the doctor, waiting in a long queue for your turn?

Didn’t time just drag on? Didn’t time seem to congeal around you, to hold you suspended like an insect in amber?

And now remember the last time you did something fun.

Or watched a movie you really liked.

Or spent an evening with friends, laughing and sharing stories with them.

Didn’t time fly then? Didn’t it have wings?

Time is not something we have or don’t have. Not entirely.

Time is a state of mind, a neurochemical equation—habit multiplied by newness divided by enjoyment.

When we do familiar things, time passes quickly—if we enjoy them. Or slowly, if we don’t—after all, nothing slows down time more than unpleasant activities, or pain.

Newness also slows down time.

Imagine yourself exploring a new place or talking with a person you just met. Even though the clock is ticking, you are bombarded with stimuli that dilate time and add depth to it.

That’s the sort of time memories are made of.

Technology speeds up routine patterns of behavior, speeds up time.

Writing by hand slows it down. Sitting still and meditating also slows it down.

When I want to make my days last longer, I stay away from my computer, from my phone. I try to deviate from routine patterns of behavior. If I have to do something familiar, I try to do it in a different way.

Often I don’t succeed—fast time, in which I do familiar things in a familiar way, gets the better of me.

But slow time, conscious time infused with newness, is something we can make. We make it when we pause and relax, away from screens. Or when we explore new things, make discoveries.

Whether or not we have time depends not only on our schedules—it depends on what we do and how we do it.

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What would you like to have more time for this year?

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