Where Did The Time Go? (Time Series Pt. 3)

By Minji

"Can you believe 2019 will be gone in less than 24 hours?  How did that happen?  Where did all that time go?  Time flies like an arrow these days, and the older I get, the more the arrow seems to speed up...I think back to my youth when I'd look forward to a certain event.  I’d have to count the days and nights, desperately waiting for that day to come.  Not anymore – it’s the exact opposite where I can’t believe “that day” is already here." 

Can you believe 2019 will be gone in less than 24 hours?  How did that happen?  Where did all that time go?  Time flies like an arrow these days, and the older I get, the more the arrow seems to speed up.  Honestly, sometimes I’m afraid to plan something too far in advance because in the back of my head I’m irrationally thinking that will speed things up. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but setting a date makes it feel like it’s coming faster now.  I think back to my youth when I'd look forward to a certain event.  I’d have to count the days and nights, desperately waiting for that day to come.  Not anymore – it’s the exact opposite where I can’t believe “that day” is already here. 

It seems to be a common sentiment – time goes by more quickly as we get older.  Continuing on with our exploration of time (check out our previous articles in this series related to the complex relationship we have with time and also the concept of "stealing time"), I decided to seriously investigate what’s up with that. 

Well, studies confirm that it’s not all in our heads and there are various scientific theories around why this is. The predominant theory relates to new experiences and learning.  As a child we have many new experiences and are constantly learning new things.  As adults, for most of us this slows down and we fall into routines, which means fresh experiences are fewer.  The more routine moments (or years even) get lost in our memory but the unique moments of our youth leave deeper impressions.  We register time by impressionable memories and less memorable things occur as we get older, making it seem like those years are flying and the younger years lasted longer - again confirming our relationship with time is complex and it’s all relative.

A great example of this is driving somewhere on auto-pilot, like when you’re dropping your child off at school in the morning.  Ever had that moment where you can’t even remember doing it? I used to on occasion have to turn and look at the back seat to confirm that I had actually dropped my daughter off and she wasn’t still sitting there.  This is a classic example of time flying when you’re not engaged, learning or otherwise in the present moment.

Another theory claims that time passes more quickly when there’s time pressure or stress – basically, when you feel like you have so much to do but not enough time.  Most of us have probably felt this too, right?  I remember back in law school, I would have to take these 8-hour exams….and this time would sky-rocket.  When we’re in these moments, we don’t have the leisure to take in our surroundings and build detailed memories which makes our perception of time fly.

That all makes sense.  Now the question is, what to do about it!  How can we make sure time doesn’t slip us by? The obvious ideas would be to learn new things, go on more vacations, challenge yourself…all good things but pretty grandiose and perhaps a bit impractical?  I find the following subtle suggestions more helpful. 

First, make space for yourself in your daily living.  By protecting your margins, you can reduce time pressure and stress and relish your hours and minutes. It will also prevent you from inadvertently "stealing time" from others.  Another idea is to cultivate a morning routine and a nighttime ritual. Instead of jumping right into your day or collapsing into bed at night, give yourself a few minutes at the start and end of a day.  In the morning, set your intentions clearly, and at night, actively remember the details of your day with gratitude. This will help you focus on being present…and if you combine it with a solid skincare routine, I'm sure it will also help you glow into the new year!