Many of us are constantly in need of an extra 10 minutes — or hours, as if time is a balloon that’s escaped our hands; as we keep grasping, the balloon seems to float higher and higher.
As Marney Makridakis explains in her fascinating and empowering book, Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life, time seems to be an issue in most areas of our lives — our dreams in particular.
Not only do we feel besieged by responsibilities but we also get overwhelmed about opportunities and projects we’re passionate about. (How often have you said that you don’t have enough time to pursue a passion, enjoy a mini getaway or read that growing stack of books?)
While we can’t transform time by adding more hours to our days, we can expand our perception of time, Makridakis writes. Time is limitless, actually.
According to Makridakis, “Time is a valuable resource that is far more infinite than we tend to think. We worry so much about not having enough time, when time is, in fact, one resource that is always present, for as long as we are living. Much like oxygen, time is there for us. While the finite amount of time we have is real, the occasions when we feel it lacking, drifting, or lost are largely a matter of perception only.”
That means that we can apply certain tricks and techniques to changing our perception of time. Here are several great ways from Makridakis’s book.
1. Adjust how you measure time. We measure time quantitatively — like numbers on a clock – but we also can measure it qualitatively. It’s the qualitative measurements that are more important in the long term, anyway, Makridakis says. Rather than measuring how long something takes, she says that we can use the following measurements instead:
- How much you learn
- How much joy you feel
- How relaxed you feel
- How connected you are to your passion
- How much you are affected by another person
- How “right” you feel
At first this idea might seem strange — maybe even incorrect. But we don’t need to abandon the quantitative measurements. We can consider both. In fact, we actually already use both kinds of measurements in our lives (and focus more on quality).
Makridakis uses sleep as an example. Most of us – probably all of us – would rather have six hours of restful sleep than nine hours of tossing and turning. As she writes, “Similarly, when evaluating our time, we can be aware of the hours and minutes passed, but the quality of those moments is what really matters.”
2. Look at the circumstances that affect your perception of time. Doesn’t it seem like time truly flies when you’re having fun and slows to a tortoise pace when you’re doing something you don’t want to be?
Makridakis notes that time seems to move faster when we’re enjoying ourselves but it slows down when we’re anxious, unhappy or anticipating something. So how we perceive the speed of time is actually relative.
In other words, according to Makridakis, “time moves faster when something else supersedes our inherent attention to time” – whether that something else is taking a vacation or having a deadline.
If you’d like, make a list of specific circumstances when time moves fast and when it crawls for you.
3. Speed up or slow down your perception of time. Since our perception is malleable, we can do certain things to both slow down how we experience time — when we’re doing something fun — and speed it up — when we’re doing something tedious or we don’t like.
Multitasking tends to accelerate time, Makridakis says, so if you’d like to slow down, focus on one task and reduce your distractions. Also, instead of thinking that you have two hours to spend with your family, consider that you actually have 120 minutes or 7,200 seconds, Makridakis says.
On the other hand, if you’d like to speed up time, think of an hour at the dentist’s office as an itty-bitty fraction of a year or 1/8,760, she says. You also can hasten time by finding a way to engage in your passions. One of Makridakis’s friends, whose passion is filmmaking, brainstorms potential stories or characters when he’s doing something unpleasant.
4. Expand your awareness of time. Makridakis includes a great quote from author Diane Ackerman: “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
According to Makridakis, “Expanding the width of our moments creates more time. When time is wider, we fill it with more and take more from it as well.”
She suggests readers expand their awareness of time by using all your senses to experience each day. Also, at different moments during the day, ask yourself, “How might I experience this moment a little deeper? Feel it a little wider? Accept this moment a little more fully?”
Another strategy is to focus on each moment’s creative potential and think about how you’re being creative in everything you do. Makridakis notes that in the traditional culture in Bali, there are no terms or labels for “creative” and “artist.” “All activities are equally creative, equally of service.”
Even though we can’t stop time or add hours to our days, we can alter how we experience and perceive time. We can change our relationship with time into a positive one, and that’s incredibly liberating.
You can learn more about Marney Makridakis at her website.