There are many reasons you might want time to fly by, and learning how to make days go by faster can help you change your time perception when the hours feel like they’re dragging on.

Your perception of time passing is subjective, based on individual environmental, psychological, and physiological factors. This means the hands on the clock may move at the same pace for everyone, but how time feels can be very different from one person to the next.

Most people have had a day or event that feels like it drags on even though the measurement of time is short. On the flip side, most people have also had a long-format experience that felt like it flew by, to the point where it’s surprising how much time has passed.

Most often, time “flying by” is associated with enjoyment, while time “dragging on” is typically the calling card of boredom, stress, and other forms of negativity.

The good news is that you can learn how to make the days go by faster whether you’re anticipating a fun event or want to escape the monotony of a long work day.

Because time perception is subjective, meaning based on your personal interpretation of the world around you and your position in it, it’s something you can exert control over.

Being proactive about time management and having some in-the-moment strategies available can make a big difference when it comes to days that feel endless.

1. Make a schedule

An hour can feel exceptionally long when you don’t have any plans within it. Making a schedule for your day can help spread out tasks, providing you with a variety of goals to keep you motivated.

Older research from 2004 reveals what most people know from experience: time flies when you stay busy. And according to the study authors, the more attention a task requires, the faster time flies.

Example of a daily routine

Not sure where to start with creating a schedule? It can be as simple as laying out your daily routine. Even everyday tasks are still goals you can use for time management.

7 a.m.: Wake up and eat breakfast

8 a.m.: 30-minute exercise

9 a.m.:Work or school

12 p.m.: Lunch

2 p.m.: Read a chapter in a book

5 p.m.: Work on your hobby

6 p.m.: Dinner

8 p.m.: Relaxation routine

10 p.m.: Bedtime

You can compartmentalize the time in the day however you need to help you stay motivated. It’s OK, for example, if you want to have an in-depth schedule with suggestions for every 15 minutes.

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Engage your SNS

Your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is responsible for triggering the infamous “fight, flight, or freeze” response in your body known as your stress reaction. It creates a cascade of physiological changes like rapid heart rate, airway dilation, and heightened alertness.

A study from 2022 indicates greater SNS activity is associated with time passing more quickly.

This doesn’t mean you need to engage in extreme activities just to make time go by faster. Your stress reaction occurs when you’re met with physical or psychological adversity.

Exercise, time-based strategy games, and rising to personal challenges, like public speaking, can all boost your SNS activity.

Add variety

One surefire way to make a day feel like it goes on forever is to fill it with monotony. When you’re doing the same thing over and over, time might even feel like time is standing still.

There’s a reason you’ve probably heard the saying: “variety is the spice of life.” Variety is good for exercising your brain, and keeping your brain active can keep boredom at bay.

According to a study from 2020, activity diversity is associated with higher overall:

  • cognitive functioning
  • executive functioning
  • episodic memory

Focus on tasks with progression

As previously noted, staying busy is one way of how to make the days go by faster — but how you structure tasks may also make a difference.

According to a study from 2020, tasks you feel competent in with steady progression, known as a “flow state,” promote maximum engagement.

When you’re engrossed in what you’re doing and feel accomplished as you’re progressing, it takes your attention off of time.

Manage stress

When you’re feeling stressed about something it tends to sit in the forefront of your mind, and anxiety and apprehension can make it feel like you’re counting down to certain doom. The more you watch the time before something you dread, the slower it seems to go.

Finding ways to manage stress can help prevent the thought rumination that makes time feel at a standstill. When you find yourself in those moments, you can try:

You can also be proactive about stress management by regularly incorporating activities like:

Involve others

Companionship has a lot to offer when it comes to learning how to make the days go by faster. Being with others can support your other time perception strategies by adding a route of engagement, variety, interest, and schedule accountability.

Do something you enjoy

When all else fails, you may be able to change your perception of time by jumping into an activity you enjoy.

The dopamine clock hypothesis is a scientific theory that suggests increased dopamine from doing something you enjoy slows your internal clock down, creating the perception that time is moving faster.

If you’re wondering how to make the days go by faster because you’re in a negative situation, changing your time perception is just a band-aid over a larger challenge. It doesn’t take you out of circumstances that may be negatively impacting your mental or physical health.

Wanting the days to go by faster can be an indication you might benefit from more advanced self-care strategies, such as:

  • balanced nutrition
  • quality sleep
  • regular exercise
  • relaxation techniques
  • stress management
  • gratitude cultivation
  • social support and connectivity
  • speaking with a mental health professional

Your perception of how time passes is unique to you. Even though the clock reads the same for everyone, how time feels can change depending on your environment, mood, and physiological state.

Staying engaged, doing things you enjoy, and challenging yourself are all ways to make it feel like the days are going by faster.

If you’re trying to change your time perception as a way of making it through a negative situation, self-care can provide ways to fortify your overall well-being.