Eavesdropping

How to Control Time

A simple trick to expand your experience of this seemingly limited resource.

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Sorry, but I don’t have time. It’s a common enough statement. And it’s probably true: leisure hours are decreasing even as our smartphone use fragments our attention. We’re more likely than ever to feel that time is slipping away from us. But there are some simple things we can do to overcome timesuck and control time, even without a time machine.

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Think back to your childhood: vibrant memories of adventure and thrilling new experiences. Summers that dragged on forever. Felt like you had oodles of time, amiright? Scientists have a theory to explain the apparent time-speed-increase that accompanies getting older and wiser: mental processing.

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Neuroscientist David Eagleman believes that new and novel experiences take more effort for the brain to understand and categorize. The harder and longer the brain has to work, the more our perception of time seems to expand. As we get older, we establish routines and have fewer new experiences. The brain gets really good at figuring out what we’re doing, so it doesn’t have to work as hard, and time seems to speed up.

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So without regressing into a childlike state, how do we master our own mind-time? Simple. When we want more time, we just need to do something novel like taking a new route to work, swapping desks with a buddy, or trying to learn a challenging new skill. When there’s a task we particularly dislike, we can make it go by faster by turning it into a routine.

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That’s it. It’s that easy. Now all you need to do is put it into action.

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Many thanks to the talented Real Arters who hand-lettered the phrases accompanying this article: Crystal Dennis, Andrew Althouse, Cassandra O’Connell, Reka Juhasz, and Candy Niemeyer.

Got you hooked? Here’s more:

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