The Hours, Days, and Minutes of your Life

There is a reason they refer to the “endless days of childhood”.

They say time seems to move faster as you get older. You may remember childhood days seeming to last forever. Time, when viewed through the gauzy veil of memories is untrustworthy. Some things seem to take forever, like meetings at work, or doing your taxes. Clock time becomes irrelevant when I am in a flow state-reading a good book, for example.

Mind time and clock time are two different things. You know very well that people experience clock time and mind time differently because you know that one person who is always late. Probably, they can’t help it. They just experience time differently from you, and you notice that.

See this article, which discusses mind time, and clock time:

Physicists do not even totally agree that time’s arrow is pointed forward. The movie “Momentum” looked at clock time moving backwards. That is a useful thought experiment, where cause, effect, and time, are backwards.

Dream time is separate from clock time too. Your dreaming sleep units might last minutes only, but the “story” happening in the dream stretches out, into an unknown length of time. Some dreams seem long.

This Twitter account tracks the year’s progress as a progress bar, which is to say proportionally, or if you will, a fraction. As of this writing, it is hard to believe over 5% of this year has started. It seems like just yesterday was New Year’s. Part of this feeling comes from disappointment: have I really done enough toward my goals in 5% of the year?

On the other hand, there is still 95% of the year to go. That’s a long time. Stress influences how we perceive clock time. Lack of sleep influences how we perceive clock time.

You can imagine each second, minute, hour, and day as steady, unchanging increments, which they would be, on a number line. It seems logical that they are steady increments on a line, moving forward, and we move forward with it.

Our perception is nothing like that, however. “The hours go faster as the days go by”, as Bruce Cockburn sang. You may have heard a 60, 70, or 80-year old wondering where the years went.

Perception is everything.

An 8-year-old, with less experience of time, and so many years still to live, experiences each day as a much larger fraction of her life so far. A year to an 8-year-old is 12 or 13 percent of their life so far.

Think back to a baby who has been alive two days: one of those days was half her life.

An 80-year-old experiences a day, steady increment though it is, as a tiny proportion of her life so far. 1/365th of a year, which has happened to them 80 times.

The “speeding up” feeling might be mathematical. We experience time as shorter the longer we have lived because we have lived longer. A less fancy way of saying this is a that a bite out of a huge cookie will look smaller than the same size bite out of a smaller cookie.

In many countries, the expected life span is around 80 years. Reaching 40 can induce morbid thoughts- half my life is gone! Days, those endless days, blur together, one after another. Conscious efforts to slow down mind time, like prayer and meditation, can help.

Also, time might be a human construct anyway, a social one, that we humans invented because we needed it. Just don’t say that to your boss!

Writing about creativity, books, productivity, education, particularly mathematics, music, and whatever else “catches my mind”. ~Thinking about things~

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store