I was about four years old when it hit me that I was running out of time. It’s one of my earliest and most vivid memories. I was jumping up and down when that horrifying realization pinned me to the ground: every single day I will have less time. Less time to jump, to think, to do, to feel, to live.
It took over two decades for that dread that lodged itself in the pit of my stomach to finally dissipate. I tried to fight it through productivity hacks, time management hacks, and multi-tasking hacks, but what helped in the end was what I think of as the ultimate time hack.
You don’t need more time. You just need to slow down the time you have.
How can you slow down time? Psychologists have found that experiencing awe slows our perception of time, making us happier, more patient, and even more helpful. It’s called Extended Now Theory. As in the feeling of now stretches from an instant to an entire experience.
No wonder everything slows down in the movies when “the one” walks into the room. Hollywood knew this all along.
Awe is a feeling of surprise that is usually triggered by vastness, beauty, or extreme complexity. We can feel more awe by surrounding ourselves with nature, design, inspiring ideas, and fascinating innovations. But we can also stir up awe by finding the amazing tucked away within the everyday—the little things that we take for granted.
Other emotions on the surprise spectrum slow down time too. Neuroscientist David Eagleman points out that new, unexpected experiences feel slower than familiar ones in our memories. You can be stuck on the subway (again) for hours but hardly remember it, or you can spend 20 seconds in your first kiss and recall every vivid detail as though it played out over the course of a year. Just as with awe, spotting small surprises hidden in plain sight and savoring all the details of your experiences slows down even the briefest of moments (yes, that means smelling the roses, but also hearing, tasting, and especially touching).
If you feel that you don’t have enough time, it may sound counter-intuitive, even heretical to slow down. As a lifelong workaholic, I get it. But walk a little slower, breathe in a little deeper, kiss a little longer, make your daily to do list a little shorter, and I think you’ll be surprised to discover just how much time you have.
P.S. What do you wish you had more time for?