Thursday, October 22, 2015

Time Bending is the New Time Management

The phrase "time flies when you're having fun," though a misnomer, is easier to remember than "time slows down when you are trying new things." Time perception is a matter of brainpower. The more that is required, the slower time seems to move. Unlike taste or sound, we perceive time rather than sense it. “Time is this rubbery thing. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up” according to neuroscientist David Eagleman. 

Take, for example, the 48 hours my husband and I spent in Tokyo this summer. Most signage in Tokyo is in Japanese, requiring extra brainpower. Everything is different--purchasing a metro ticket with yen from a kiosk, using a vending machine menu to buy tickets for ramen at a restaurant, or trying every feature of the sophisticated toilets. Nothing is what you're used to: Yelp reviews and your saved places in Google Maps pop up in Japanese. The best sushi restaurants are in train stations. And nobody wears sunglasses. Those days in Tokyo seemed to last twice as long as those I have spent around a pool in Hawaii, which is exactly what makes Tokyo so wonderful yet so foreign.  

Yelp Review: Tokyo

How else can you slow time?

Get Your Om On

Mindful meditation creates longer perceived durations of time. When participants were asked to listen for ten minutes to a meditation exercise designed to focus their attention on the movement of breath in the body, they overestimated durations of time compared to participants who listened to an audiobook for ten minutes. Either by improving the resources that allow us to pay more attention to time passage or by shifting our attention internally, we slow time. 

Break out the Earbuds

Though time flies when you listen to pleasant music it moves more slowly when listening to fast music. Tempo is the major factor that produces time distortions--music is judged longer with a fast than a slow tempo. Fast music is more arousing and high-arousing emotional stimuli (facial expressions, images, movies) produce a temporal lengthening effect--time moving more slowly. So turn on something fast and engaging during your weekends and then switch to something pleasant yet slow for you Monday morning commute.

What if you want to speed up time?

Multitask Like a Millennial

Media multitasking is using one media in conjunction with another, e.g., TV plus laptop, and creates the perception of time passing quickly. (Media companies get really excited about this, especially among millennials.) In a study where participants either only watched the ads or performed tasks while the ads were playing, participants who performed on-screen tasks while commercials were playing perceived time as passing more quickly compared to those just watching the commercials. 

This may have to do with gaze duration and switching. Participants switch at an extremely high rate, in one study switched between the TV and computer at an average rate of 120 switches in 27.5 minutes. Gaze duration is mostly between 1.5 and 5 seconds--78 percent of television gazes and 49 percent of computer gazes lasted less than 5 seconds. During television viewing gazes of 1.5 seconds or less are categorized as monitoring i.e., looking up at the TV to check that you're still watching Shark Week. Gazes of 1.5 - 5 seconds are categorized as orienting, i.e., looking up at the TV when characters are yelling because the great white is getting close to the boat. Neither monitoring nor orienting gazes require significant brain power, all heavily repeated behavior that causes time to speed by.

Routinize Like the Leader of the Free World

Retrospectively we view routine periods of time as taking less time than nonroutine periods of time. Obama pairs down his decisions and focuses on important stuff instead of what to wear or what to eat. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.” Even though Obama is the leader of the free world and my life has been about building portals that get more eyes on ads and preventing the build-up of goo (i.e., body fat, brown stuff staining my white dog's face, hard water deposits), I can relate to routinizing. Just as the sites you visit frequently load quickly in your web browser because they are cached, your brain uses less processing power for things you do repeatedly, making time seem to move faster, which is why the mornings when you get ready for work or get your kids ready for school can seem shorter each day. 

Very timey wimey.

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