Where did the time go?

March 1, 2019By Views

By Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, “Out of the Box” column, January/February 2019

Is it only me or are days seemingly going by faster causing months and years to literally zoom? Studies suggest that it is an aging thing…I actually disagree with that since aging is a state of mind.

One theory is quite scientific, linking the perception of time to dopamine produced in our brains and the amount of awareness we have (“Midbrain dopamine neurons control judgment of time,” Science, 09 December 2016). It suggests that the more things are new and memorable, the slower time seems to be expended. However, as we age, new experiences become less common and therefore less dopamine is produced causing time to feel sped up.

Another theory (“The Critical Role of Metabolic Pathways in Aging,” Diabetes Journal, June 2012) hypothesizes that the reason time goes by faster as we age is because our metabolism slows down, and with it, so does our heart rate and breathing. The theory concludes that because children take more breaths than older adults, they are, in a literal sense, living more in one day than their elderly counterparts.

Finally, there’s what novelist Harlan Coben writes in his book, Don’t Let Go suggesting that “As you get older, each year is a smaller percentage of your life. If you are ten years old, a year is ten percent. If you are fifty years old, a year is two percent.”

Whatever the theory or the reason, here’s the simple truth. Each person on this earth is given 24 hours in a day — that’s 168 hours in a week. How you elect to use that precious time is entirely up to you. I believe that the secret to managing time is knowing what you want to do, what you need to do, and when you will do it. This proactive approach keeps you in “execute” mode rather than “reactive” mode.

Some, like my son, become quite precise and intentional about their available blocks of time. He literally maps his days, weeks, and months based on goals he intends to achieve and how to best allocate the hours to accomplish his objectives. It requires an immense amount of discipline and lots of planning free from distraction and the ability to quickly adjust to any barriers encountered.

For others, like me, squeezing as much as possible into the available time is in itself the goal. That may involve exploring new ideas, taking new adventures, or simply becoming energized because one has the ability to do so. (See my personal list of 2019 goals below and follow me on LinkedIn to track my progress — and consider making your own list to optimize every moment.)

And, finally, there may be those that are so busy convincing themselves that the days are literally shorter than they once were that it leads to panic and recoil. Instead of looking for ways to maximize their time they are searching for ways to preserve it. Although I’m not a psychologist, it seems the futility of this goal could lead to more depression and withdrawal.

While the feeling may be inescapable, take comfort in the fact that time is not literally getting faster as you age. So instead, take a moment to slow down to enjoy every precious moment.

Here are a few ideas that I’m going to try and incorporate in 2019 to slow down the passing of time.

1. Escape my comfort zone as often as possible. Live life with vigor and take some risks as I did when I was a child.
2. Explore new places and new adventures. I want to invigorate my mind with discoveries not yet made.
3. Interact with others who want to live their lives fully. Share stories and memories — and build new ones.
4. Break self-imposed rules and routines. There is no reason to do the same thing day after day. I’m planning to spice it up a bit.
5. Make more mistakes. Recognize it is okay to make decisions without overthinking or over-analyzing potential outcomes.