Editor's Note: Portions of this article have been previously published in Deseret News.
The faster time flies, the shorter our lives seem. We want to stretch out the good times, make them go slower. And it seems our whole society is obsessed with slowing down the aging process. The problem is that time itself seems to speed up as the years pass.
When we were children, we often wanted to speed time up—so that our birthday or Christmas would come sooner. But as we become adults, we find ourselves wishing we could slow time down.
As our lives get ever busier and more hassled and complicated, we wish we could stretch time out—make it a little more like it was when we were kids when a day was a long time, a week was huge, and summer never ended.
It may sound a little cosmic, but the passage of time is not an absolute or a set formula. Even the science of Einstein tells us time is a flexible continuum; that it can be stretched.
What matters is our perspective or our perception of time's passage. And anything we can do to capture moments, to separate one day from another, and to fully notice and appreciate all that happens in a week will, at least in our own minds, slow time down.
Here are three simple mental exercises or "perception changers" that seem to have the effect of stretching time and of allowing us to see more, feel more and get more out of each day:
1. Give each day a name
Why should every Tuesday just be called Tuesday? Why not name each of our own days in a way that makes us appreciate their uniqueness and recall their joy? It's a simple exercise. At the end of each day, as you are climbing into bed, think back over the day and come up with a name for it based on its outstanding feature or a special moment or something you accomplished. A day might be called "First Blossoms" or "Quality time with the Winstons" or "New idea for investing." Just reviewing a day and thinking about its outstanding features will separate it from all other days and stretch the time and distinctiveness between days.
2. Write a short poem about each week
We're not all poets, but we can all attempt to capture the beauty and essence of things like poets do. Take a little time on Sunday to think back over the past week, perhaps with the aid of your calendar, date book or smartphone planning app. What happened, what did you feel, what did you notice? Write a few lines of poetic review that give that week a unique identity. More happened than you realized, and there were a lot of nice, small moments that may have not been as insignificant as you thought. Once you write your little poem about the week past, you are in a perspective-rich, time-stretched mentality that will be helpful as you plan the week ahead. And at the end of a month, there is nothing better than going back and reading your own poetic accounts of the four weeks that made up that month before you begin to plan the month ahead.
3. Six Month Years
As people move toward middle age, there is a tendency to start seeing your life as shrinking away. If you are in your thirties and read that the average lifespan is in the seventies, you say, "Oh no, I'm halfway through." Then your defense mechanisms kick in and you say, "But I am going to outlive the average—I have at least 50 good years left, but a day less every day." This kind of thing starts happening even in our twenties, and it gets dramatic when we move toward retirement age. But why be bound by traditional 12-month years? You are more efficient now than you were, you can get more done in less time and with less hassle. Why not have 6-month years instead of 12-month ones and have a year's worth of enjoyment and accomplishment and relationships in half the time? Now instead of 20 years left, you have 40, or instead of 35, you have 70.
And a six-month year works better for planning and sequencing and separating. There are seven days in a week and four or five weeks in a month, so there should be about six months in a year. Six months is an ideal mid-range goal-setting and planning period, and making that simple adjustment gives you twice as many "years" and separates and stretches them in a way that makes life's future seem longer—and sometimes, "seeming" makes it so.
There are other ways of "stretching time" but these are the three that seem to work for us. And, as is often the case with stretching, we end up a little bigger in our awareness, a little broader in our perspective, and a little more in control of the passage of time.