Time, Time, Time!

Time, Time, Time!

Did you ever wonder how it is that time seemed to last forever when you were young but now you’re old it’s gone before you know it?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Well, your not alone – psychologists have been debating it for decades.

So why is it? Depends on who you ask.

Common Knowledge

The common acceptance of why time speeds up, is that we’re all so much busier. There’s no definitive gap between work and leisure, we all have 17 email accounts and at least three social media channels to check each day. Some of us can’t even get a break to pee in without dogs and small people coming to see what’s up.

It’s an enticing explanation, but even the two people who aren’t doing all that find time drains away without them noticing it.

Brain Complexity

For Rory Maizels, quoting Professor Adrian Bejan, it’s because the size and complexity of your brain increases, so it takes longer for the messages to get through. Which means visually, you can process fewer frames per second and therefore perceive a kind of fast forward.

I’ve been trying to upgrade my email service provider, and I can testify the learning curve is huge and the effort is chewing up time like there’s no tomorrow (FOUR hours this morning alone – not to mention all the time last week feeling like a dumb-arse).

But while Benjan’s thesis seems reasonable (and apparently scientific), I just don’t like it.


Dr Kit Yates, posits another theory, that we become more familiar with the tasks and environment; commutes that were once long and difficult become second nature and when delegated to auto-pilot, seem to take next to no time.

Again, not a bad theory, but a little to frustrating to go around learning new stuff all the time.

Life Span

Originally posited by Paul Janet in 1877 (!!!), the rate at which our perception of time accelerates exponentially as we age.

And the exponential rate makes more sense when you think about how you age. For example, when I was five, one year represented 20% of my lifespan. Compared to 1.82% right now, or 1.25% when I turn 80.

Which makes more sense to me, and a better excuse than “my brain is so complex right now I can’t fit another thing in.”


According to Dr David R Hamilton, it’s about novelty – the brain encodes information more deeply when it comes to new and interesting experiences (which hasn’t really helped with the email thing).

Though the wonderful thing about this, is the generation of new little grey brain cells to deal with them.

As an aside – leaving Proirot out of it, why do we think of them as being:

  1. little, and
  2. grey?

Time Expands

And my favourite, whose origins are shrouded in the midst of my overly complex brain, is that time expands and contracts according to need.

It comes from a time in the long ago when I had a job that barely had time for a lunch break! Though this might also be explained by the familiarity theory.

I read somewhere about the power of affirmations, and I would (silently) chant, “time expands to meet my needs,” and sure enough I managed to get it all done in the time allowed. Now and again, if you could read my mind, I still chant it as I grapple with one thing or another. (Though when it comes to the email, I’m chanting something a little more profane.)

The Bottom Line

In the end, it doesn’t really matter which theory you like the best, no one can say for certain why it feels like time speeds up.

All we can do is hang on for dear life, and hope the end of it doesn’t come before we get down to a year being less than 1% of our lives.

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