Time Perception Paradox

This is true for me, ymmv.

Time seems to pass much more quickly as one is experiencing it when one is busy.

However, looking backwards, time periods that were chock-full of activities tend to lengthen.  A point in time a year ago seems further in the past in a busy year than a sparse year.  Almost as if your mind assumes some average activity density, then applies this to remembered activities to estimate time passage.

The absolute randomness of this observation should give readers an idea of my state of mind today.


  1. John Moore:

    I have read about research showing that the more novel events that happen in a time period (which thus create memories), the longer that period seems.

    As a child, a month seemed like a very long time. Now they sometimes just seem to speed by.

  2. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA):

    The Greeks for millennia have had two different words for "time": "chronos" (as in hours, minutes, etc) and "kairos" (as in "We had a good time."). In kairos you tend to get so involved in the activity that chronos does not matter.

    All of us who run businesses operate in kairos at least some of the time. As a vegetable farmer about the only times I DON'T function in kairos relate either to my employees time-cards or appointments. In fact I haven't owned or used a watch (or any other timepiece, like a cell phone) since 1964.

    Not so sure about the "novel events" aspect. At age 63 I have a 16-month-old daughter and the time just seems to fly by. My oldest son is now going grey, and I'm sure it was only about five or six years ago I was wiping HIS bottom ... wasn't it?

  3. Seb Tombs:

    The fact that time seems to go by faster than it did when you were younger, has nothing to do with the novelty of the events you experience.
    It is simply related to the fact that 1 year in the life of a 50-year old person is a lot smaller a fraction of that memory cache than 1 year out of a 10 year-old memory. This is happens in ANY system with memory.

  4. Dan:

    This correlates to deep meditation, getting breaths upward of a minute or so. When you get in a good practice habit with it, you stop being able to tell the difference between 30 minutes and two hours. "Sustained awareness" :)