Why Does Time Move Faster as We Get Older?

Time Management FlowerThis weekend, while sitting around watching football with friends, we started talking about how life seemed to move so much slower when we were little (the Oregon Ducks were dismantling Tennessee, so the game had become pretty uninteresting at this point.) Do you remember waiting for your 5th birthday to arrive? Or the summer before you started 1st grade? Didn’t it seem like forever? Why is that? Never fear. I turned to NPR to figure out the “why” and this blog will provide the “so what.”

One Theory

A neuroscientist explained to NPR that one theory of why time moves faster later in life is that when we’re young, we experience a lot of “firsts.” First day of school, first bike ride, first trip to the beach, etc…During these experiences, you soak up every last detail — the sights, the smells, the sounds — because everything is new. You have no prior experience to compare anything to.

Then, as we accumulate a lot of the same experiences, they all start to run together. We stop noticing details. We become heavily entrenched in our routines.

Be An Observer

So how do we stop this? How do we put the brakes on the runaway train? Be an observer. Be a “notice-er.” When you walk outside, take a second to observe how the sun feels on your skin. As you take a sip of coffee, take a moment to observe how good it smells. This is not to say you should meander through life slowly gazing at everything you pass. No, let’s be honest, you have to get stuff done too, but being a more careful observer can help bring back some of the novelty to your life’s experiences.

And don’t put too much pressure on yourself to appreciate just the big moments. I remember during my first trip to Disney World a few years ago, I kept thinking, “Are you appreciating this right now, Emily? Like, really appreciating it? Because you won’t be back here for a while. Appreciate harder.” It’s so much pressure! Being a careful observer will help you appreciate the little things and make valuing your life’s experiences a habit.

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Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Which to Sacrifice? Time or Money?

Your time is your most valuable resource you have. It is your own “productivity currency” of which you only have a limited supply and must ration carefully. However, sometimes we are faced with situations in which we must quite literally put a dollar amount on what our time is worth. If we always sacrifice money to save time, we’ll end up broke. If we always sacrifice time to save money, we’ll end up not accomplishing our goals. Finding the balance is key.

 My Dilemma

This year, when I went to renew my parking pass for ASU, I was faced with two options:

1. Purchase a cheap pass for a couple hundred bucks in a remote lot and take the free tram to campus.

2. Pay an additional $600 for a pass in the lot right outside my office.

My Solution?

My gut reaction? Buy the expensive pass. I had the luxury of having that money in savings already, and I felt that my time was too valuable to spend sitting on a tram every day. I wanted the convenience of being able to waltz right from my car into the building at any time of day.

Then I stopped to weigh the value of the pass versus the convenience of the pass in terms of “dollars per hour.”

Dollars Per Hour

I actually only needed the pass about three days a week. The tram takes about 15 minutes each way. I calculated that if I didn’t buy the expensive pass, I’d be saving $12.50 for every hour I spent on the tram. Now I had a decision to make:

If someone approached me on the street and said, “Hey, I have a part time job for you. It only requires 90 minutes a week, and I’ll pay you $12.50 an hour. All you have to do is sit in an air conditioned space and do nothing” I’d have a hard time saying no.

I ended up buying the cheap pass. I now appreciate the mandatory “break” I get in my day while being shuttled from place to place. I can even use the time to check my email or flip through the newspaper.

By looking at the situation in terms of dollars per hour, I was able to weigh convenience, time, and money to come to a rational decision. How much is your time worth?

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Photo Credit: Phaitoon, Emily Schwartz