Tips & Insights

How To Speed Up Time: Easy-To-Follow Tips To Try Today

There's nothing more frustrating than sitting around waiting for time to pass. Whether you're in the office, sitting in traffic, or stuck at the DMV, the feeling of being forced to wait is one of the worst feelings in the world.

But sometimes we don't want to admit that we're not having fun or that we really just want to get away from our current situation. So we try to make time go faster by watching the clock and counting down every passing second.

But as you probably know from experience, that usually doesn't work very well. Instead of making time go faster, it makes it feel like it's dragging on even longer!

So what can you do instead? How do you make time go fast? Why does it feel slow in the first place? Let's take a look at some tips for speeding up time so that you can get on with your life:

Why Does Time Go Slower Or Faster?

You’re watching it go by

“A watched kettle never boils” is something we’ve all experienced. If you want time to go quickly, you need to take your mind off it and stop counting the seconds. There’s actually some science behind this. When we look at something, our minds automatically predict what we’re going to see, as a way for us to avoid confusion and be more efficient. This, however, means that when we look at a clock expecting to see time ticking/changing, and instead catch it standing still, our mind is surprised and we perceive time as moving slower.

You’re not watching it go by

“Time flies when you’re having fun”. We only have a very limited amount of attention to give. If our attention is anywhere except the clock, we’re unable to perceive time accurately. When your mind is occupied and busy, time seems to speed up. As opposed to this, when you’re bored, time seems to drag. A mind which is not occupied is a mind which perceives time to be slower.

You’re waiting for something exciting

Time always seems to go by especially slowly when we’re waiting for something in the future, such as your date after work, or your vacation at the end of the week. Unfortunately the opposite seems to apply when we’re waiting for something we’re dreading, such as a dentist appointment or the end of the weekend.

You've got some negative feelings

Unpleasant experiences such as the dentist or your boss’s boring presentation always drag. In more extreme cases, things such as pain can make time drag on too. Ever sat through a meeting with a toothache? These negative feelings can be especially present when you’re at work, if, for example, you’re stressed out. Finding ways to reduce overall stress can in turn give you less reason to feel negative and anxious about time passing. 

How To Make Time Go Faster

Stop Watching The Clock 

If you keep looking at the time, it’s not going to move any faster! Sadly, when we are looking forward to the end of the day, time is the main thing on our minds. It can be impossible to avert your gaze from the time when it’s displayed on every device you’re using (and most likely the office wall clock).

One of the only ways to avoid these is to block them out however you can. Stick something over the corner of your screen, hide your phone, take off your watch, sneakily take the batteries out of that office clock, whatever it takes. Stop watching that kettle!

Get into a Flow State

"Flow" is a state of mind where you're completely engrossed in something you find challenging, yet enjoyable. It's colloquially known as being in the zone—you'll stop noticing distractions or perceiving time passing. In other words, time flies when you're doing something that's challenging enough to keep you fully engaged but not so hard that you become frustrated.

There’s certain steps for getting into a flow state. You’ll want to first make sure you have a clear goal in mind for what you want to achieve. You’ll need some challenge to your work to be able to get into the flow. This challenge might already naturally come with the task, or you might need to create it. If you’re just inputting numbers into a spreadsheet, try to set yourself a time limit to complete it.

You’ll also want to remove every single distraction—your flow can be easily broken and it’s hard to get back on track. Some people even suggest having a ‘pre-flow ritual’ to help facilitate things, such as turning your phone off, hiding it, putting on some music, setting your goals out, taking a deep breath, and getting started. What time it is will be the last thing on your mind, and before you know it, it’ll be 6 o’clock.

Create a Routine

Routine is your best friend when it comes to making time go faster. The reason? Routine makes you more productive and efficient because you know exactly what needs to be done, allowing you to get into autopilot. If you're able to do something every day, such as checking your emails or filling out a daily report, then that's one more thing you can do on autopilot. As we’ve seen, autopilot means not perceiving the passing (or dragging) of time!

Use a to-do list

By having a clear set of expectations for what you want to achieve each day, it’s easier to get started, and therefore easier to get lost in your work. Even just the act of writing your list helps you forget that you’re waiting for time to pass. Combine your to-do list with some prioritization to get the worst things out of the way first. There’s no better feeling than ticking those items off the list, and that much needed motivation will also help time go faster (or at least help you ignore it).

Break time into blocks

Break time up into easily-measurable blocks of time for each task you need to accomplish that day. This makes time seem to move faster because you know exactly what is coming. For example, instead of thinking about your whole day ahead of time and being stressed out about it, break it down into specific tasks you can do in chunks of 20 minutes or so instead. You'll find yourself surprised at how quickly the day goes by!

Enjoy socializing and share your work

Ok, I know you have a job to do, but at the same time you should enjoy the other things which come with work. The chit-chat, the office banter, they might be unproductive if done excessively, but they’re actually great for building a strong team. Not to mention they will make your day fly by.

If you can, team up with a colleague to work on something, so you can get some entertainment while you work. Maybe this is impossible for a lot of us now that we’re fully remote (or just easily distracted like myself), but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump into a call or annoy your flatmate/significant other/pet for a few minutes every hour or two. 

Split unpleasant tasks

Time goes slowly when you're not enjoying yourself, and one of the least enjoyable things is conquering a big, 2 hour long task. It’s hard to put things into perspective when you look at a big task as one whole thing to be conquered.

Try instead to split it up into 30 minute bursts of work you can spread out, so you don't have to spend all day focusing on something unpleasant. Combine this with choosing to do those unpleasant task chunks at the start of the day before easier tasks. That way, each step will seem easier and less daunting and the whole project will seem more manageable as well!

Put something on in the background

Put something on in the background. Playing undistracting music or a mildly interesting podcast while you work can give you something to entertain you while you tackle the day, making time move faster. Just be careful that you don't play a hilarious podcast or music you absolutely must sing along to, or you risk distracting yourself and getting nothing done all day.

What kind of music is best? Classical music for obvious, brain-enhancing reasons, as long as you actually enjoy it. Video-game soundtracks have been found to be a good candidate, as they’re basically designed to help you concentrate on something and be unobtrusive in the background. A personal favorite isn’t actually music, but brown noise. Somewhat of a recent trend on TikTok has shown people discovering it’s thought-silencing properties, you can try it out yourself here.

Start with your most difficult task

Putting off your unpleasant or difficult tasks means they'll always be looming in the back of your mind. With these things on your mind, you'll be more anxious and aware that there's more to come, which makes you pay more attention to the time.

Start off with the hard stuff, and you'll be free to carry on mindlessly with the easier tasks (hopefully on full autopilot mode, leading to time flying by!). Not to mention that procrastination involves a lot of clock watching and time wasting, and is generally going to come back and bite you in the future!

Reward yourself

Rewards motivate people. That's why you get a gold star on your homework when you get it right, or a pat on the back when you do something great. When you set yourself goals and reward yourself when you reach them, you're motivating yourself to stay focused until it's time to go home. This will make the day go by faster. In fact, if you're motivated enough, you may even find that your work is more enjoyable! Even if it's not a tangible reward, just giving yourself a well-deserved break at the end of each task is enough motivation.

Bathe your workspace in blue

As explained in this clip from BBC Earth Lab, if we are surrounded by a certain color light, it can affect our perception of time. The idea behind this is that red light causes anxiety, which in turn makes time perception slow down, in contrast to blue light, which calms you down. They tested this with 150 volunteers in 3 rooms, either red, blue or white. They found that a blue pod made a minute last an average of 11 seconds shorter! Some quick math shows that if we shave 11 seconds a minute off an 8 hour work day, we lose a whopping 1.46 hours. Maybe it’s time to order some colored bulbs for the office?

The ultimate time-travel work day

Let’s imagine a day at work with all of these tips combined, so you can get an idea of how to apply them. 

You clock in at 9 AM on a Friday, eager to finish the day so you can start your 2 week vacation tomorrow. You’re a little hungover, and time is already dragging. 

First, start by hiding every single clock you can find. Turn your phone off, hide your watch, cover your laptop clock. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Before anything, get some light music or brown noise on to distract you, and turn on your blue LED bulb in your workspace. 

Now get started on your to-do list for the day. Hopefully you have some routine tasks, like responding to emails, sending your daily update, which you can do first. 

Next up, try to tackle a harder, more unpleasant task you have looming over you. If it’s a bigger task, break it down into smaller chunks, and tackle only one chunk for now. 

After you complete each item on your to-do list, or at set intervals, reward yourself. Get up and walk around. Find a colleague to talk to! 

Once you’ve got the hard stuff out of the way, continue with easier tasks where you might be able to work together with others, or share some light conversation while you work. 

Breeze through your day, clock out and enjoy your vacation!

As you can see, it’s not too difficult to combine all these suggestions into your day. Even if you just try one or two, you’ll soon see that the best way to escape the slow passing of time, is to actually stop putting off work and getting lost in it!

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