Time is a funny thing. It slips through our fingers, stretches for hours, it runs out, flies by and drags on. In our modern society, time is being valued higher than money and the perceived scarcity of this resource is palpable to us all. Our overbooked, overworked, undernourished selves are begging for more of this in every day. But, time is also relative (complicated explanation about rotation aside, it means it is not universal, but personal), which led me to question if I could affect it intentionally, through my thoughts.
I looked for areas of my life that I felt time starved and frustrated. For me, it was my morning commute - not surprising living in Seattle. My commute was a long one (ok, ten miles) and was VERY unpredictable; some days were 45 minutes, others were 75 minutes, with no explanation as to why - no accidents, no disabled cars blocking, not too rainy or sunny (often a hazard), just more people that day. Even though I was rarely late, I was always filled with fear and anxiety of being tardy and angry about the wasted time spent this way. I figured I would try my experiment to see if I could influence time to be more predictable for me.
First, I had to remove the specifics of time from my awareness so I covered my car’s clock with a pretty heart decal so I couldn’t see it. I remembered all the times I was having a ball and 5 minutes would fly by as if only seconds, conversely, all the times I sat at my desk in the last 5 minutes of my day and felt the slow drag of those minutes feeling like an hour. It seemed to me that I just had to enjoy this time to alter its course. And since I was rarely late, I had reasonable confidence that even if this went horribly wrong and I found I had NO influence over time, I would not get myself fired.
I would note the clock on my way out the door and be certain I provided enough time barring any MAJOR accidents and hustled my kids into the car. I dropped them off at two different schools and then joined the freeway melee. The temptation to rip that loving heart decal off the clock to see the time was nearly irresistible for the first few days, but I refrained and made it to work with about ten minutes to spare most days and was five minutes late once. I did not consider this a success, yet, as I was still filled with anxiety about time and that dread was what I was hoping to get rid of. So, I persevered.
After two weeks, I was surprised to realize I no longer felt oppressed by the commute. I had begun to look forward to some uninterrupted, unchangeable space. What felt like a waste of time had become valuable as I began listening to podcasts, audiobooks or just enjoying the faces of other drivers. I no longer felt compelled to pull the decal off of the clock and rather liked the pretty heart smiling at me. I arrived at work in a positive and relaxed mindset; my productivity and output reflecting that improved attitude. And, most importantly, I came to KNOW that I would arrive to work on time, whether I saw the clock and had anxiety, or not.
Did I actually change time? No. But I absolutely changed my perception of time and since time is relative, the experiment was a rounding success. It was a low risk, high reward experiment and one I plan to apply in other areas of my life - next up, the household schedule?!
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