I have heard many variations on the phrase: “Time just keeps going faster.” While I agree that my perception of time seems to accelerate as I get older, I find the general attitude frustrating because it assumes that nothing can be done.

Are we nothing more than victims of time and age? I don’t think so. The reality is that time marches on at (mostly) the same pace despite my perception. A second is the same length as it was when I was born, so the only thing that has changed is me.


So to what can we attribute this phenomenon? I have read several theories and I have one of my own. One theory says that every moment is an ever smaller percentage of our life. When we are born, a single day is 100% of our life, so it seems like an eternity. As we grow older, each day is a smaller portion of our life. I do think there is some validity to this, particularly as we become aware of how long a specific timespan is. My son is five and is starting to understanding the length of a day, but his concept of minutes and hours is still vague. So I do think there is some validity to just the basic perception shifting with greater comprehension.


There is also a theory about novelty: that novel experiences create more distinct memories in the mind where common and familiar surroundings and experiences do not. The more novel memories you have from a certain period of your life, the longer that period of time seems.


I have noticed another factor and have a hypothesis. I have tested it some myself, but have no scientific backing for it other than my own experience. I think that expectation plays a factor as well. I think that identifying expectations gives an important perspective and perhaps even allows for manipulation of perception. What is the next thing in your life you are looking forward to? Your first cup of coffee for the day? The weekend? Maybe your next vacation? How about Christmas? Or graduating? Kids finally being out of the house?


I think the more you have to look forward to, time seems to pass slower. When the next thing you look forward to is a year away, your perception of that year of time might seem like just a few days in your memory. When the things you look forward to are sooner and more numerous, time seems slower. Or at least that is my theory.

Now, this is probably related to the novelty theory. You may find that your perception of time slows down as you purposely fill your day will small novelties that you can look forward to. Asking yourself “what am I looking forward to today?” is a good test for how you are spending your time.


One caveat: I am not arguing that you need to constantly ratchet up your experiences and fill your life with novelty every minute of every day. I think looking forward to the mundane is perfectly legitimate. Maybe looking forward to your next cup of coffee is enough, even if you do that several times a day. I think the looking forward with expectation is the key.

Even if none of these theories is exactly correct, if you aim to do things you love every day, you can’t really lose. Can you think of anything you are excited about today? If not, is there something you can add to your schedule that you could get excited about? If you fill your life with things you are passionate about, that’s a win, no matter how fast time seems to pass.