Table of contents:

Why our perception of time is distorted and how to deal with it
Why our perception of time is distorted and how to deal with it

To change your perception of time and learn how to plan correctly, you need to understand what time is spent on and how it affects productivity.

Why our perception of time is distorted and how to deal with it
Why our perception of time is distorted and how to deal with it

Causes of the distorted perception of time

1. Everything is in our head

Our perception of time depends on how quickly the brain processes sensory signals, as well as on the production of various chemicals, such as dopamine. According to a recent study, it seems to us that time passes faster when we are doing something enjoyable, that is, when the activity of dopamine in the brain rises.

In addition, the perception of time is associated with memory. If a certain period of time is filled with a large number of events, we remember it as longer.

2. The body constantly adjusts to the time

The body's most obvious response to time is aging. As we age, our body changes, and the perception of time also changes with it. It seems to us that time moves faster.

In addition, we have an internal mechanism that synchronizes our mental and physiological processes with the cycle of day and night on the planet - the circadian clock. Disruption of circadian rhythms affects well-being and productivity.

3. Culture and language impose a certain perception of time

Western Europeans and Japanese value punctuality, but Brazilians are comfortable with being late. In Germany, they will expect you to come earlier than the appointed time, and in Mexico, everyone will expect you to appear later, because the Mexicans themselves do just that.

Some tribes measure time according to events in their daily lives. For example, they agree to meet not at seven in the morning, but "when the cows go out to the pasture." And in the East African language of Shambhala, there is no past and future tense at all. Its speakers describe the time with the words "today" and "not today."

Similar examples of how language is associated with the perception of time can be found in Russian. After all, when asked whether the nearest cafe is far away, we often answer: "Five minutes walk." This use of time to indicate distance is common in many Western countries, where everyone is accustomed to value time highly. We believe that time is money, so we don't want to waste a minute, and this speeds up the pace of life.

4. Internal time does not coincide with the time of others

Perception and sense of time are very individual. Problems arise when our internal time is very different from the time accepted in our environment.

For example, if you have to force yourself to be an early riser even though you're more productive in the afternoon. Or if at work it is customary for you to work on one project, and you prefer to take on several at the same time. Even working with clients from other time zones can confuse your perception of time.

5. Technology misleads us

Clocks and calendars help us structure our lives, but they inevitably affect the way we perceive time. This is especially true for electronic clocks. If an analog clock represents time as a process (and we can understand by the position of the arrow how much time has passed and how much is left), then digital clocks show only one moment in time and can be confusing.

How distorted time perception affects our productivity

We are bad timing

Every day we calculate the time to plan something, and more often than not it is wrong. We usually underestimate the amount of time it will take us to complete a task, despite previous experience.

When we are busy with several things at the same time, it is even more difficult for us to estimate how long each of them will take. In addition, we often forget to include break times in our calculations. As a result, we are nervous and do not have time for anything.

Psychologists believe that our perception of ourselves also influences how we time our time. If we are confident in our ability to complete the required task, we procrastinate less, then our timing calculations are more accurate.

We choose inappropriate time management techniques

To do everything, we try to work faster, do several things at the same time, sleep less or combine several methods of time management. In doing so, we forget that not every method is suitable for our work or character, and some even contradict each other.

For example, advice to “find your perfect time” and “do the worst things first” together can be counterproductive if your ideal time is morning. In this case, you do not need to spend it on unpleasant things, it is better to immediately take on the most important things.

Time management techniques like Pomodoro are also not universal. They are suitable for administrative tasks, but not for creative work. In addition, they can cause stress and negatively affect the quality of work, because you need to fit into a certain period of time.

How to deal with a distorted perception of time

1. Admit the problem

Remember the times when you seemed to have lost track of time or were seriously mistaken in assessing the duration of an event. What were you doing? What influenced the distortion of perception? By answering these questions, you will understand what caused the distortion.

2. Analyze where you are spending your time

If you still don't know where your time is going, try tracking it. This can be done in an active or passive way.

In the first case, you need to write data manually in a regular notepad or in a special application, for example Toggl or SaveMyTime. Set yourself reminders to remember to write down what you are doing. Please note that this method may not work for everyone. He forces you to be distracted from work.

Passive time tracking assumes that you rely entirely on software such as RescueTime to automatically collect time spent data.

Then examine the collected data. Does your productivity improve at certain times? Do you divide work time into blocks? How much time do you spend on social media? This will make it easier for you to understand which time management method is right for you.

3. Reduce the impact of negative factors

When you figured out how you spend your time, it should become clearer to you what causes the discrepancy between your perception of time and reality. Now try to reduce the influence of these factors. Here are some tips to help you with this.

Realize the fleetingness of time

While working, put a clock in front of you, preferably analog or even an hourglass. By visualizing the passage of time in this way, you will become more conscious of it. When we see the second by second go by, it’s easier for us to stop procrastinating and focus on the action.

Practice timing

To train yourself to always spend the same amount of time on repetitive tasks (parsing mail, household chores), work with a countdown. For example, if you are comfortable working with music, choose a playlist that is suitable in length for your task.

Also try writing down your assumptions about the duration of an event to understand how they usually differ from the actual time spent. This will help avoid planning mistakes in the future.

Change what's in your power

Relying on time tracking results, get rid of apps that lead to procrastination, or at least reduce their use to a minimum.

Also try to change your attitude towards unfinished business. Be honest with yourself. If you often say, “I don’t have time for this,” you may really need to say, “It’s not that important.”

Try new

If you've never done volunteer work or meditation, it's time to give it a try. Both of these activities have a positive effect on the perception of time. Volunteering helps you see how much you can achieve in a short amount of time, and meditation improves your ability to concentrate.

Apply new time management techniques. Once you understand what you are spending your time on, you can choose what is right for you.

4. Recognize that time cannot be completely controlled

No matter how hard you try, some time will always be wasted. You will be stuck in traffic. You will have to wait until a colleague sends the necessary files. Check out another YouTube video. Time will pass, indifferent to our problems.

You just need to admit that you are a person, not a robot that always works at the same speed and never gets tired. Create a schedule that suits you and don't get stuck on how much time you've already spent.