The Trick of Time

It’s not that we have so little time, but rather that we waste so much of it.

Window and Clock, Musée d’Orsay | Source

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”

Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

Time is all we have — and it is our only limited currency. You can always get more money, you can always get more energy, but you can never get back time that you’ve spent. No matter how healthy you live, no matter how good your genetics are, your time is rangebound.

What isn’t so transfixed is our perception of time. A day that is spent doing something that is completely novel and laborious feels exponentially longer than a day spent doing something that is routine and pleasurable. Our mind has the ability to stretch or shorten our sensation of time, depending on our activities and mood.

But the easiest way to embellish our time is to simply cherish it — to be proactively mindful and conscious of what we’re doing at any moment. This is one of the keys to meditation, and in reality, it can be done anytime.

Imagine each day you’ve lived that you can’t even remember because you allowed yourself to mindlessly follow the same routine. Monotony is what accelerates our awareness of time. Uniformity is the enemy of our longevity.

Imagine instead, if you asked yourself the following question every five minutes throughout the day: “Am I happy with how I’m using my time right now?”

It’s effortlessly easy to become absorbed in the unimportant, or to become caught up in whatever is in front of you. It takes far more energy to be acquainted with each passing breath, each beating of the heart.

There might be an impossibility in capturing the entire day, each day. Not every fleeting moment of our lives needs to have some sort of grand meaning behind it. Rather, try to do just one thing each day to make it memorable, and take a few moments to just not do anything except appreciate the time you have. Use the hours, don’t count them.