We’ve all experienced time dragging when we’re at work in the office, particularly if it’s sunny outside! But as more of us work from home than ever before, we now hear of people experiencing the opposite problem with time, that the days are actually flying by. But why does time fly when we work from home? And is there anything we can learn about time flying so that we can, if and when we get back to the office, make it go faster?
Our perception of time
According to researchers, how we experience the speed of time passing, has a lot to do with our perception of time and what we are doing in that time. We all perhaps know the feeling of a much longed-for weekend spent relaxing, going by in the blink of an eye. Apparently, this is because when we judge a period of time as being filled with things we enjoy, we are setting ourselves up to perceive that time going by more quickly, than time spent doing boring admin, for example, in a hot, stuffy office on a Friday afternoon. We are almost sad the weekend is over before it even begins.
When we are working from home, although we are working, we are also at home. All those slow hours endured in the office when you’ve perhaps longed to work from home, are now in the past, and you are happily (we hope) now working from home. It’s perhaps a dream come true for many of us, despite all the complications of home schooling and challenges of COVID-19 lockdown.
If we perceive working from home to be the ultimate luxury, we are already setting ourselves up to believe that time is passing more quickly than it would do if we were in the office. The work and home divide has mixed sufficiently for ‘work time’ to perhaps not feel as much like work as when we were in the commute-office-commute race that potentially we were unhappy with before.
How busy we are
Are you busier at home? If the answer is yes, then you are likely to feel that time is flying by a lot more than it would otherwise. This is because, according to science, you are not waiting for something to happen. When we are busy, we are engrossed in what we are doing, accomplishing tasks and feeling motivated to get on and accomplish something else. There’s no waiting around in big chunks of time we don’t know how to fill.
Filling the dishwasher, hoovering a room, preparing a meal, cutting the grass, placing your next online delivery, doing an errand for an elderly relative are all tasks you are likely fitting in to your daily schedule, as well as your work. This all keeps you well and truly busy. And not all the tasks are work-oriented, hence time is not dragging and you may literally be racing from one thing to the next to fit it all in.
Being busy also means we have less time to focus on our own feelings. Research shows that having too much time to ponder the meaning of life can make time slow down. If we are sat waiting for our life to start, instead of living it, it can make ‘time dilate’. Like a child who waits for Christmas and feels each day in December lasts a hundred years.
How to make time speed up if you go back to the office
Finding ways to enjoy your time makes it speed up, scientists say. Doing lots of new things and creating new memories is key to making time speed up. At work this could be, going to talk to a new colleague, mixing up your breaks, maybe getting involved in a new project that you wouldn’t otherwise volunteer for. Instead of waiting for things to happen, make things happen. This ‘reframes’ the time that you would otherwise consider boring, into something more meaningful.
And it goes without saying that you should never look at your watch. Focusing on time alone will make it drag. If you have to wait for something, and unavoidably find yourself in this position, try to reframe that waiting time into a rest, or time to relax and enjoy. It will go faster!
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