Widgets Magazine
How to time travel
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

How to time travel

As we meander into our belated start to the school year, many Stanford students may find themselves still wondering how summer went by so quickly. The impending crush of unpacking, juggling club meetings and adding and dropping classes can be a rough departure from the last three months of summer break.

In the first few weeks of the quarter, the question of how to manage our time looms large. For some, this is synonymous with penciling in planners or filling up calendar and reminder apps only to discover we need 25 hours in a day to get everything done. Time becomes both an enemy and a precious commodity, always pushing forward and simultaneously running out; but what if we thought about time differently?

When comparing the long, lazy days of summer that seemed full of empty hours yet collectively blinked by too fast with the staccato, chaotic days that make up the long weeks at the start of the academic year, it seems time might be something that we construct more in our minds than anything else and, therefore, something malleable.

Recently, an article put out by Brain Pickings (a weekly newsletter curation of pieces of art, science, philosophy, literature and other work) examined what has been written about the factors that shape our experience of time. The takeaway? The way in which we experience time is elastic, meaning we can speed it up or slow it down. Our control lies in our perception of time — the idea being that time doesn’t need to be considered a driving force that dictates our actions, but rather a force for us to harness.

Claudia Hammond, author of “Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception,” writes: “We construct the experience of time in our minds, so it follows that we are able to change the elements we find troubling — whether it’s trying to stop the years racing past, or speeding up time when we’re stuck in a queue, trying to live more in the present, or working out how long ago we last saw our old friends.”

If we break from the obsessive scheduling of time into units to be filled with tasks and, instead, shift our focus to the idea that our perception of time matters more than time itself, we gain control.

While this conception of time as an adjustable, flexible thing may seem abstract, the bottom line is that it’s ours to manage and experience as we see fit. So slow it down or speed it up and set the pace this quarter with a fresh conception of time as something more than just an adversary.

 

Contact Cecilia Atkins at catkins ‘at’ stanford.edu.