14 Micro-Habits That Will Help You Slow Down Time

Photo by [Malvestida Magazine](https://unsplash.com/@malvestida?utm_source=medium&utm_medium=referral) on [Unsplash](https://unsplash.com?utm_source=medium&utm_medium=referral)Photo by Malvestida Magazine on Unsplash

Time = Life. You can’t deny this fact. The more time you have for things you love, the better your quality of life is going to be.

If you take a step back and think of humanity’s predicament, it’s clear that we should have more time on our hands than ever. I mean, you can get food delivered, put on a movie, and reply to messages, without even lifting a finger — thanks to Alexa and voice recognition.

Even though most of our needs are met at record speed, we’re still starved for time. Tell me this.** Have you ever felt like there’s not enough time in the day? That if only you had 36 or 48 hours, you can get all your work done?**

Yeah, me too! And that feeling has a name — Time Famine. The most important thing to understand about time famine is that it’s a feeling.** **It’s not an objective truth.

Everyone has the same 24 hours in the day. Some people flow through their life without a sweat while others constantly stress about how less time they have on their hands.

That’s both good news and bad news. The demons that trouble us, are often inside our head — not just in the case of time famine, but in life. Circumstances, in other words, are neutral. It’s our reaction that makes them good or bad. Pretty basic right? Well you know what they say, common sense isn’t common.

Some of the reasons we feel starved for time are — FOMO that leads to burnout because you take more than you can handle; Blurry work boundaries that make relaxation impossible; Being continuously distracted; An overwhelming anxiety to get things done.

As you can see all of these are to do with our **perception of time. **That’s understandable since reality itself is nothing but our perceptions put together.

“Self-Duration” and “World-Duration”

Think about the last time you stood in the queue. Specifically, think just before you felt the uncomfortable sensation that you avoided by pulling your phone out.

Didn’t time seem to slow down? I bet you were wondering why it’s taking so long. Yet, when you looked at your watch, only 2 minutes had passed. Whereas to you, it felt more like 10 or 20.

The point is this —** the more we slow down to focus on the present, the more time slows down for us. The culprit here is **awareness. The higher your awareness of the present, the more your subjective perception of time is altered.

This higher awareness can be cultivated using a variety of mindfulness and meditation practices.

Researchers have found that meditators are able to make a distinction between ‘self-duration’ and ‘world-duration.’ In other words, by meditation, you sever the link between your lower and higher self. Thus, as a result of your altered state of consciousness, your experience of time also shifts.

So one thing in this article is clear — go and meditate. But really, there are more ways to slow down time that has helped me when things get chaotic.

Let’s see what these micro-habits are and how they can change your perception of time.

Take Micro Mindfulness Breaks

Micro-mindfulness is the new mindfulness. If I had a dollar for every time a person tells me they don’t have time to meditate, I wouldn’t need to work.

Micro-mindfulness is for all those A-type, ambitious, and busy people who can’t take out time for meditation. Here’s how you do it: Schedule alarms on your phone to remind you to take a moment off every now and then to center yourself.

You can take a walk, breathe, stretch, and do tons of other things to slow down and experience awe. Or you can pick from one of these interesting ideas.

Don’t simply think that you’ll do it. Actually, schedule alarms every one or two hours. These are your reminders to do any one of the above activities. These alarms have been the anchors in my day that I hold on to. If I religiously follow all these triggers, I’m more relaxed than ever.

Note: I use an Android app called Repeat Alarm for this.

Savor Your Coffee

Learning to savor moments throughout the day is the best way to slow down your perception of time. Most of us have a daily habit of drinking coffee, tea, or perhaps some other beverage daily.

We often take these for granted, busy in some kind of work while having them. Break this pattern and set aside five minutes to really enjoy your drink.

Resist the urge of checking your phone, email, reply to messages, reading, or anything else. Be alone with your drink. Take the aroma in. Feel when it touches your lips and tongue. Is it hot? Is it cold? Take time to notice these things.

After those couple of minutes, you’ll be more grounded and ready to get back to work with a fresh mind. It’s hard to believe that simple activities like enjoying your coffee can shift your whole day. But it’s true. Try it for yourself.

When I do this in the morning, my days are less rushed and calmer. This brings me to my next point.

Start Slow

I know people who get up 30 minutes before they have to be somewhere, wear the clothes they wore yesterday, and rush out the door with a cup of coffee in their hand.

The problem with this is it** puts you in the position of catching up with your day instead of being in command of it**. The whole day is then spent frantically trying to keep up with your schedule instead of conquering it.

If you want to lead a calmer life, the morning is the best time to plant the seed. Learn to wake up earlier than usual. Even waking up 15 minutes earlier should be enough to be on top of everything you need to do.

Gradually, you can add some activities to your morning routine — journaling, reading, meditation or just savoring your morning coffee! If you start your day with intention, the morning and the day itself becomes more enjoyable.

Turn off the Noise

Our days are filled with noise. We listen to music while working, exercising, and pretty much doing everything. Many people constantly have the radio or TV going on in the background. As I write this, my mom is playing music on the speakers. They’re affecting my concentration.

These noises take our attention away from the present moment. And when our mind is constantly distracted, time flies and we wonder where it went.

Thus, to give yourself a breather, turn everything off. Take a minute to notice where you are, what you’re doing, and what’s happening around you. Be more aware.

In a world of constant noise, silence is golden. If you find an opportunity to be silent, don’t leave it.

Say No More Often

One of the reasons we’re starved for time is we fill our calendars with so much fluff. We say yes just because we’re scared of saying no. Yet, to lead a calmer life, it’s crucial to have some whitespace on your schedule.

Learning to say no is hard for everyone. No one wants to let other people down. But it’s important to set boundaries to protect your time and health. Taking on less work gives you time to focus on what’s important.

When you say yes to something, you’re taking away time from something you love. There’s always an opportunity cost. Think about it before saying yes. If it doesn’t align with your priorities, say no.

Do One Thing at a Time

Humans suck at multitasking. While it feels we can do two things at once, we’re just switching back and forth between them which gives the illusion that we’re “multi” tasking. In reality, it’s just rapid task-switching.

Small daily distractions like checking Facebook while writing code are disastrous. Compound them over the span of a whole career and you’ll see why a great programmer never wrote great code.

Not only do our jobs deserve a little more respect but our personal relationships do as well. We believe we can build quality relationships without paying complete attention to the other person. It only takes a quick glance at a couple sitting in a restaurant to realize this. Their hands are on their phone beneath the table while they’re pretending to have a conversation.

When your life is an endless barrage of tasks juggled together, it’s impossible to be present or enter into flow states.

Doing one thing at a time feels like magic. It’s the ultimate way to slow time down and enter into a flow state. Not only will you practice slowing down, but there’s a good chance you’ll also do a better job at whatever you’re doing when you aren’t distracted and jumping back and forth between multiple tasks.

Break Your Routine

Psychologist William James wrote about the phenomenon of time perception in his Principles of Psychology in 1890. In experiments examining the perception of time in routine versus nonroutine situations, he found that people remembered the duration of familiar circumstances as being shorter.

“Unless people experience major changes that break the routine in their lives and provide them with anchors to retrieve from memory, life can become one short, timeless sequence of routine inaction,” write Avni-Babad and Ritov who tested this phenomenon.

To put it simply — if you live your life on automatic mode, if the majority of your day looks the same, you’ll find time passing quicker. So, to slow down time, fill your days with new experiences to form memory anchors.

Learn new skills, read something different, work from a different coffee shop, be curious! You’ll find that life stops passing you by so quickly when you stop doing the same thing every day.

Make Meaningful Progress

When life goes faster than you progress, you feel out of control and starved for time. Have you ever had that feeling in June when you wonder what the hell happened in the first six months of the year? Yes, I’m talking about that feeling.

If you don’t make meaningful progress on a daily basis, you’ll soon look back and realize that even though a lot of time passed, you didn’t change. This can be a cause of disappointment for many. And so counterintuitively, time seems to pass quicker when you don’t take action.

The trick to slowing down time is to make intentional progress on your goals every day. This will prevent you from slipping into automatic, forgettable routines. So when you look back, you can clearly see the accomplishments you made which makes it seem that a lot of time has passed.

Drive Slower

I always thought that my “normal” driving speed is higher than that of others. However, I soon realized that speedy driving is just a habit resulting from mental restlessness.

When I drove slower, my mind became calmer. Driving faster than necessary leads to unnecessary stress, accidents, and wasted fuel.

Instead, try to slow down and appreciate your surroundings. Treat it like a meditation and it will soon turn into one. Not to mention that driving will be much more enjoyable and safer.

When you drive slower, you say to your mind, “Don’t worry, we have time.” This subconscious thought acts as an affirmation to achieve calmness. The mind picks up on this thought and chills out as you relax on your drive.

Try Finding Pleasure in Everything

There are no boring tasks. Only boring people.

You can make everything pleasurable — whether it’s driving, taking out the laundry, folding it, running errands, and everything else in between. Mindfulness is the scent that beautifies every activity.

If you’re washing the dishes, feel every sensation — the soap, water, crockery, everything. Life can be so much more enjoyable if you bring your sense to what you’re doing.

Understand Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law says that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” If you give yourself one hour to write an article, you’ll do it in one hour. If you give yourself three hours, it’ll take three hours, and probably longer.

Simply put, as long as you’re working, there will be things to do. You will find small details that no one cares about and start treating them as tasks because you don’t have something to do.

Maybe you have a lot of things to do. But maybe, just maybe, you’re addicted to busyness which causes you to fill your calendar.

The way to stop this busyness is to limit the time you’ll work and then cut back on the number of tasks to suit that time. If you let your work always spill on your life, then sadly, you won’t have a life at all.

Toss Your Phone in the Ocean

There’s always a scene in the story of every overworked actor where he throws the phone in the ocean in irritation. You’re the protagonist of your life. And you should metaphorically throw your phone in the ocean every day.

To do this, I use an app called Offtime that blocks apps on my phone and makes me wait 5–10 minutes if I have to lift the block before the scheduled time. I’ve been using it for years.

Forget your phone for at least 30 minutes every day and enjoy your newfound freedom. Take a walk, get some air and let nature take care of you.

For all the things you use on your phone, think of substitutes. For example, use an alarm clock instead of the alarm app, use an actual notepad instead of the Notes app, etc. This will help you cut back on the impulsive glances that can quickly get out of hand if not paid attention to.

Cancel 20% of What You Plan

We suck at planning. We always underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task. And so, when you make a plan, cut some of the things away.

If you feel rushed going through your to-do list, you’re more likely to get stressed and make mistakes. Biting off less than we can chew helps us chew it better.

Everything Boils Down to This

Ever wonder why time passes quickly when you get older and busier? Because neither are we paying attention nor are we learning enough. Burkhard Bilger did a profile of David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who studies time perception. Bilger writes:

The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. ‘This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,’ Eagleman said — why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.

So the best solution to the time famine problem is simple — pay more attention; notice more things. “Mindfulness allows people to appreciate their surroundings and can lead to the feeling that time is passing more slowly,” Dr. Steven Meyers, a clinical psychologist, and professor of psychology at Roosevelt University in Chicago tells The Huffington Post.

On the other hand, the more you engage in mindless distraction the more you’ll feel that you’re losing hours, days, and months. Trying to remove the automaticity from our lives using mindfulness is the best way to prevent time from flying away.

In fact, all the ways I’ve mentioned above bring some form of mindfulness and attention back to the present moment. Meyers says,

“[Time perception] research highlights yet another benefit of mindfulness: It allows us to better appreciate the events and people around ourselves rather than feeling like we’re living our days in a blur.

Don’t live your life in the blur. Pay attention.

To Sum Up

Meditation is one of the best ways to slow down time. The timelessness you experience in meditation stays with you when you come out of it. Yet, just meditating for a few minutes in the morning isn’t going to cut it.

To expect a different result, we need to change our whole lifestyle. Here’s how you can do that:

  1. Take Micro Mindfulness Breaks

  2. Savor Your Coffee (or Tea)

  3. Start Slow

  4. Turn off the Noise

  5. Say No More Often

  6. Do One Thing at a Time

  7. Break Your Routine

  8. Make Meaningful Progress

  9. Drive Slower

  10. Try Finding Pleasure in Everything

  11. Understand Parkinson’s Law

  12. Toss Your Phone in the Ocean

  13. Cancel 20% of What You Plan

….and soon you’ll be able to lead a relaxed life instead of trying to catch up with it.

Join me and 1000+ others to receive similar insights in your inbox

Written on April 2, 2021