Don't let time slip by you, use it wisely
All of us experience the same limited and constant amount of time each day— 24 hours. However, we have heard several people say 'I don't seem to have time?" irrespective of how busy they really are. Most of us have also had the feelings of time flies when you are having fun' or of life moving like In a slo-mo clip (where one second is captured in 5 seconds) while going through painful and fearful events. If you talk to people born in the '60s or before, you must have also heard them note that in earlier days there was so much time in each angle day while now days seem to be passing by rather quickly.
How is it then that different people feel so differently about time? Our sense of time is unlike our other five senses — i.e. taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. From a scientific viewpoint sensation and perception are two related but separate notions. Sensation Is about picking up cues of the physical stimulus in the environment; perception is more about how our brain organizes, translates and interprets that information. As an example, sensing the heat from fire is different from perceiving It as dangerous. Or hearing sounds is different from perceiving it as music.
In fact, time is more about perception than about sensation. We create our own subjective experiences of time and there is an entire field in psychology and neuroscience that studies this Idea of time perception. In short, our feelings of time are malleable and flexible which depend on a number of dispositional (person-related) and situational (environment-related) factors. For example, with age, we tend to underestimate a given time interval. That is, a year would feel much longer to a child than to an adrift. There are also the effects of emotions such as fear, depression and excitement. And with the constant distractions of TV channels and internet, time does move quickly.
This malleability of lime has implications for several areas. As one example, consider our tendency to discount future time. That is we have a bias towards the present. if given a choice between $100 today and $100 in the next week, most of us would choose the former option. On the other hand, for a choice between $100 today and $1,000 In the next week, most of us would choose the latter. However, this is not such a clear choice for people in the war-tom regions. It is possible that they still choose the $100 today over $1,000 next week. Why? They discount the future tremendously due to the uncertainties. Today is all they have; a week seems quite far away.
In the research article Time Unpacking: A Nudge Towards Wider Subjective Confidence Intervals, along with my co-authors, I studied how this perception of time influences forecasts that traders and hedge-fund managers made about future outcomes. When predicting what might happen In future, it is important to understand the duration of time involved, the uncertainties involved and the various possibilities in which the world can evolve in. Humans (including the statistically-sophisticated traders) typically underestimate the uncertainty in the future and consequently think of only a narrow range of future possibilities. This happens because one year into the future feels too close and we end up feeling that the world would not be much different from what It Is now. To fix this, we proposed the nudge of time unpacking, wherein we urged people to look at the same one year in shorter intervals: three months, six months and 12 months. That way, participants were better able to visualize the different uncertainties involved and ended up being better prepared for the future.
In all of this malleability of time, one thing to remember is that time is a resource and that too a scarce one. While in the case of money we can do clear costs-benefits calculations, It is difficult to quantify and measure time Investment I remember a senior colleague once told me, 'As en academic, time would be the most valuable asset for you. Multiple things would demand your time and the one skill you will need to master would be to Identify when to say a yes and when a no." And this, I think, is relevant to all of us who deal with several daily distractions and multiple commitments. We need to become time-wise.