Time is one of the most valuable resources we have.
And we tend to f*ck up its daily significance because we don’t really understand how to leverage it.
We understand the importance of time when large occurrences happen, but we tend to squander it on things without realizing it. Science confirms where we put our energy matters.
It turns out that our emotional state has a large impact on our perception of time. And studies indicate that when we aren’t mindful or in control of our emotions, time will slow down.
When fear or high levels of stress occur, that reptilian brain of ours will slow down our sense of time so that we can be hypervigilant in a situation, if needed. When emotions rise, time will slow so that we can make faster decisions, like running away from real danger.
In actuality, our emotional moods and disruptions can distort and take up more time than we realize. So all of those people and things consuming our thoughts, rent free is a drain on our energy.
James Holt noted in “The Principles of Psychology” in 1890, that ‘a certain emotional feeling accompanies the intervals of time […]’ and ‘that our feeling of time harmonizes with different mental moods’.
It goes a little something like this. We feel obligated to be somewhere and time drags on. Studies have shown that stressful situations will subjectively stretch time. And when we’re having fun, we also know we perceive time moving faster.
Yet, we have a hustle culture that prides itself on putting more time and energy into everything. That only becomes a problem if we aren’t mindful of where and how we exert that energy. We have to learn our signals to know when it’s time for grit and when it’s time for rejuvenation, or we’ll quickly hit a wall of burnout.
Organizing and prioritizing tasks have a place. We all have to do things we don’t necessarily want to do but we understand the benefits of them. If we’re spending most of our time bound to things that don’t give back to our wellbeing, we start to invoke stronger negative emotions that will do more harm than good. And eventually lead to illness.
Time is best spent where we start to see progress and ease and that includes enjoyment. Listen to a successful business owner and they’ll quickly share how they delegate tasks that aren’t worth their….time. Meaning, they only want to focus on the areas that they are highly-skilled in or learning how to make those skills better. While building a support team to help with the rest of the tasks.
The Time-Emotion Paradox
Our emotions will be the sole contributing factor to our perception of time. Manage your emotions or your energy and time will manage itself. Since time is a finite resource, we want to learn how to run our energy within to keep our momentum going. Emotions are energetic wellsprings or a spiral into depletion.
While we use devices to measure time, like a watch or an alarm clock, or move to our internal clock, it’s always going to be truly measured against the context under which we’re experiencing it.
We have the ability to speed up our time or slow it down. Once we understand how our emotional state contributes to how we perceive time, we’ll use it more wisely. Or at least that’s the hope.
Here are four overarching pillars to monitor and regulate energetic states of being.
1. Body: Balancing the energy in the physical body between active states and passive states. There are times where it’s inevitable that we’ll need to put in long hours on a project or have scheduled our lives to be overwhelming.
Take short intervals of rest along the way on a regular basis. Find beneficial breaks to take that include moving the body to go for a walk or a power nap, depending on what is needed. Getting into the habit of routine exercise at any level is always good, especially for the mind to get back into the body and not be scattered by external factors.
2. Mind: When the body is tended to, some thoughts that plagued us now seem weightless. When we get into mindful thinking and gratitude, we can rewire our perception and see situations from a new perspective.
By paying attention to our thoughts and our stories, we’ll be able to catch wandering points of view and observe them before responding. This saves our energy by not reacting too quickly, unconsciously and unnecessarily.
3. Emotions: How we feel about ourselves gets reflected in our experiences. Some things can trigger us that really should be processed physically and mentally before we get too swept up in a whirlwind of emotions.
If we let our emotions run wild without checking in, we’re subjugated to uncontrollable outbursts and moods that are hard to shake. It’s usually because we haven’t learned how to process the information the emotion is giving us and redirect the energy into more useful pursuits.
4. Spirit: This goes beyond religious and even spiritual pursuits, as we find activities we love and people who also enjoy the same things. We need to find our own version of small and meaningful pursuits to stay connected within.
We have a wealth of knowledge inside of us, so we want to continue growing that skill set of internal guidance and discovery. These are all layers of the self that are interconnected and all need to be addressed.
Leveraging the skills to regulate our energy can turn any day into a positive one that progresses us forward or into a negative one that spirals us backwards.
It’s up to us on how we manage our energy. The results will clearly show us what work we’ve done.
"It is in childhood that we are most profoundly, naturally, and intimately involved with time."
— Jean-Louis Servan Schreiber in The Art of Time
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