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Life comes at us too fast

It's January 23rd.

I walk into the store and find myself surrounded by banners advertising Valentine's Day chocolate, heart-shaped pasta, and fragrances newly remixed, all sprinkled with the odd easter decoration.

Mind you, Valentine's Day is three weeks away (for those who celebrate, you still have time, don't worry), and Easter is even further out sometime in April. Here I was, still drinking my leftover Christmas tea at home, thinking to myself that we're still in the depths of winter, processing that we have to write 2024 in the footer of our website now.

If I were to buy Easter chocolate now, none of it would be left by Easter. And who buys their heart-shaped Pasta three weeks in advance?

Has it always been like that? I wonder as I walk back home. The seasons melt into each other, and nowhere is it as evident as in the local shops. Thank God for Halloween - the goths are the only reason they aren't selling Christmas goods as soon as the first leaves fall.

But it's not just that. Everything seems to be getting faster and more immediate, and there are no breaks. Time flies. 💨

In crypto, it's even worse than in the Aldi; one narrative chases the other with a vigor at times that makes you believe this one is here to stay - and then it turns out to be yet another ephemeral narrative. Anyone still talking about FHE?

People on my timeline have already started pointing out that we're nearly in February, and the time from the first of the year to now has passed in a blink. 👀

Is everything just accelerating?

It sure can feel like that at times.

Since e/acc and d/acc are happening, I thought it might be more appropriate to talk about everything/acc.

The speed at which we travel, the speed at which people ghost one another, the speed at which goods change seasons, the speed at which we're bombarded with news, and yet another thing we're supposed to care about.

It's never-ending. For me, it all comes down to our sense of time.

If time passes faster, everything does.

Time slips through our fingers

like sand on a beach.

When it feels like you never have enough time, that's usually because of a mismatch between the time available and the time it would take to complete everything on your to-do list.

And there are always a lot of things to chase and countless productivity gurus telling us how much more we could squeeze in our days. Add to that employers who expect presence in online channels and other duties. Needless to say, on social media, few are honest with how little gets done at times, so there's no way for us to calibrate what's "acceptable."

When you go through everything you do, it probably looks like you're doing a lot. You might have a demanding job, a family you care for, a friend group you occasionally hang out with, and a set of hobbies.

Yet, days feel short.

The paradox of time

Kurisu Makise

"Time is passing so quickly. Right now, I feel like complaining to Einstein. Whether time is slow or fast depends on perception. Relativity theory is so romantic. And so sad."

-Kurisu (Steins;gate)

The minutes throughout feel very long when you spend all day sitting in a room, boring yourself to death. Unless you have a creative mind and can entertain yourself (this is also a skill worth working on, the ability to be alone with your thoughts - no distraction) - time will crawl and not seem to pass. But the day will appear short when you lay in bed in the evening.

The opposite is true for a day filled with activities and experiences. Upon reflection, such a day will appear longer even though they are both 24 hours long.

So why is it that even though you checked off 10 of your to-do list items, your days feel short - and so do weeks and months, and it appears that February is knocking at your door when you're still mentally in October '23?

That's the beauty of the mind.

It's all about how you experience what you did with your time.

If you do things that leave a trace in memory, time will seem to have passed more slowly. When you spend a year full of experiences that resonate deeply, you won't just think back to them fondly, but also perceive them as lasting.

Modern men, though, do many things that do not really touch us or affect us deeply.

When was the last time something touched you deeply?

We are multi-tasking constantly, relying on fast distractions that offer a shallow simulation of the real thing. The fact that most of the things we do don't leave traces in memory, biography, or identity is another reason time goes by quickly.

Social acceleration

The sense of never having enough time coupled with the feeling that time just escapes us are phenomenons of social acceleration. It's a theory of modernity that points out that we live in a high-speed society.

Things started going south in the 18th century, not because of technology but due to a changed awareness of time: the need for speed. Technology was just the answer to accomplishing that speed. People wanted to move faster, eventually leading to ditching the horse in favor of steam engines and planes.

Better days when I was playing this with my brothers without thinking about modern problems.

Growth and acceleration became the conditions for social stability. And it's a heritage that lasts to this day. It's always "How do we grow GDP?" and never "How can this work in a world of limited resources?" or "Are we even measuring the right thing?"

While the centuries leading up to now, growth, innovation, and acceleration have served humans rather well, we've reached a tipping point where our generation does not feel like we'll be better off than the one before.

Quite the opposite.

We're realizing the detrimental effects that our growth fetishism is having on the climate, the cityscape, and, when you count Big Tech, the relationships between us and the rest of the world.

We feel like we have to run faster just to stay in the same place.

Inflation is an example of that. I'd have to work significantly more if I wanted the same purchasing power despite inflation. Days don't get longer, so there is a limit to that approach.

Or, as Hartmut Rosa, thinker behind social acceleration, puts it

we are no longer running towards a bright horizon in the future, we are running away from the dark abyss behind our backs.  

It'd be easy to blame capitalism for all of this, and with the commodification of time, it certainly is a driving force. Yet there are other factors, such as the cultural orientation where speed is the answer to the problem of finitude and death (speeding up = squeezing in more experiences = living longer).

It's all pretty bleak, isn't it?

Not so fast; I'd not leave you hanging like that.

While we might not be able to change the economy to one where growth isn't a sacred cow anymore, at least we have control over how we spend our individual time.

Controlling your time

Illustrations from Momo, Thieneman Verlag

Anyone who has read Momo knows that there's no such thing as saving time up for later. But you can manage it so that it doesn't feel like it's running through your fingers and you are nothing but a powerless bystander

The following ideas are things that I do, and I attribute to them that, for me, January is feeling quite long, and I look back at it, marveling at how much has happened.

F*ck immediate replies

I know we live in a culture of instant gratification and expect everything to be now and immediate. This explains why Amazon is constantly trying to cut delivery times even further because clearly, you needed that mushroom-shaped lamp in 3 hours, and it could not wait a second longer.

The other day, I saw someone's dating profile read something along the lines of "If you do not respond within a few hours or take more than one day to reply, don't reach out.I hate that."

First, I don't know if hate is a good word to put in one's bio, and second, why this rush?

I've been getting consistently worse at replying to non-urgent messages this year. My mum jokes that when sending me a WhatsApp, it can take a few days for a response. But she also knows that she can call me if anything urgent comes up, and I'll be there.

For work, there is no need to respond to every message immediately unless it absolutely requires immediate action. In 90% of cases, it can wait.

We live in a free society, and no employer puts a "reply within 5 min to any message" clause in their contracts.

If they do :

In the end, we're hired to do a job. Not to instantly respond to every stupid meme posted in the watercooler slack channel.

And companies that mistake presenteeism for productivity, good luck - I hope y'all go bust.

What we perceive as have-to's are often just choose-to's. I believe it's more important to set expectations straight from the beginning and then act accordingly.

I say I won't be on Slack on weekends, and I'm not.

Always being available eventually leads to getting less done, and that's not in the interest of the people paying me; neither is burnout.


It's so simple yet so hard.

Doing one thing at a time. Just one.

No checking your phone in between, no opening 50 tabs (except if they are all for research on the same topic)

Once you get into it, you'll see - you feel more fulfilled, and chances are your sense of accomplishment feeds into how you think about how your day has passed (not all that fast).

Sometimes, I catch myself jumping between different platforms, checking messages, and getting nothing done. In those moments, I leave my desk and do something entirely different for a few minutes, maybe cook a cup of tea and watch the construction site in front of the window.

When I return to my desk, I have a clear idea of what I will work on and do just that.

Focus applies beyond work tasks, btw. It applies to pretty much anything you do.

Erich Fromm, the philosopher, wrote in his book The Art of Loving

"Being focused means being in the present, living in the here and now, and not thinking ahead on what you have to do next while working on your current task."

This, too, helps slow down the passing of time.

Slow Distractions

Beyond work, the best thing to have a deeper life experience is choosing slow distractions over fast ones. This is a concept I've picked up from Cal Newport, who explains it in-depth in this video:

The idea behind it is to choose activities that require full mental engagement. Our minds like to think, after all, that's what they are best used for.

Activities that leave a positive residue will make it feel like you're spending time purposefully and heighten the sensation of each day being unique. When every day is more unique, you gain an appreciation of them as their own unit, which affects your sense of the passing of time.

And these activities don't have to be super-challenging things either. It can be as simple as a walk in nature without carrying your phone around.

Things I do include reading, playing guitar, listening to music, looking at artwork in the museums around, spending time in the library, watching the construction side progress, etc.

For people who struggle with it, I, too, have to trick myself a little into it. I have magazines and books everywhere in my flat. I have a guitar corner right next to my desk - inviting me to play. And I have a blocker app that blocks distractions for times I specify.

I've also started leaving my phone on a cupboard in the corridor - meaning it's not that easily available unless I physically move to where it's at. I've managed to cut my phone screen time drastically - it requires some discipline, but it's worth it.

Lastly, I think another thing to do to fight in small against an ever-accelerating perception of the world is to learn to appreciate what's happening at the moment.

It takes intent to be fully present. The effort is well worth it, though, when contrasted with the alternative of a constantly idle mind.

In an ever-accelerating world, where it feels like despite the velocity around us, there's inertia underneath, never forget you have agency.

How you perceive the passing of time is in your hands.

It's what you make of it that matters.

You can ignore the crazy speed at which new season holidays are pushed in the stores and not immediately respond to every message.

If anything, we might all benefit from slowing down, doing less but doing it more intently and with better focus. 🐢

Go out, watch the sunsets, listen to live music, spend quality time with your friends and family, send that postcard, read the book with the colorful cover, and smile at the cashier.

Life's short, but speeding everything up isn't the answer.

Paradoxically slowing down is.

“In today's rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just Being.”

- Eckhart Tolle

Thanks for reading!

When in doubt, take a deep breath and a moment to reflect.

You got this! 💚


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