Eric Krueger

Make Each Week Feel Like Vacation

3-minute read | Meta photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Have you ever experienced a week-long vacation that felt like an eternity? Then the following week at work goes by so quickly you still feel like you "just got back" from your trip? The prediction loop is the culprit, and by understanding this phenomenon, we can influence our perception of the passage of time.

The Prediction Loop

The brain is a prediction engine. It's constantly simulating the universe. When it experiences new things, it has to update its mental model; and when it doesn't, it uses heuristics to simplify the information it's receiving. Lisa Feldman Barrett in her book How Emotions are Made describes this as a prediction loop:


The Passage of Time

When we're younger, we experience time as passing more slowly because we're engaged in so many new experiences. The compare and resolve error pieces of the loop are in high gear. The brain is updating itself more (it has a lot to learn), like pages of a blank notebook being filled in rapid succession. Looking back, we think, "Wow, I did / I learned / I saw a lot" because we did! Each of these new/novel experiences is something that takes up temporal space. Intuitively, we contextualize the experience by remembering the events that surround the new information (like where you were, who you were with, and how you were feeling). It helps to build a more accurate mental model. This is why time seems to accelerate as we get older, there's less novelty as your prediction engine gets better. Simulation = Comparison. Our notebook is full, we write down less.

Slowing Down Time

Knowing this, the prescription for a long and memorable life is simple. From the Daily Stoic Podcast with Chip Conley:

Part of the reason that younger people feel like life moves slowly for them during the summer is because they have so many new activities. So, the freshness of first-time experiences tends to actually prolong time. It’s when we don’t have fresh new experiences that life starts to feel like it’s accelerating…We’ve gotten really better at the ‘how do we live a longer life?’ thing, but ‘how do we live a deeper life?’ — that [entails] trying new things.” - Chip Conley

And from David Eagleman, an American Neuroscientist:

“Time is this rubbery thing,” Eagleman said. “It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.” -- David Eagleman

The prescription to slow down time is this: (i) expose yourself to new experiences/ideas, and (ii) pay attention.


Enjoyed? You can subscribe to my blog. Comments? Send me a message.

#life #word smatter