Time Perception and Your Mental Cache

Originally Posted On February 25, 2016
Time Perception and Your Mental Cache - clockDo you ever get one of those days where you keep looking at the clock and only 5 minutes has passed?  That's been all of February!  This month has felt longer than any month before it!  It's just dragged and dragged and dragged!  At first I thought this was due to the excitement of being able to make my first active investment using the paycheck that will come on Monday or maybe it was because of all the work I've been doing outside of my day job, but after looking back, I realize that I've accomplished more in February than I ever have before!

And continuing the reflection on this slowed-time perception, I realize that all the accomplishments possible BECAUSE February felt so long!  I'll elaborate.


Time Perception and Your Mental Cache

I've mentioned it before - everyone lives in a different reality!  This reality is based on our experiences and our perceptions.  The key word for this post is PERCEPTION.  Even though the logical side of my brain tells me that I've had just as much time in this month as every other month before it (let's not count a day's offset for the difference in days in months or leapyear!), the illogical, superstitious, grandeur part of my brain tells me that something is different.  Then I had an interesting thought - "What if this month has felt three times its length because my brain has been three times as active as it normally is?"

Well, this is a bit misleading.  To claim 3x activity makes me seem like some sort of super computer (which, as an analogy, works very well), but unfortunately this isn't the case.  My processing power has remained unchanged, but like a computer, the amount of 'cache' (short-term memory, in the form of tasks) that I'm holding onto has drastically decreased because I keep clearing it!

In the breaks at work (bathroom, compile/run times, waiting for meetings to start, etc.) I've been utilizing that free time to take care of the thoughts relating to things outside of work.

And having the extra thinking time has allowed me to process through the tasks that are on my mind.  With those thoughts processed, the task is removed from my cache and stored to hard data.  Upon leaving my 'cache', another task is able to take it's place and the cycle continues.  Now, on a small scale this doesn't seem like much, but when done many times and applied in a short period of time, the results are immense.

Firstly, after processing a task I am able to immediately act upon the result when needed instead of processing through it first then acting.  Secondly, when all the ideas in my cache bank are processed, when a new idea pops into my head, I'm free to completely pursue that possible opportunities without having the shift processing power between thoughts.

I'll give an example for those who, like me, understand better through visualization.

I recently started getting more serious about my health.  I've started a new, intense workout and have altered my diet to be very intentional, making sure that I'm getting all the nutrients I strive for.  Not knowing too much about nutrition, this was a task on my mind, but with the extra time to think, I was able to research nutrition and find a diet that matched my needs.  This task was moved from a category of unknowing to one of understanding, but caused a new task of having to choose which foods would meet the individual meal criteria onto my mental backlog.  After processing through that, I knew exactly what I needed to buy and what I would be eating for the next month.  Instead of trying to process through "which foods are healthy and good for muscle-gaining?" at the store when I'm shopping and leave to realize I'd forgotten things, I went in with a list and was in and out efficiently with the least amount of effort as possible, leaving more time for fitting other tasks into my day.

A clear cache feels great!  I feel more alert and focused on the task at hand since I'm not thinking about something else I need to do.

But back to the discussion of time perception!  Isaac Newton described time as a series of events on a linear timeline.

He understood that our perception of time is only based on a frame of reference.  This is exactly what I mean by "time perception"!  When you spend a night watching tv, the time seems to fly because the only "accomplishment" (if you can call it that) has been watching tv.  But if, instead, you fit in multiple accomplishments, the time seems to go by much more slowly because you associate that block of your life with many event breakpoints instead of just one!

I know and you know that literally time is passing at the same rate, but just for a little bit let's pretend it isn't.  Let's pretend that by utilizing our timeline with meaningful events, we are extending our frame of reference which, in return, extends our time (or at least our perception of it).

So what's the point of this article?  How can you benefit from reading my rant on thoughts regarding time?  Well, if you feel overwhelmed with everything you have to do, it's because your cache is maxed out!  You need to get to a state where it's clear!  Here's my suggestion on the steps to do it:

1)  Pull out a pen and paper.  List EVERYTHING that you want to accomplish in the short term.  Not everything that you need to, but everything that you want to.

2)  Circle the ones that are easy to take care of or that you can wipe out right now.

3)  Starting with the circled items, complete everything on the list.  By complete, I mean COMPLETE!  Don't start one thing, put it down, then start working on something else!  If you need to research something for an event three days down the road, research it now and know exactly what you have to do when you encounter that event!  The goal isn't to accomplish something, but get to a state where you can efficiently accomplish things!

4)  Make a new list.  Chances are, now that you have gotten rid of all these thoughts that have been knocking on your brain's door, you've remembered a few more things that you wanted to do.

5)  Complete that list.

At this point, your mental cache should be filled with things that you need to do, but not the things that naturally take up your attention.  Ontop of just getting a lot of stuff done, now you should be in a state where you will be your best when life throws a challenge at you.  Keep your cache down, keep your stress down, get stuff done!


Edit:  I've realized that this idea is incomplete and have added the idea that completes it.  Part Two.




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