You hear people ask, “Why does time fly so much faster than it used to?”  It feels like time is running past so quickly. Holidays and major life events seem as if they arrive right on top of each other. Yet as fast as it seems time flies, some recent events (i.e. meeting IRL with Woody Bendle for #Ideachat last month and again this past weekend) seem as if they happened a year ago.

Why does time fly so much faster in your estimation?

Considering this question, I came up with three possible ideas:

1. Information Overload

There is so much more information that comes at us now, we’re processing what used to be a year’s worth of information in a relatively short time One study from a few years ago said information was coming at us 5 times faster than 20 years before. Right now, with the further proliferation of social media participation, the five times faster figure seems low. Regardless, what used to be a year’s worth of information hits you so much faster – in just a couple of months now. This phenomenon has to be a big factor in disorienting our perception of time passing.

2. Seasonal Marketing Is Out of Whack

To get in front of the message glut and to try and cut through the message clutter, marketers (especially retailers) begin seasonal messaging so much earlier than the calendar suggests. Retailers time shift the entire year. The Christmas retail season goes from July to December 26 (contrast that with a liturgical view of the Christmas season which runs from the evening of December 24 to early January). The Halloween retail season starts in early September and is on closeout before October 31. Back-to-school seems to overlap with “just barely leaving” school. The result is it feels like time is running out and nearly completely disassociated from what the calendar says.

3. The Challenge in Scheduling Meetings

Since in so many organizations there are fewer people to do more work than there used to be, there is a challenge in scheduling meetings and other events. As a result, you wind up scheduling meetings far in advance. On a routine, longer-term project for us, it is common to be scheduling meetings three months in advance. When it comes to a bigger event, the scheduling window is even longer. When you are operating like that, the challenge in scheduling meetings forces you to be thinking many months ahead and acting as if the future is now.

What to do?

If you buy those three reasons for why time seems to fly by so quickly, you can try to manage your information intake as much as you can and do your best to maintain a perspective and a schedule more firmly rooted in the actual calendar than in seasonal marketing messages.

Will this help? What do you think? – Mike Brown


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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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6 Responses to “Why Does Time Fly? 3 Reasons It Always Feels Like Time Is Running Out”

  1. Cathy Delhanty says:

    Nice article! 

    I work internationally and have to manage the holidays and customs from many countries. In The Netherlands, they celebrate Sinterklas (Saint Nicolas) from 15 November to 5 December.

    To cope, I try to ignore as much as I can and plan ahead!

    Cathy from thenetworkingworiskshop.blogspot.com

  2. Mike,

    Nice post.

    Einstein supports your view. When asked to explain his theory of relativity, he replied:

    “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.”

    However, I have a different theory on time that you might find interesting.

    Consider that our concept of time is based on our own reality (perception). To a one year old, a year is a lifetime. At one hundred years old, that same span of time is only one percent of a lifetime. In other words, now that I’m in my forties a year is half as long as when I was in my twenties, so I have twice the obligations, yet only half the time.


    Mark Gallagher
    Brand Expressionist®

    • Mike Brown says:

      Interesting take on it, Mark. It’s similar to a theory I have on why it seems as if it takes longer to go to a new, unfamiliar place than it does to return. On the way there, you don’t that you’re there until you get there. On the way back, you’re returning to familiar territory, so the minute you see the familiar surroundings, your mind “closes” the experience and essentially declares the trip complete. 

      It could be the same way with life, too. As a child, there are so many more surprises because you haven’t seen situations play out before. As you age, you’ve seen how Christmas plays out, so at the first cue of Christmas, your mind is “solving” for December 25th.

      I don’t know about you all, but I find it fun to consider these theories devoid of any real facts…I know, can you believe that’s coming from a research guy!


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