Flattening Out Mental Time Distortion

“Whoa—it's already 11 o'clock?”
“It's 2:48!?”
“What have I been doing for the past hour?”

I ask myself questions like these nearly everyday. You probably do too.

We're all aware of how time seems to speed up and slow down. That's why we have expressions like ‘time flies when you're having fun’ and ‘tempus fugit’ and ‘time stood still’. As you get older, weeks and months and years seem to go by faster and faster. And yet, no matter how old you are, waiting can sometimes feel like an eternity.

All of that's well and good, but accidentally losing an hour or two everyday to worthless distractions really irks me. I'm always looking for ways to squeeze more value out of my 24 hours each day.

Last night I read something in an article on ‘Automated Discipline’ that seemed like a perfect first step towards reclaiming those lost hours. To boost accountability to yourself, the author recommends installing a program that makes a time-lapse video of everything you do on your computer. Then at the end of each day, you watch how you spent your time.

More accountability is great. But, what really interested me is the idea of the personal time-lapse. In addition to the gratuitous eye-candy factor, a time-lapse video can allow you to see new things that your brain wouldn't ordinarily be able to see. For example, these bean plants competing for a metal pole:

There’s plenty of software out there that can keep a log of how you spend your time on your computer and give you reports and graphs, etc. But I'm more interested in developing an intuitive sense of both when I get distracted and lose track of time, and also when I'm focused and staying on task. A time-lapse video seems like the perfect tool for that job.

Unfortunately, the program (Time Snapper) is only available for Windows, and there doesn't seem to be an alternative for Mac. So, my man Travis put together a lil’ script to do it. I’ll be trying it out for a few days to see if the results are as interesting as I'm hoping they are. If all goes well, I just might build a legitimate little Mac app for it.

So far I've only got a half day's worth of video, but it's looking promising. I've already seen a few surprising things.

To be continued after I've given the experiment a few more days.