Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Perception of Time and Time Trials

The way time is perceived is known to change, varying on the task at hand. Typically, if it is an enjoyable activity, the time flies by. Conversely, if the task is less enjoyable, time progresses at a snail's pace. In my life, I have encountered enjoyable activities that take less time than I would assume. There are two example of these activities, and both involve Katy.

When I was signing Katy up for swim class, I was surprised that the classes lasted a measly 30 minutes. "What could possibly be taught in such a short period of time?" I wondered. At the first class, I learned that thirty minutes was exactly the right amount. It didn't feel like the class dragged, and yet it seemed that Katy had an opportunity to learn and do a large variety of activities in the water. Even the five minutes of play at the end was just right.

Another activity that we recently experienced our fair share of was Bounceland. Katy was invited to two parties, both structured the same way, with a week between the two. The first part of the party is an hour of bouncing, followed by some time after to eat cake and open birthday presents. The number of times you get to go on the bouncy slides in an hour is much more than you would guess, if you didn't really think about it. An hour was plenty, but I thought it was going to feel short.

These misperceptions about how long was enough caused me to reflect on other things that occur in my life and how long I believe them to take and how long they really take. Already, considering these different things has helped me to either do things that I previously avoided because I thought they took too long as well as looking for ways to reduce time on things that I thought weren't taking that long. The big item I considered was showering.

One way to categorize those who shower is by time spent showering. Really, it seems like there are two groups: those who are quick and are on a mission to get clean, and those who are slow and forget why they entered the soothing, blissful warmth. I am in the second group. Since I know that I might take a little longer in the shower than I thought, I decided to start tracking how long it takes, followed by time trials.

I needed two showers today. This morning, it took 29 minutes in the shower, plus another 12 to finish getting ready. Tonight, I decided to try to stop lolly-gagging and go for a best time. It only took 8 minutes in the shower, with another 4.5 minutes to finish. The point is that often all it takes to improve the time of something is to realize how long it is taking and then trying to change it.

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