I’ve found that many people (including myself) have an urge to stuff as many things as possible into a day with the goal of slowing down the perceived passing of time. This behavior stems from a fear that if you aren’t careful, time will slip away faster and faster and before you know it you’re forty.

I also found that I stayed up late for a similar reason.

Unfortunately, while “stuffing your day” and “dragging your feet” do work in the short term, they don’t work in the long term. In the long term, you’ll get used to these patterns of behavior and your perceived rate of time passage will revert to baseline.

The only way to really “slow down time” is to stay one step ahead of your brain’s pattern matching ability (see here), which is likely impossible to do on your own. Instead of doing that, you can rely on randomness to do that for you, which means exposing yourself to genuinely new situations and/or taking more chances.

“Stuffing your day” and “dragging your feet” also aren’t effective or sustainable in the long run. It might feel like you’re getting more done and experiencing more in the short term, but in the long term, these two behaviors actually result in worse effectiveness and no slowing in the perceived rate of time passage.

Effectiveness can loosely be defined as a function of decision quality and time allocation. Decision quality and time allocation are the two main levers that determine outcome quality. “Stuffing” and “dragging” decrease decision quality because they don’t allow you the time needed to process and really think through decisions. These two behaviors also aren’t sustainable in the long run, which also means that you won’t be able to consistently allocate time in a manner that you’d like.

The antidote to “stuffing” and “dragging” is improving the composition of your average day, which involves “pacing” and “incremental substitution”. The key insight to “pacing” and “incremental substitution” is that by improving the quality of the average day (decision quality + time allocation quality), you will reap compounding returns and thus become more effective and efficient as time goes on.

Pacing means doing less every day and allocating the leftover time for sleep or as a buffer. The idea of doing less is based on the idea that there is a reasonably low upper limit on how much you can sustainably do day after day. You want to pace yourself at 4/10 for most days and crank it up to 10/10 when the occasion arises (see here).

Incremental substitution means gradually spending less time on worse activities and spending more time on better activities (what you deem better is up to you). I added “gradually” because it makes the transition a lot easier. When I say “better”, I really mean less bad. Incremental substitution is a slow process that takes many small steps to reach the desired outcome. For example, if you spend four hours a day on your phone and you want to spend three of those hours getting more sleep instead, you can slowly spend a little less time on your phone and going to bed a little earlier, five minutes at a time.

When you switch from “stuffing your days” and “dragging your feet” to “pacing” and “incremental substitution”, you’ll find that days will seem to pass faster at first, but will revert to baseline after a while. Your effectiveness and efficiency will increase while your average daily work output decreases. How is this possible? The compounding effects of increased decision quality and time allocation over time.

The previous paragraph is my best guess at what will happen. It’s my theory that I’m testing right now. So far, the results are promising, and I think “pacing” and “incremental substitution” might be a win-win that decreases my stress levels and increases my effectiveness.




Processing information, stacking concepts

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

What it’s like to work from 9pm-5am

The Balance of Assured Profit vs Assured Growth

Master Your Brain

Get Off the Phone

Are you overstimulated or lazy?

Making things happen with positive intention

How to keep yourself “Up to date”…

Use single-purpose devices

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
John Doe

John Doe

Processing information, stacking concepts

More from Medium

Don’t Get Wrapped Up In The Numbers

This Day in History

Best piece of advice my Dad ever gave me

New Investment Attraction