Uncommon Science

How to Make Time Go Faster: 5 Science-Backed Tips

Published by
Lauren Edwards-Fowle, M.Sc., B.Sc.

We’ve all been there, perhaps this year more than ever! You’re waiting for something, or possibly waiting it out, and time seems to trickle by at a snail’s pace. Let’s consider how to make time go faster when that clock isn’t moving quickly enough.

First up, let’s think about why time seems to be passing slower than usual. There are a few interesting reasons for this, which give us a clue about how to make time speed up (in our heads, if not in actuality):

  • Clock watching. A sure-fire way to make the seconds feel like hours.
  • Boredom or discomfort, with each minute feeling much longer than it is.
  • Disengagement, allowing our minds to wander and time to spiral.
  • Feeling out of place and willing the moment to pass.

While nobody can change how long a second lasts, we can work on our perception and use evidence-based techniques to avoid falling into a loop.

The way we perceive time is decentralized, which means that different circuits in our heads are responsible for keeping track of various events.

It’s common to feel like a holiday passes in a heartbeat, and a dentists’ appointment goes on for days, but it’s really just a bit of mental trickery we play on ourselves!

The key is to identify why you feel like time isn’t going as quickly as it should and work on addressing your response.

How to Make Time Go Faster in 5 Science-Backed Ways

1. Focus on Something Other Than the Time

Clocks don’t deviate from their path, ever. So, why is it that when you’re willing time to fly, you keep staring at the second hand, and it just doesn’t budge?

This happens because of the way your eyes work and how they communicate information to your brain. In essence, when you look at an object and then look away to something else, your eyes don’t show you a blur as you turn your head.

Instead, they replace the blurry images your lenses are really seeing through eye movement with the next thing you’re looking at. Therefore, in that microsecond, when you look from one hand on the clock to the other, what you see is the second hand not moving.

It’s also pretty tricky to see a clock hand’s movement unless you’re super close or watching a countdown, but either way, the rule applies.

Try looking at a digital clock for a few seconds, and look at the blinking light between the numbers. The longer you look, the slower it moves – because your brain is feeding back the image of the static light, which seems to be staying still for more than a second.

Now we know why this happens; the answer is simple. If you want to make time go faster, take down the clock, remove your watch, and pop a post-it over your phone screen!

2. Cut Up Time into Manageable Chunks

So this is more of a psychological trick, but it works for people of all ages. When we feel resistant to doing something, we focus on it with such intensity that every minute that ticks by feels like it has taken much longer to pass than it has.

An easy way to combat that focus is to chop that task into small pieces.

For example, you need to complete a report that will take at least an hour to write. It takes a lot of brainpower and feels like a chore, so you keep putting it off. Every time you sit down to write, you spend those seconds thinking so much about how much you don’t want to be there. You prolong the agony and still get nowhere.

Say you decide to do ten minutes every hour. Task one, you write the title, maybe the introduction, and then break away and go for a walk, make lunch, call a friend.

Next time you’re back for another ten minutes, your brain has had a chance to refresh and won’t be nearly as resistant to a quick ten-minute spurt as it was to a full hour.

3. Break Up Monotony with Something Novel

Doing the same thing every day can work in two ways. In some cases, you might switch off your brain and feel like the time between stepping into the car and pulling into your regular space has passed at record speed.

More likely, your perception of time slows when you don’t have anything interesting to focus on.

Our typical days are based on clocks and calendars, and we’re used to having this tracked for us. When you do something novel, whether that makes you feel emotional, excited, active, or increases your heart rate in any way, you switch off from focusing on the passage of time and immerse yourself more into the experience than how long it takes.

4. Find What You Love and Do That

Here’s the hard truth; doing things you hate impacts the adrenaline in your brain. Therefore, if you’re stressed out, your neuronal activity will respond, and you can easily feel like time has slowed to a crawl.

Of course, it hasn’t changed at all, but your neural pathways have. If you are not having fun, your neurons start to move slower. This activity decay rate makes a second stretch out and feel longer.

Therefore, if you want to know how to make time go faster, you need to spend more time in a place of positivity and enjoyment!

5. Exercise Your Mind

Dog owners will be familiar with the concept that any intelligent creature needs mental as well as physical stimulation.

It’s all well and good being active, but if your brain has been stuck in a rut and doesn’t have any work to do, it is capable of all sorts of mischief.

Mindfulness might sound like so much nonsense to some people, but it’s a scientific fact that people have a subjective experience of time. Very few people can accurately count the time without a watch, and the more active your insular cortex, the more likely you are to be in tune with the clock.

There are millions of brain games out there, so try a stimulating puzzle, a quiz, an activity that tests your response times – and get those neurons firing on all cylinders and racing through the day!

Above all, don’t let your subconscious fool you into feeling like things are never going to move along. This, too, shall pass, as the saying goes – and the best way to make time go faster is to work on distracting your brain, so it has something a little more light-hearted to focus on!


  1. https://www.mindbodygreen.com
  2. https://www.newscientist.com
Published by
Lauren Edwards-Fowle, M.Sc., B.Sc.