This is the time of year when we are expected to take holidays, to recharge our batteries. The very expression suggests we get run down, and it is graphically accurate. Unfortunately, a holiday isn?t the full answer to this condition. The pace of life isn?t going to relent in the face of a two-week break somewhere hot and sinful.
It is, after all, a question of time and pace. People working in IT may be especially susceptible. It isn?t unusual to find a reference to ?the fast-moving world of IT? or some similar expression in newspaper or magazine articles. Since the world moves at the same pace as it ever did ? once on its axis in a day, once around the sun in a year ? we must make allowances for a little licence. The question is, does the world move faster for us ? figuratively ? than it used to? If not, is the idea of a fast-moving world damaging to our health?
The question is similar to the one about whether the streets are more dangerous than they used to be. If people believe they are, it doesn?t matter very much whether their perception is accurate. They will modify their behaviour. In a world where change is assumed to be a constant or accelerating state of affairs, the assumption itself may be damaging in a similar way. Even when you have the opportunity to relax, it becomes difficult to do so. After all, while you are relaxing, someone else may be racing ahead. Fear and guilt are not conducive to thorough relaxation. What is needed is an explanation. Then, at least, you?ll know what you?re up against.
I have a couple of theories to suggest. I?d put my name to them, but I can?t imagine they are original.
First, the frequency with which we are paid is a major factor in our sense of how quickly time passes. For most of us, the payday comes round once a month or, in the case of payment periods on a lunar cycle, once every four weeks. This is four times as long as the gap for a worker on a weekly wage. But it doesn?t seem four times as long. When you get into the swing of it, a month can fly by. When you start to add them up, a year proves to have flown by. You reach the stage where it seems to be the Queen Mother?s birthday every other week.
There may be a simple way round this side of the problem. The way to make the most of your time when you are paid monthly is to go into the red almost immediately. It will then seem like an eternity until the next pay day. But the second part of the problem is not so easily mitigated.
This is: the older you are, the quicker time seems to pass. The explanation for this phenomenon may simply be that as you grow older, a year becomes a smaller proportion of your life-time. At 20, your 21st year is five per cent extra; at 40, five per cent more takes you to 42, which is dangerously close to 50. Contributing to this sense of accelerating time is the fact that the passing years give you more to do. At 20, especially if you?re a student, it can be such a struggle to fill the day that rising before noon is perverse. At 40 there aren?t enough hours in the day. The sense of time flashing by depends largely on being busy. Up to a certain point, the older you are, the busier you are.
It becomes apparent, then, that someone of 40 or over, on a monthly salary, will perceive time passing very quickly. It?s a worrying feeling.
The consolation for such people is that other members of their peer group will be subject to exactly the same anxiety. To that extent, there is no problem. Though that might allay some of their concerns, at the same time it points clearly to the root cause of apprehension in most of the 40-plus generation.
Not everyone works with their own age group. Many of the people they know in IT will be quite a bit younger. Those people are not so conscious of time?s winged chariot. They feel as if they have more time. As a result they give the impression, like the best test match batsmen, of having more time. This makes them appear more reliable and productive.
This is not a very comfortable idea to take away on holiday with you. After all, it doesn?t only apply to the over 40s. There?s always someone younger coming up on the rails.
What you have to concentrate on is the fact that it is all a matter of perception. And changing your perception of how quickly time passes is easy.
All you have to do is give up something you enjoy. Give up smoking, for example, and feel the minutes crawl by. Give up drinking, sit in a pub and feel time hanging heavy. But don?t give up holidays. You probably didn?t enjoy them anyway.
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