I am acutely conscious of time – the way 10 minutes can feel like seconds when I’m hurrying to get to the station, but drag like eternity when I’m on the platform waiting for the train – and I was delighted when two wonderful books about time recently arrived on my desk.
The first was Claudia Hammond’s Time Warped (published by Canongate) in which the author – a psychologist and presenter of Radio 4’s All In The Mind -- discusses the perception of time: for example, how an hour at the dentist feels very different to an hour working up to a deadline; and how a holiday you’ve looked forward to seems to be hurtling towards its end as soon as it starts, but feels much longer when you look back on it. (One good reason, I argue, for taking plenty of mini breaks – they may be over in a couple of days, but they fill our minds with happy memories that will last forever!).
The other was a charming novel by the French psychiatrist, Francois Lelord. In ‘Hector Finds Time’ (published by Gallic Fiction), the hero, another psychiatrist, resolves to understand why so many of his patients are suffering with time-related worries – mostly that time is passing too fast – and, in so doing, he comes up with a series of exercises, some of which I have often found myself doing.
Here are a few of my favourites:
. Whenever you are with an elderly person, imagine what they were like when they were young.
. Take some time to think about things. The past has gone, so it doesn’t exist. The future hasn’t happened, so it doesn’t exist. The present doesn’t exist, because, as soon as you talk about it, it’s already in the past. So, what does exist?
. Draw up a table with four boxes: Urgent-Important, Urgent-Not Important, Not Urgent-Important, Not Urgent-Not Important. Put everything you have to do into these boxes...
For Prima magazine, I recently interviewed an inspiring woman with Parkinson’s Disease who had used this exercise to re-evaluate her life, and, as a result, has found happiness and success that may never have come her way if her disease had not forced her to confront her life!
. Last but not least, a game I love to play – and which my family tease me for: guess the time before you check your watch. I love playing this on holiday when we’re out of our usual routine. I’m usually very accurate – and I love that feeling that time’s on my side. Yet, if my watch is away for repair, even for a few hours, I find it hard to function... So is time really on my side, or am I just a slave to time?