A quick search on Google yields over 11.5 billion hits for the word “time.”
In comparison, more obvious topics of interest like sex and money rank a paltry 2.75 billion and 2 billion, respectively.
Time and how to make the most of it appear to be about five times more important to us than making love or money.
And there's a good reason for this obsession.
According to a 2015 Gallup survey, 9.48 % of working adults feel rushed for time, and 52% report significant stress as a result.
Bosses, colleagues, kids, and spouses all expect an instant response to emails and texts.
We never really get free of our digital leashes, even in bed or on vacation.
Americans are now working longer hours with fewer vacations than any industrialized country in the world.
But here is the thing: Our sense of time isn’t localized in the brain.
It’s not like vision, which is the sole responsibility of the occipital lobes.
Instead, time is a distributed perception, calculated all over the brain, calculated, more specifically, all over the prefrontal cortex.
During transient hypofrontality (the experience of flow), when the prefrontal cortex goes offline, we can no longer perform this calculation.
Without the ability to separate past from present from future, we’re plunged into an elongated present, what researchers describe as “the deep now.”
Energy normally used for temporal processing gets reallocated for focus and attention. We take in more data per second and process it more quickly.
When we’re processing more information faster, the moment seems to last longer—which explains why the “now” often elongates in flow states.
When our attention is focused on the present, we stop scanning yesterday for painful experiences we want to avoid repeating.
We quit daydreaming about a tomorrow that’s better than today.
With our prefrontal cortex offline, we can’t run those scenarios. We lose access to the most complex and neurotic part of our brains, and the most primitive and reactive part of our brains, the amygdala, the seat of that fight-or-flight response, calms down, too.
In a recent study published in Psychological Science, Stanford researchers Jennifer Aaker and Melanie Rudd found that an experience of timelessness is so powerful it shapes behavior.
In a series of experiments, subjects who tasted even a brief moment of timelessness “felt they had more time available, were less impatient, more willing to volunteer to help others, more strongly preferred experiences over material products, and experienced a greater boost in life satisfaction.”
When flow states trigger timelessness, they deliver us to the perpetual present—where we have undistracted access to the most reliable data. We find ourselves at full strength.
“That was another thing I noticed,” says Collective friend Jason Silva, “when I go off on a tangent and the ideas start to flow, there’s no room for anything else.
Definitely not for time. People who see my videos often ask how I can find all those connections between ideas.
But the reason I can find them is simple: without time in the picture, I have all the time I need.”