Attempting to prolong time perception by doing something new or uncomfortable every day


Kelly Sutton says:

The BBC writer, Matt Danzico, that wrote the original article on the Cult of Less has a new project he's started called "The Time Hack". It's his attempt to prolong his perceived life by putting himself through some new or uncomfortable experience every day.
There was a character in Catch 22 who tried something like this, I recall.

Above: Day 3 -- Lie in the Street The Time Hack


    1. While I find the ‘projects’ of this guy to be a bunch of wanky new-age garbage that is on par with vipassana and other self-obsessed activities, I have to agree that this does classify as a “hack”.

      Verb: 7. Computers. to devise or modify (a computer program)

      The clear link here is the idea of modification. He is trying to modify time by doing things that are unconventional. The logic fits perfectly.

      We get it… you don’t like the fact that English is not a dead language. Now can we drop it?

      1. No offense, teapot, but “vipassana and other self-obsessed activities” implies you don’t know much about meditation. Attending to the absence of “self”, ego, and thought is the entire point.

        1. Yes, yes. That’s nice.

          Vipassana, as practiced by Buddha, may have been about destroying ego but I really cannot equate the modern-day formulation of the idea to the humble and noble aspirations of vipassana’s origins. I am not having a go at meditation – only a fool would do so as the benefits of meditation have a measurable effect – but I do have a problem with such practices becoming the fashion statement they have.

          Modern-day vipassana meditation breaks many of the original rules of vipassana. If you’re going to break some of the rules, why not just make up your own form of meditation?

          Mine would involve mushrooms.

      2. I’m not sure who this “we” you claim to be speaking for is, but tell them they’ve got it wrong. I have no problem with the constantly evolving nature of language. Setting aside the entire idea of being able to “devise or modify” something as abstract and meaningless as one’s own sense of time for the sake of brevity, what I have a problem with is attaching hipster jargon to the very basic concept of trying to slow things down.

        Explain to me how this guy has “hacked” time, not only will I drop it, I’ll buy you a drink.

        “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
        -Bertrand Russell

        “I want more life, fucker.”
        -Roy Batty

        1. Go have a cry, bud.

          The “we” I am speaking for covers, at the very least, the entire team of editors for this blog (oh, and some guest bloggers, too).

          So Rob, Xeni, Maggie, Cory, Mark & Charles: our esteemed colleague scifijazznik thinks you’ve “got it wrong”. Happy now?

          If you have a problem with it then I’d say you’re reading the wrong site. If you cannot see the similarities between the human mind and a computer system then you have no chance of understanding. I mean, when you overclock a PC it is technically a hack, right? Well surely adjusting our own experience of time also applies.

          I don’t even know why I’m bothering… I’m pretty sure you’re just cranky cos I called you out on being guilty of the next big hipster thing – bitching about the evolving use of the word “hack”.

      3. Okay, you got me. It’s a hack. Then by that logic, Ikea “hacked” my intestines when I ate one of their $1 Cinnamon buns and it blocked my rear dataport. This is in contrast to 2+ years ago when I ate some 99 cent Swedish meatballs and Ikea “hackers” sent me into an endless core dump loop.

        1. @Jack, love it, no wasted time reading your post. I “hacked” my way to cancer on wasted time smoking.

        2. …” Then by that logic, Ikea “hacked” my intestines when I ate one of their $1 Cinnamon buns and it blocked my rear dataport. This is in contrast to 2+ years ago when I ate some 99 cent Swedish meatballs and Ikea “hackers” sent me into an endless core dump loop.”

          While that is a very funny comment, may I suggest not buying your food at the furniture store?

  1. I spend all day having sex with virgins and consuming exquisite foods and drinks.

    But it gets so boring, and it all blends together after a while. Life sucks.

  2. The character in Catch 22 tries to extend his life by doing extremely boring things so his sense of time is extended

  3. Day three? Of the revolutionary trying new things plan?

    Come on. This is the lamest escalation ever.

    Here I’ve been waiting with bated breath for something like “Living with Nut Buster Life: How punching myself in the balls every day has improved my well-being, sexual performance, and appreciation of all the times I’m otherwise not getting punched in the balls.”

  4. He is going on a “time tested” principle tho”: when you’re uncomfortable time passes very slowly and maybe, just maybe you’re more alive during these moments.

  5. Lying in the street is juvenile, illegal, selfish, stupid… I could go on.

    I’d like to see more from people actually engaged in creating cool stuff (artists, musicians, etc) than people like Danzico, whose contribution to society seems to be only their self-promotion.

  6. I hate the gym. I hate everything about it, especially the treadmill. This device is pure torture for me. There are treadmills waiting in hell for me. But get me outdoors and I can walk on a deserted road for 14 miles and be surprised at how long it took. But the treadmill? I have never ever completed a mile on this device. I become so suicidally bored it’s all I can do to keep from screaming. I tried everything: reading, watching the T.V. and spending a lot of money on an iPod and music downloads. I think its all about investment in one’s mental health. Its about what you are experiencing along the way. At my job I was always thinking about how I could improve on something and the day would zip by. My coworker meanwhile drudged on, complaining that the day would never end. Strange how 8 hours can seem like 4 to me and 12 to my coworker. Now that should be studied.

  7. After turning 30, I’ve been living this way as a means of catching up for actual lost time. 2010 has been the longest year I can remember. Highlights include trying a new trade (cabinet making) with no building background and exploring my new home of Austin, Texas. Tips include: sublets instead of yearlong leases, use of coupons to always try new businesses, and always be making something. Avoid games you already know how to play and tasks you can easily accomplish or for which you don’t really have the time.

  8. Day 4: Forced myself to watch 2 hours of Axe commercials…

    Joking aside though, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone isn’t the worst idea for creating memorable experiences.

  9. Yeahhhh. . . but it will only seem longer while you are doing the uncomfortable thing, so essentially you are only increasing the length of the bad part of your life.

    1. Yeahhhh. . . but it will only seem longer while you are doing the uncomfortable thing, so essentially you are only increasing the length of the bad part of your life.

      Exactly. But this guys logic I can increase my life by having someone randomly punch me each day of my life.

      Also, by calling this a “time hack” this guy is really guilty of overusing the “hack” phrase. Enough already with hacky us of “hack.”

  10. Want time to stretch out to near infinity by doing something uncomfortable? Stand in line at K-Mart.

  11. You have to keep a detailed account of which senses you have engaged or not. These are used to measure the world we live in. I believe if all five (same say six) are engaged, your day will be “consumed” responsibly. If one or two are engaged, then I think your day is “consumed” irresponsibly and what’s left in between is the echo of wasted moments.

  12. There is a lot of truth behind this I think many of you are dismissing. The more absurd the task the better, I know if I looked back on a week and realised I did this many ridiculous things it would help fight the way days otherwise blend together.

    I’ve been backpacking cult of less style for 4 months now and to think back to the day I began my trip it feels more like 7 or 8 months. All because everyday I’m taking in so many new things as I travel, every day is unique.

  13. He’s going to be doing the same repetitive task during 365 days. Wouldn’t that defeat the whole purpose of the ‘experiment’?

    1. “Try enrolling in a PhD. The last four years have felt like an eternity (only six weeks to go!).”

      For me the longest week was the last one – I submitted exactly one week after the deadline. I actually wrote about 1/3 of my thesis during that week, and developed the feeling that I understood *everything* (more transcendent than I-understand-my-thesis-topic). I put it down to lack of sleep, but it was a great feeling.

      Hang in there. You gain special powers after you hand it in! (and you get to wear a cape)

  14. I think folks are being a bit mean. Doing one new and uncomfortable thing each day isn’t a bad idea. Will it slow down time and cause naked virgins fall from the sky? No, but sex with virgins isn’t actually fun, so you are not missing much there.

    Forcing yourself to experience new things on the other hand is a pretty dandy way to get out of a rut, create some worthwhile experiences, and up your chances for running face first into a completely unpredictable set of events. One of the interesting results from studies on happiness is that experiences tend to greatly increase happiness, while money past subsistence levels tends to do jack shit.

    So, is he hax00ring time? Probably not. If he keeps up with it will he have a new set of interesting experiences? Probably, and he will likely be happier for it.

  15. “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.” — Albert Einstein

  16. Yeah, doing something that’s not exactly what you’re supposed to do is not a “hack.” That’s just how life works.

    Also going to agree that I’d really prefer if people get their whimsy on without doing something extremely dangerous like lying in the middle of a road.

  17. Dunbar, in Catch-22, didn’t do “extremely boring things” as if they were random things he picked out. His strategy was to lay in bed in the infirmary and stare at the ceiling every chance he could get.

  18. Ok, I get the project, whatever. But why, on his blog, in order to see the duration of “actual time” the event occurred in, does he force his readers to click a link to his Twitter status, which then, in turn, forces a click to Yfrog for an image of the actual time?! Is this some sort of elaborate link-bait scheme I don’t understand? Or, perhaps he intends to lengthen his perceived time by sucking it out from the rest of us, who are forced to click unnecessary links? /rant

  19. This guy is addicted to projects that have diminishing returns compared to the amount of effort he puts in.

    Obviously the “Cult of Less” thing plateaued, and this is his next high.

    He should take up something that doesn’t plateau so easily, like creative writing or skiing.

  20. Obvious better way to achieve this effect: acid, mushrooms, or any other psychedelic.

    They all prolong time perception to an extreme degree by directly tampering with brain chemicals. An hour or two can easily feel like an entire day, and the experience is likely to be unforgettable.

  21. I can attest to this.

    When I was in my late 20’s (I’m 33 now) I cut my hours down at my job to one shift a week and the other 4 days I filled with volunteer work. I became a Court Appointed Special Advocate, tutored at a women’s shelter and at a school for troubled kids and started attending Red Cross training classes.

    I kept this up for a couple of years. It was boring and frustrating, but fun, too. Longest two years of my life. It almost felt like half my life was in those two years.

    Also, is it just me, or are there way more cynical, snarky people in the comments than there used to be?

    1. @kelso “Also, is it just me, or are there way more cynical, snarky people in the comments than there used to be?”

      THIS. It’s awful. I’m so sick of it. Snark = mental laziness.

      back on topic:

      Einstein said: “An hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour.”

  22. This guy looks about 20, and time is going too fast for him?

    Just wait till you hit 50, kid- it positively flies.

    (Not only that, you won’t remember what you did with it all.)

  23. Wow, so much negativity in so many of the comments above. For my part I say good for him. Whether I like the terminology he’s using (I do) or think his time would be better spent differently (I do), I admire the fact that he’s so experimental and creative and open-minded. And in the end I have complete faith that it’ll work, if only because he’s so engaged in the project itself.

    Now for me its back to thoughtlessly eating my dinner while reading BoingBoing while yet another hour flies by.

  24. In the old days, a hypothesis was a supposition you submitted to almost involuntarily. As you cleared away the arguments, you were left with nothing better to explain your position. It came from a place of humility and acknowledgment of how little you really know. And your skill would be measured not by how good your hypothesis is, but by how deftly you could clear away the detritus.

    Nowadays, a hypothesis is a grandiose gesture of theory. It’s a supposition filled with hubris, and for it to fall means you have failed your duties as an investigator and you must hang your head in shame.

    The same goes for this time perception thing and cult of less. Shift your perspective. There is no greater hubris that supposing that your life is greater than any other, or that your current life is pale in comparison to what you could do if you hack yourself into version 2.0.

    The stuff this guy is doing is crap.

    1. It came from a place of humility and acknowledgment of how little you really know.

      Wait, in your early 20s you were *humble*? I’m going to go ahead and say it: you did it wrong.

    2. The same goes for this time perception thing and cult of less. Shift your perspective. There is no greater hubris that supposing that your life is greater than any other, or that your current life is pale in comparison to what you could do if you hack yourself into version 2.0.

      This is crap. We don’t all live equally merry lives. Yes, some people live fucking boring lives, and you can be more or less like those people. That isn’t hubris, just reality. The guy alone in his suburban man cave blowing all of his money on big TVs and who has only a few shallow friends really is living a vastly more boring and desperate life than the person with wild and fun friends who belows their money on experiences (and maybe some booze) with friends. Further, you can actively choose to switch between these two.

      I met a friend at work once. She was a wild person naturally but had bought deeply into “stuff makes me happy” mode of thinking. She was miserable and scrambling to make herself happy with more things. She had a house in the ‘burbs, a pile of TVs, some matching plates, and a healthy amount of debt. We became friends. I dragged her out often, threw her more or less at some fun and interesting people, and did crap far more exciting than sitting around watching some shitty DVD collection in the ‘burbs on a TV the size of a wall. About a year later she dumped the house, got an apartment in the city, dumped the vast majority of crap she had accumulated, and put a halt and getting more shit. She spent more time with wild and crazy friends doing wild and crazy stuff. She went from miserable to happy. Joy.

      Is that the path for everyone? No. Some people probably are happy breeding in the ‘burbs and surrounding themselves with as much crap as their debt levels can handle. But it does show that the nihilism of believing that your happiness level is unalterable and that you can’t improve your life is complete and total bullshit. Further, study after study has proven that materials (AKA money) offers pretty much shit in terms of happiness compared to human connections. Is the “cult of less” for everyone? Probably not. Is it for a lot of miserable and unhappy people who have tried and failed to achieve happiness through materialism? Probably.

      If you are unhappy, you are doing it wrong. Do something different.

      1. “She spent more time with wild and crazy friends doing wild and crazy stuff.”

        If that works for you, great. I had my “wild and crazy” phase in my 20s, and after a while I realized I was spending more time participating in other people’s ideas of fun rather than my own. And of course, “fun” is only a part of life. I get more fulfillment out of achieving personal goals, exploring my own interests, and reading and thinking about the world around me. I’m not always successful in finding this sort of happiness, but at least for me I like it more than just seeking out fun.

      2. You missed my point. Hubris is feeling like you have to scrap your life and start over. THAT is the ultimate hubris. Rather than, say, facing your own reality and aiming towards self-understanding, *whatever* your situation is. All else is window dressing, such as your story.

        1. “Hubris is feeling like you have to scrap your life and start over.”

          Compare and contrast:

          “He among you is the wisest who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is really worth nothing at all.”


          Point of this comment: Simply stated, to add some grist to your mill.

          IMHO real hubris looks, points and acts outwardly.

          Perhaps “true” hubris is manifested by dictating to others – not by attempting to dictate to your self. (For in the latter case, who is it who obeys, and who is it who commands? – For “they” are one and the same entity or person.
          Self control is not “hubris”.)

          True hubris does want and seek to get out of its own skin, though: to that extent I am in agreement with your comment.

    3. You sound like my stat professor and my highschool english teacher.
      I am little disappointed you didn’t mention Icarus in your talk about hubris.

  25. Hmmm…I think people are being way too charitable towards this man’s idea.

    Yes, trying new things that interrupt the routine of ones’ day(s) or week or life is a good thing. It builds brain cells, makes one happier, and opens the mind, making one a downright more moral person by being less willing to write off or demonize those “others” who live differently than oneself.

    However, this man’s particular idea has absolutely no potential to encourage anyone anywhere to get “more” out of life.

    In other words, this man has NO DESIRE TO LIVE. He just desires not to die. I find that kind of sad. If one thinks that the “good life” is synonymous with the “long life,” or at least the perception of it, regardless of what kind of “living” one is doing, that means that one has found nothing for which to live. It’s not a “time hack,” it’s just nihilism.

    And…lying in the street is stupid and mean.

  26. Yes, get this guy some Salvia. It will obliterate your sense of time (for what seems like about 5 minutes to the rest of the world).

  27. If i may share my perspective…

    Well, i think the guy is lacking on the inside. He is lacking awareness. And now he is using external methods to satisfy his perpetual SENSE of lack instead of satisfying the ACTUAL lack, which is the awareness of his environment.

    When something new or dangerous happens, a lot of awareness is demanded, therefore there is much to recall with memory after the event is finished.

    I think if the mind is quiet, then there is no lack, and there is the awareness, the life force that they search for. (well, actually the life force is the byproduct of awareness which demands action as opposed to desire which is based on memory instead of awareness)

  28. I saw this movie where you just take a sedative and have a dream inside a dream inside a dream inside a dream and get killed and you go to limbo for something like eternity and get really bored with being a god.
    Maybe I can ride somewhere fun on my bicycle, it is a nice crisp day out.

    1. I’ve actually had a dream inside a dream inside a dream inside a dream. Believe me when I tell you that you do not ever want to have that experience. Since the iconic quality of my nested dreams is the lights won’t turn on, the first thing that I do in the morning is turn on the bedside lamp to verify that I’m really awake.

      1. I’ve had a dream where I kept “waking up” to find myself in yet another dream, unable to break out of the loop. I agree with your assessment, most unpleasant.

      2. Have you had a dream where you woke up, lived through a day, then went back to sleep?

        When you really wake up, you think it’s a day later than it actually is. This can cause great problems if you are heavily scheduled and don’t figure out that you’ve added a spurious day until fairly late.

        Looking back, you realize that some of the stuff that happened “yesterday” was impossible or improbable. But it takes a while to get to that realization, very weird feeling.

        1. I used to think that it was bad when I thought that something that happened in a dream was real…and acted on it. Until the day that I thought that something that really happened was a dream…and failed to act on it.

  29. Cool as it might be to alter your own perception of time, I can’t help but thing that increasing your total daily allotment of aggravation is the ideal method.

  30. Hi –

    Further, as I recall there is a character in The Plague by Albert Camus that suggests similar things. The one example I can recall (c. 30 years after a college lit class) is to stand in line to buy a theater ticket, and then when you get to the front of the line simply walk away.

    – TWR, Redondo Beach, California

  31. Hubris: the unremitting and unrelenting attempt to exert control over that which one has not, and never will, have control over.

    Hubris is the pathology of the desire to control.
    A pathology of desire.
    An ideological sickness.

    1. In all fairness, perhaps hubris was the wrong word to pick. But the bone I picked still holds. Or I’m just holding my bone. Whatever.

      The division here, in my making this argument, is the histrionicity of not only being a seeker but simultaneously proclaiming, “look at me I have changed X about myself and now I am better these Y, Z ways, YOU SHOULD TRY THIS…”

      Is that activity *always* bad or misguided? No. I’m just reacting to this cult of less with abrasion because it doesn’t wash with me for some reason. The same reason that buddha’s renouncing and sitting under the Bodhi tree doesn’t wash for me.

      I’m more inclined to Hermann Hesse Siddhartha-style realization in-situ. Life happens, live it, make the most, get to higher ground by degrees and inwardness and a deeply personal sense of value. As opposed to outward-seeking, showing off, renouncing and asceticism. If you don’t agree, that is fine – do it your way. I like my internal way. You can have your external way. My opinion is that it’s crap.

      1. Oh, I only wanted to chime in about “hubris”….as to the rest of it, this song sums up how I (from time to time) feel about such matters:

  32. Try this uncomfortable act – LEAVE WILLIAMSBURG!

    Or try this on a street with more traffic than what – N4th between Kent & Wythe?

  33. I believe the idea behind this stunt is the same as one my ole guru bud used to tell me… to paraphrase: “Every day “do” that which you dislike the most.”.
    I say basically same thing to my son only I say “Do the things you need to now so you can do the things you want to, later”

    and that’s my chicken soup physchology of the day

  34. Dunbar is my favourite character from Catch 22. And I instantly thought of him when I read the title of this post.

  35. The amount of vitriol in these comments is amazing. The kid’s in his 20s and trying to do something new and different. Maybe it’s immature, but that’s his right. Who cares if he succeeds? Maybe he won’t, and maybe he’ll figure out why he didn’t and succeed next time. Or maybe he won’t succeed next time, and he’ll keep trying after that. Or maybe he’ll give up. Who knows? But kudos to him for trying. Life is a process, not a target.

    1. As someone in my (not early) 20’s, I’d like to set the record straight with everyone: we’re not all green and lacking life experience. For the most part, we recognize dumb when we see it.

  36. At my age, I do something uncomfortable every day called “getting out of bed and getting the corpus functioning again”. It’s better than the alternatives, but damn if I was 20 again I’d do something funner.

    My advice to this young man is “go get laid. A lot. With a bunch of different, willing partners. It’ll be much better than anything else you are going to experience at your age.”

  37. OK, I think I can cut through the BS. If this guy did not have his eyebrows pushed up to his hairline the snark here would be considerably diminished. That facial pose just breathes out the words hubris and cynicism and nihilism. It’s as if his eyebrows are the ones that came up with this idea.

    I think the end game here is in line with what Antinous mentioned. I go out of my way now to avoid any form of conscious dreaming. Yikes!

    Here’s a way to stretch time: get arrested and serve life.

  38. This reminds me of a strip by Vaughn Bode. The Lizard wants Cheech Wizard to do a trick. Cheech tells him he will do a “time distortion trick.” He kicks the lizard in the balls.

  39. This is why Burning Man feels like it lasts 7 months.

    It’s also why doing activities on vacation makes it seem like you’ve been out of work for a week per day, whereas just taking a vacation lounging around at home makes it feel like you’ve only taking a day off even if you’ve taken a week.

    /Posted from Thailand.
    //Going diving in 30 min
    ///Don’t mean to brag. =)

  40. Didn’t see all the snark on this thread before my previous post. Doing miserable things will extend your life, but who cares? I interpreted this as doing uncomfortable and different things, which can be quite enjoyable. You can even do things which help other people.

    Lying down in the middle of the road is quite stupid, though.

  41. Reply to Anon #52

    “An hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a park bench with an ugly girl seems like an hour.”

    It was Einstein’s little known Theory of Desirability.

  42. This is a very interesting hypothesis, but c’mon. Does no one practice the scientific method anymore? What is his control group?

    The way it stands, the only thing he’s measuring is how (in)accurately he is able to measure the passage of time and says nothing of how new experiences affect his perception of time passage (the hypothesis).

    In addition to doing one new thing per day and timing it, he should also do one regular thing per day and time it (e.g. brushing his teeth).

    And even to truly make it a control group, his mere logging of the time it takes to brush his teeth would need to be performed for a length of time prior to the start of this experiment such that it becomes a mundane (i.e. not new or uncomfortable) activity. Otherwise, his data will be skewed.

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