Why short weeks feel so long

Short work weeks are more vulnerable to a dragging pace because time can feel slower when the wait is unexpected, according to the research. Photo / iStock
Short work weeks are more vulnerable to a dragging pace because time can feel slower when the wait is unexpected, according to the research. Photo / iStock

A FOUR day work week should zoom by in theory - it's a whopping 20 per cent shorter than usual. Imagine how fast your coffee would vanish if 20 per cent was missing.

But office workers this week will be muttering: "It doesn't feel like a short week", "I can't believe it's only Thursday", "That public holiday seems like so long ago", "It feels like it should be Friday" and other sentences reflecting disappointment in how slowly time seems to be passing.

Unfortunately this kind of talk can contribute to a glacial work week, according to research from the journal of Consciousness and Cognition.

The research reminds us that time always goes at the same speed, but it can feel slower when its passing is brought to our attention - whether it be from the sun setting, watching the clock or from continuous reminders about what day it is.

Think about the occasions when time feels fast. During a Netflix binge or on a great night out, it's not common to check in mid-moment and think "wow this time sure feels fast".

It hits us when the waiter starts putting chairs upside down on the table, the sun starts rising or we look at the clock and it's 4am already. This is a stark comparison to those how-is-it-only-9:22am work days.

Short work weeks are also more vulnerable to a dragging pace because time can feel slower when the wait is unexpected, according to the research. Just think about how time becomes Matrix-like when you want to pop down for a juice and people keep sauntering into the lift and pressing buttons.

But US research from The Wharton School suggests we shouldn't be so focused on time after a long weekend because public holidays create an opportunity for self-improvement.

They found that long weekends are key turning points in the year, which make us feel "disconnected from our past selves" and give us a "big-picture view of life". This creates "fresh start feelings". A similar process goes on at the start of a new week, a new month, after a birthday.

But immediately after a public holiday like Anzac Day, is one of the biggest opportunities in the year to make a commitment to new behaviours, after New Year's Day. For example, gym attendance rates jump up after a public holiday, and Google searches for ways to diet also spike - examples of aspirational behaviour.

The problem is that these "fresh start feelings" don't last very long. We have a burst of ambition the day after the public holiday, but the return to the everyday grind makes the week drag and our drive plummet with each hour.

Fortunately the feeling of fast time is a state of mind. So to make Saturday come sooner and to also prolong your fresh start, there are few things you can do throughout the week.

1. Save the admin for Friday

It might feel natural to ease back into the week with some humdrum tasks for a relaxing morning. But this can mess with your momentum.

The journal research suggests focusing on tasks you enjoy or which challenge you (but which aren't overly difficult), because time can seem faster when in "high information-processing conditions". This means start with the exciting tasks, not the easy ones.

2. Plan around tasks, not around time

The Consciousness and Cognition journal research says, "Being busy or concentrating were associated with fast passage of time judgments, whereas being bored was associated with slow [ones]".

To combat being too aware of the time, it helps to structure a busy work week around the tasks to accomplish, not what to do at each hour.

3. Learn new things

Your invigorated self-image will benefit from the sensation of learning something new, as opposed to dealing with the same old "Kind regards" emails which aren't so kind.
If you can schedule some structured training on a topic you can get into, it can feed the fresh start feelings.

4. Change your point of view, by changing your seat

Any other refreshing touches to your life can help encourage lasting change. For example, by moving your desk at work for your return, or you can aim to work from home for some of the week.

The time after the Anzac Day long weekend is one of many windows of opportunity for personal growth in life, not just work.

This mini fresh start can help you step towards an aspirational goal of any scale - whether it be making contact with a long lost love, or updating your address details with your super fund. This is a chance to make progress.

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 24 Jan 2017 05:53:17 Processing Time: 749ms