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The question for us all is can we alter our experience of what we see as less meaningful activities and create more positive and memorable moments?

How we perceive time has a significant impact on our day-to-day lives and more broadly on public policy. Research suggests that an hour spent on a meaningful activity carries more perceived value than an hour spent on something felt to be less meaningful.

As a result, much effort and money is spent on ways of shortening such less meaningful activities. Take, for example, the money spent on infrastructure to shorten journey times. The HS2 project in the UK with a potential cost heading towards £100bn is a perfect example. The UK government argues that the project will cut the Birmingham to London journey from one hour 21 minutes to 52 minutes.

The underlying justification for the project clearly seems to be that those 29 minutes are lost and could be spent more productively. Add up those 29 minutes across millions of journeys and there clearly would be an impact for the frequent travellers.

And yet, how much energy is devoted to finding ways of making such journey time more meaningful and thereby avoid the financial and carbon impact of such projects?

Such an approach was tried in a Dutch railway study that looked at ways of improving the journey experience rather than simply speeding up the trains. It found cleanliness to be the “key predictor of the experience of time during a train journey” (Galetzka et al., 2018, p53). Cleaner trains plus say free faster W-iFi, larger tables, more silent carriages might therefore allow people to engage in more meaningful activities and thereby alter their experience of time.

So, what about in our daily lives? Can we apply this insight to change how we experience less meaningful activities?


Time is the Experience

Galetzka, M., Pruyn, A., van Hagen, M., Vos, M., Moritz, B., Gostelie, F. (2018). The Psychological Value of Time. Transportation Research Procedia, Vol. 38. doi:10.3390/ijerph19010419