The Psychological Nature of Time Consumption: Navigating Life Transitions

You’ve probably heard about this concept of having an empty jar. The container represents the outline of your life. You then decide to fill that jar with something like small marbles. Each one represents a set amount of time that you think you have left in your life. Usually, one marble is equal to one week.

You fill up the jar with the number of weeks you’re going to live. At the end of each week, you pull a marble out. This exercise is meant to show you the value of time as you see the marbles in the jar go down.

How do you feel visualizing this? Do you see it as a glass half full, showing you all the time that is left? Or is it a stark reminder of the little time you have left in life? Either way, time has a psychological component.

Our experience of time is far from consistent.

Let’s get this out of the way early, I am not a medical professional. However, I see the impact of time in the life of my clients and in my own life. Time is a constant, a relentless tide pulling us forward. Yet, our experience of time is far from consistent. Life transitions, those pivotal moments of change, can significantly impact how we perceive and utilize this precious resource. Understanding the psychological nature of time consumption becomes especially crucial during these periods of upheaval.

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The Feeling of Being in a Time Warp

Major life changes, from starting a new job, getting married, becoming a parent, and retiring, disrupt our established routines and require us to adapt to new circumstances. This period of adjustment can significantly distort our perception of time. The initial flurry of activity associated with the transition itself can make days feel like they’re flying by. However, the learning curve and emotional stress can also make us feel overwhelmed and unproductive, leading to a sense of time lagging behind. Whatever the stage, consider the following:

  • Can you define your purpose in life? How does that purpose align with your current activities?
  • Are you thinking ahead, being proactive with the use of your time?
  • Do you have a process in place that you can see how you are using your time into the future?

To stop the warping effect, you need to have a good understanding of the time you consumed in the past, how can there be improvement in the present, and how can you try and define time in the future.

Being proactive in planning lowers the chance of scarceness robbing you of quality pursuits.

Reducing Time Scarcity

Life transitions often involve taking on additional responsibilities. A new career might require longer hours or a demanding commute. Parenthood introduces a whole new set of time-consuming tasks. This increased burden can trigger a feeling of time scarcity, a perception that we simply don’t have enough hours in the day to fulfill all our commitments. This belief, fueled by stress and anxiety, can lead to a vicious cycle of procrastination and feeling further behind.

  • How are you trying to find flexibility in life?
  • What is your method to prioritize personal and professional activities?

Being proactive in planning lowers the chance of scarceness robbing you of quality pursuits.

The Retirement Paradox: Freedom and the Time Abyss

Retirement, often viewed as a time of leisure and freedom, can present its own unique challenges related to time perception. The loss of a structured daily routine can lead to a sense of aimlessness and a distorted sense of time.  Days can blend together, lacking the clear milestones and sense of accomplishment that once punctuated our working lives. This lack of purpose can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation, further warping our time perception.

  • Have you created a lifestyle plan that aligns with the financial plan?
  • Have you invested in creating and maintaining solid social connections?

Post-career life can be a time of new experiences or diminished life occurrences.

The loss of a structured daily routine can lead to a sense of aimlessness and a distorted sense of time. 

Cultivate Your Time – No Matter the Age

Instead of getting a jar and filling it with marbles you then take out, how about starting with an empty jar and filling it when you do complete something important? Yes, our lives get shorter with each passing moment. Yet,  we can make the time to come a consumption that provides purpose, abundance, and direction.

David Buck is the author of the book The Time-Optimized Life, owner of Kairos Management Solutions, LLC, and founder of the Infinity Lifestyle Design program. As a certified professional retirement coach (CPRC), David works with financial services providers helping their clients create a post-career lifestyle strategy. To learn more, contact him at or visit Infinity Lifestyle Design.

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