The Holiday Paradox – why time speeds up

Time speeds up as we get older

Why does time seem to speed up as we get older? And what is the ‘Holiday Paradox’? These are a couple of questions I’ve been reflecting on during the last year of lockdowns and travel bans.

As Covid restrictions begin to ease, my thoughts are now turning to a summer holiday. Nowhere fancy, but a couple of weeks in the VW campervan would be amazing, after last year’s lack of travel.

Although, have you ever noticed that something weird happens on a two-week holiday?Annoyingly weird.

You arrive at your destination, say on a Saturday, and you might take a couple of days to settle in. You explore the surroundings, maybe go on a couple of trips, get used to the local area and the weather.

By the Tuesday or Wednesday, you’re well into the swing of things. Thoughts revolve around how great it is to be away and you’re only halfway through the first week! By the following Saturday, you’ve done loads of new things, work is a distant memory and there’s still a whole week to go – great!

Then, all of a sudden, the suitcase is getting packed and it’s time to head back home. What happened to the second week?

If you’ve experienced this weird phenomenon, you’re not alone. It’s the “Holiday Paradox” and it helps to explain why time seems to speed up as we get older. As we become familiar with our lifestyle and surroundings, we develop routine and the days, weeks, months and years pass by.

The question is – are you in the first or the second ‘week’ of life?

How long do we have left?

In September each year, the Office of National Statistics publishes its annual tables on national life expectancy. It takes a bit of effort to understand the data, but this is where you can discover the average number of years someone your age can expect to live, based upon gender and country of residence.

For example, if you are aged 50 now and live in the UK, you can expect to live to age 81 if you’re male and 84 if you’re female.

Measure your life in months, not years

Try this little exercise:

  1. Calculate how many months you can reasonably expect to live
  2. Then calculate how many months you have lived already.

On my next birthday, I can expect to live another 32.4 years. This sounds ok at first – another three decades ahead of me sounds fine.

But when I convert this to months, it’s 388. And at my next birthday, I will have already lived for 588 months. That doesn’t sound quite so appealing.

It makes you think, doesn’t it? All the indications are that I’m well into my ‘2nd week’ of life. But there’s still an awful lot of stuff I’d like to do. I’m not quite at panic stations yet, but the Holiday Paradox is encouraging me to make plans for the future, rather than simply coast through the next couple of decades.

Create your bucket list

Create your bucket list

It’s important to remember that life is not a rehearsal. If you’ve not done so already, it’s time to dream big. Think about what you’d like to experience whilst you remain a resident on this planet. What would you like to achieve?

If you struggle for inspiration, there are plenty of websites and apps to give you ideas. The website “Bucket List Ideas” is a good start.

Once you’ve decided on some inspiring goals, write them down. Better still, draw or print a picture of them. You can also use apps to help keep you motivated. Just search “bucket list” in your mobile device’s app store and loads of options will come up. For example ‘soon’ and ‘squirrel’.

Plan your life and finances

If you complete the tasks above, you’re on the way to creating a life plan. It’s about dreaming of what you’d really like to achieve for you, your loved ones or causes that you care about. The next step would be to plot those ideas onto a timeline that’s reasonable, based on your age now.

Often, our life goals will have financial or time implications. This could mean saving money regularly to do or buy something in the future. Or maybe you need to find ways to free up time – such as reducing working hours or retiring a bit earlier.

This is where financial life planning comes in. It matches up what you want to do with your life and overlays the money side of things.

Financial planners and coaches can help with this. The use of lifetime cashflow modelling software can help create a visual representation of how well your finances will empower you to live the life you really want.


The Holiday Paradox explains why the 2nd week away can feel shorter than the 1st. The same concept can help explain why time seems to pass more quickly as we get older. Do you need to take action to make the most of the 2nd half of your life?

Creating financial options in life is a key factor to financial wellbeing. It’s a question of striking the balance between enjoying life now and investing for your future self.

A combination of coaching and financial life planning can help achieve this balance. It can bring clarity to how and when you might start ticking off that bucket list. If you’d like to chat about this over a virtual coffee, why not book a half hour slot to find out more?

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