Waiting time: “gaps between the actual events”

In my Psychology of Time course I have offered students an assignment where they were exploring the experience of waiting time. They observed themselves in a situation of waiting and others while waiting for something in a public space.

Some very interesting observations and insights have emerged:

“Are the portions of time spent waiting truly just empty gaps between the actual events of one’s life, or are they also events in their own right? As I discovered while waiting at the bus stop, the time spent waiting for an event to begin can sometimes be even more valuable than the event itself.”

A very rare approach these days:

If the subway has not left the station yet while I am on it, I will tell myself that it is ok because now someone was able to make it on who needs to get to an important meeting.

Some interesting facts:

According to research, the average person throughout their lifetime spends five years waiting in lines and queues, and about 6 months of that is waiting at traffic lights (The Fact Site).

Future oriented people say:

“… in reality the time is never as long as I think it is. I think this may be due to my future time perspective because I am thinking of other important things I could be doing so time goes slower because they cannot be accomplished.”


it seems that people of my generation tend to want to be doing something constantly, and do not enjoy waiting

Made me of think of Morcheeba – Enjoy the Wait

If extra waiting is not planned into my day, I become stressed because it sets back what I need to do in any particular day.

More present oriented people’s experience:

The ‘flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, without the enjoyment of the activity itself, is what I experience. I am fully immersed and focused on time itself. The irony of this is I become so focused on time that I don’t fully experience my surroundings, but my negative emotions.

Besides own orientation in time, other factors play a role. Such as:

  • weather
  • familiarity of the space we are in
  • do we have to be somewhere at a certain time or not?
  • stress and uncertainty
  • people around us, their moods and actions

When it’s cold outside:

When I am leaving Ørestad, I often find myself looking up at the time very often because it is outside, the cold makes the minutes feel longer.

Are we in a familiar place or not?

The waiting experience completely changes whether it is an unfamiliar place for some, who likely haven’t been to the bus stop or don’t speak the language, versus residents or people who know what to expect and know whether buses are usually late or on time, and are confident they know they are taking the right bus.


I can conclude that there is a correlation of stress level while waiting for public transportation with both the time sensitivity of the destination and my confidence in public transportation navigation.

Is there a time deadline?

… more people looked at the time on the sign or for the bus in the more often than in the afternoon. This is most likely attributed to many individuals having to be at work or school by a certain time. With a time deadline individuals are more likely to be constantly aware of the time as they want to ensure that they will arrive on time.


Time was simultaneously moving slowly and quickly; it seemed like it was taking a long time for the food to be made, but I also felt like the numerical value of time was going by very fast.

The importance of the event in the future:

.. if I am waiting for crucial transportation such as a train to the airport, an airplane, a train to the last bus of the night, or a train into the city for a specific event, then I feel a weird contradiction of time slowing down and speeding up at the same time.

A few thoughts on technology:

I realized we are a generation that cannot focus on life around them and simply lives on social media. It was very disappointing to see this happen. I still get frustrated thinking about this situation. Time flowed much slower when this happened as I was in shock and was waiting for at least one person to put down their phone.
Perhaps we need a time perspective profile that includes living in the time perspective of others.

No one likes waiting, especially in this day and age. Our generation is constantly moving on to the next task and needing to get there as quickly as possible. Fortunately, we have new gadgets and entertainment to pass the time in a more enjoyable way. Back in the day, before all of these gadgets, such as iPhones, iPods, and apps, came about, people would be lost in thought.

In a way, this new generation of technology takes us away from being caught up in deep thought. Deep thought often leads to new ideas and exploration of situations; deep thought brings to fruition opinions on aspects of daily life and also can help with planning.

Are we happy to be in our own company while waiting?

Another disruption is when there is no one around me waiting at the metro, this makes me stare at the time because there is no one to observe. I find this to be a very boring disruption because I only have myself and the same mundane scenery to entertain me, making the wait feel very long.








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