Perception Problems
January 9, 2013 8:36 PM   Subscribe

How can I improve my perception of distance and time?

I have problems estimating time and length. I can't estimate time accurately (e.g. the time it takes to do something) because I am always experiencing different "speeds" at which I am perceiving time, and I have problems with depth perception and can't accurately gauge distance or length. Though this isn't a real problem for me, I would like to be able to accurately guess time and distance.

I also would like know if this is just a common thing amongst people. Google has failed me either due to the lack of content or my terrible searching skills, and I'm now requesting help from the hivemind.

Thank you in advance.
posted by Angel of Khaos to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm also pretty bad with estimating time in any kind of objective sense. It helps for me to write down oft-repeated activities to get a sense of how long things take; for example "Okay, today my commute took 50 minutes. Yesterday, it took 32 minutes. The day before, it took 43 minutes. We now have a range for how long this particular commute might take." You can do this for all kinds of activities you might repeat, whether it's getting dressed, reading pages in a book, cooking dinner, etc.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:52 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Re: distance perception - do you have vision problems at all, particularly in one eye (one eye is worse than the other?)
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:54 PM on January 9, 2013

Response by poster: Yes, I have vision problems. Possible astigmatism from both parents. One eye is worse than the other, and I have terible eyesight as well (nearsighted and unable to read the biggest letters on eye charts, also unable to clearly read my own digital clock that's on my desk). I wear contacts and occasionally wear glasses at night or when I'm at home.
posted by Angel of Khaos at 9:01 PM on January 9, 2013

Wear a watch. Look at it often. Become proficient in a musical instrument. Those two things will help you measuring your time usable immensely. Your vision may just be too fucked so relying on other visual cues to guess distance may help.
posted by ZaneJ. at 11:22 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I used to find time hard to estimate, and I still have some trouble with distance. (I have similar eyesight to you, from the sounds of it.)

I find that this is one of those things where practice really helps. For time estimates, make a habit of timing things you do (wearing a digital watch with an easily accessible stopwatch helps with this). And before you check how long it actually took, take a guess. You'll find your guesses get better over time. Also building up a list of relative times helps, e.g. it takes longer to walk from here to the shops than it does to walk to the school, or it takes longer to boil the kettle than it does to make a piece of toast.

I also find myself checking guesses about what time it is quite often. If I can't remember the last time I looked at a clock, I take a guess, and I'm usually not out by more than 15 minutes or so. This was a skill I learned while working a really boring job where I checked the clock a lot :)

This is why my time sense has improved but my distance sense hasn't so much. It is much easier to check times against objective measurements (via a watch) than it is to check distances. Sometimes I use Google pedometer to map distances I have driven or walked, though, and it's always interesting to see how well they reflect my guesses. And I guess you could start wearing a real pedometer, which could be interesting.

Finally, connecting distance and time might help, especially if you get better at one than the other. For example, I know that I walk at about 5km an hour if walking for leisure, or 6km an hour if hurrying. It takes me 20 minutes to cycle the 6km to work. Driving the 13km to a particular store I go to sometimes takes me about 20 minutes, whereas driving the 6km to work takes 25 (due to traffic and traffic lights). Getting a sense of how the relationship between time and distance can vary according to certain factors helps you estimate both better, I think.
posted by lollusc at 11:26 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and if by distance you mean short distances (here to the chair, not here to the next town), then I recommend trying to learn to juggle. It's frustrating, but fun, and you'll quickly improve your depth and distance perception to the extent that is possible for your vision!
posted by lollusc at 11:27 PM on January 9, 2013

Best answer: Are your contacts the correct prescription for your individual eyes? I ask because my eyes are slightly different but my doc says it's fine to use the same prescription for both. Either way, have a chat with your eye doctor! Distance perception relies on two eyes with relatively good sight to function well. Otherwise, it's iffy. (IANAD, duh)
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:26 AM on January 10, 2013

Best answer: Learn some standard measurements. A (US) football field is 360 feet/ 120 yards long, 160 feet/ 53 ⅓ yards wide, a pro basketball court is 94 feet by 50 ft. How long is 50 ft? The width of a basketball court. Drive someplace not too far, like the grocery store; measure it with the car's odometer. Now walk it. Humans do distances referentially; a mile to me is still a bit more than 1/2 the distance home from my grade school, @ a 20 minute walk. 10 miles is the distance from home not quite to work.

Time, for me, is harder. I have a timer on my phone; that helps. In the 1 1/2 minutes it takes to heat a cup of coffee in the microwave, I can take some meds and feed the dog. I can tell you from experience that giving a 3 minute speech lasts practically forever, and requires a lot of prepared material. I'm not good at estimating how long it will take to do tasks, so, as Greg Nog recommends, I time things, especially the drive to work, time it takes to shower, etc.
posted by Mom at 6:24 AM on January 10, 2013

Best answer: Once, as a kid, I measured the length and width of my childhood home. Those magnitudes are ingrained in my mind, I use them regularly to estimate distances.
posted by grog at 9:42 AM on January 10, 2013

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