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  • Julian Talbot

Time Speeds Up With Age, And It Affects Risk Management

It's not just you. Time seems to go by faster for everyone as we age. This can have all sorts of weird side effects, and impact the way we think about the world. Does the term mid-life crisis come to mind? But what about security risk management? Does it impact that also?

As we age, time seems to speed up, but why? This sensation stems from the difference between 'clock time' and 'mind time.' Mind time consists of mental images shaped by sensory stimuli. One study suggests that with age, physical changes like slower eye movements and body changes affect how quickly we process these images.

The perception that time flies faster as we age is a common and well studied phenomenon with some less studied but intriguing implications for security and risk management. This phenomenon, often attributed to the proportionality theory (where a year becomes a progressively smaller fraction of your life as you age), can influence how risks are perceived and managed over time, especially in the context of long-term security planning and threat assessment.

How It Impacts Security Risk Management

Here are just a few ways that it can effect our risk management thinking without us being aware of it:

  1. Risk Perception Over Time: As individuals age, their perception of time affects their judgment of long-term risks. Older security risk professionals may perceive the urgency of certain threats differently than their younger counterparts. This can influence the prioritization of risks and the allocation of resources to mitigate them.

  2. Strategic Planning: Security risk management often requires long-term strategic planning. The perception that time is accelerating can lead to a preference for short-term solutions that offer quick results, potentially at the expense of more effective long-term strategies. Awareness of this cognitive bias can help in balancing short-term gains with long-term security objectives.

  3. Lifecycle Management of Security Measures: Security technologies and measures have their own lifecycles, from implementation to obsolescence. The distorted perception of time can affect how these lifecycles are managed. It's crucial to maintain a clear, objective view of timeframes to ensure that security measures are updated or replaced before they become ineffective.

  4. Training and Awareness Programs: The demographic diversity within a security team means individuals will perceive the urgency and importance of security awareness programs differently. Tailoring these programs to account for varied perceptions of time can improve their effectiveness and engagement.

  5. Succession Planning: The rapid perception of time passing may lead to procrastination in succession planning. Recognizing and countering this bias ensures that knowledge transfer and leadership development are timely, securing the organization's future risk management capability.

  6. Adaptation to Emerging Threats: The security landscape evolves rapidly, with new threats emerging constantly. The feeling that time is speeding up could make it challenging to keep pace with these changes. A deliberate effort to stay informed and agile is necessary to adapt to new threats effectively.

The subjective acceleration of time with age underscores the importance of objective, evidence-based approaches in security risk management. By acknowledging and addressing this cognitive bias, security professionals can enhance decision-making, strategic planning, and the overall effectiveness of security measures.

Changes That Happen With Age

A recent study from Hungary adds another piece to the puzzle. Its insights add a fascinating layer to the understanding of time perception and its relevance to security risk management. Here's how the findings can be integrated into security practices:

  1. Understanding Cognitive Bias in Risk Assessment: The study highlights a fundamental shift in how we perceive time as we age, which could affect risk assessment. Most of us (including security professionals) are unaware of these cognitive biases when evaluating the likelihood and impact of risks. For instance, the tendency to perceive uneventful periods as longer might influence the assessment of surveillance footage or monitoring systems' effectiveness.

  2. Designing Security Awareness Programs: Adults and children perceive time and therefore risk, differently. Knowing this can inform the development of security awareness programs tailored to diverse audiences. For younger learners, integrating engaging, action-packed content could make the concepts more memorable. For adults, emphasizing the value of time and relating it to security practices could make training more impactful.

  3. Improving Incident Response and Crisis Management: The perception that time accelerates during engaging activities and slows during monotonous ones can affect incident response and crisis management. Training exercises that simulate real-world scenarios in varying degrees of intensity can help professionals better manage their perception of time in stressful situations, potentially improving decision-making and response times. Having developed and delivered several crisis management activities, I can attest to the immense variability in the perception of time between younger and older participants. The additional experience that most older people seems to impact this, but the study suggests that isn't the only variable.

How To Slow Time Down

This article is really about understanding how our perception of time can effect our security risk management, not fixing it. However, I can understand if you'd like to know how to slow time down again.

The good news is that you can slow time. Or at least your perception of it. A recent study, published in Psychophysiology, found our perception of time may be linked with the length of our heartbeats. Here are some practical tips to slow time down.

  • Reflect on joyful moments to solidify them into lasting memories for a sense of a longer, fulfilling life.

  • Engage with other peoples experiences to enrich your own life through shared perspectives.

  • Embrace a childlike view of the world, staying present and attentive to make time feel slower.

  • Focus on breathing as a meditation exercise to align body experience with time perception.

  • Pay attention to your heartbeat to gain a deeper awareness of time, potentially slowing it down.

  • Practice slow breathing to reduce heart rate and encourage a calmer, more dilated sense of time.

In the end, the solution to slowing down time is attention to the present moment. Attention plays a key role in how we process time. When we’re distracted, time speeds up.

To slow down time, focus on the present moment with full attention. Being present and engaged makes time seem to slow, while distraction speeds it up. Embrace new experiences, whether through physical travel or mental exploration. Novelty makes time more memorable; the less change we experience, the quicker time seems to pass. Adopt a child's perspective: be curious and intent on absorbing details, as if you are expected to recount the day's events later.

For security risk management professionals, practices like focusing on breathing and monitoring heartbeats can aid in stress management. Such techniques can foster calmness and clarity, especially during high-stakes operations.

Incorporating these insights into security risk management practices could not only improve how risks are assessed and managed but also enhance the personal well-being of security risk professionals. In the end, it's all about maintaining and improving the balance between vigilance and stress management.

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