085: Eliminating Stress by Bending Time | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
August 28, 2018   |   Episode #:

085: Eliminating Stress by Bending Time

In This Episode:

Do some hours seem long and enjoyable while others feel fleeting and full of stress? Today, we are going to be talking about eliminating stress by bending time. We’ll talk about the impact planning fallacy has on our perception of time and how to make our important tasks more manageable and our days more enjoyable by using time buffers. We’ll also discuss the importance of lingering and six ideas that reinforce the idea of not rushing on to the very next thing.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

We have to start saying ‘no’ more in order to be able to say ‘yes’ to our own things.

Questions I Answer

  • How can I stretch time?
  • Is there a way to make my vacation seem longer?
  • Why does time feel like it goes so fast?
  • How can I be more productive with the time I have?

Actions to Take

  • Watch this week’s video on my YouTube channel for a live walkthrough of our brand new, 2019 Planners: the liveWELL 360™
  • Find one moment, sometime in the coming week to linger a little bit longer, to savor the time, and enjoy the moment. Find some time on your calendar and pencil that in.

Key Topics in the Show

  • The concept and benefits of bending time

  • Reclaiming our time by intentionally scheduling for action, thought and conversation

  • The impact planning fallacy has on our future planning

  • Making our important tasks manageable by using time buffers

  • Six ideas to reinforce the idea of lingering

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Welcome to season seven of Productivity Paradox from Press, a podcast  focused on using productivity not just to get more done, but to accomplish what’s  most important. Join Tanya this season as she focuses on cultivating happiness  through the power of productivity.  

To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to  Press.com/podcast. And now, here’s your host, Tanya Dalton  

Hello, hello everyone welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host,  Tanya Dalton. Owner of InkWELL Press and this Episode 85. Today, we are  going to be talking about eliminating stress by bending time. Now I know you  might be thinking, “What in the world is she talking about?” Because we know,  time is concrete. An hour is always 60 minutes, there’s no changing that. So,  why is it that sometimes these hours seem long and enjoyable? And other  times, feel fleeting and maybe even, somewhat stressed. That’s the concept I  want to talk about today.  

Time is an element that is nonrenewable. You can’t make more time  once you’ve spent it, but we can change how it feels. We can bend it to make  it feel long and lingering. Now, as we get older, time seems to speed up, right?  Life seems to keep going faster and faster. But truly, our sense of time is  pliable. We can stretch it and compress it. And then there are other times  where it feels like it’s at an utter and complete standstill. Neuro scientist, David  Eagleman explains it this way. “When we turn our brain resources on to  process new information, time tends to stretch out. And when you note that  everything is as expected and nothing new is happening, time compresses.”  

 So in other words, when we’re engaged in our present moment, we  make time stretch. But if we let it, time can and will pass us by. There’s no  stopping time, it keeps marching on. But we can bend it and we can stretch it  to make the most of it. And that’s what I want to talk about today. And if  you’re struggling with this concept, think of it this way. Think about your  childhood, your first 18 years. Think of how that time feels. For most people,  that time in our lives seems really long. When we’re children, everything is a  new experience so, our childhood days feel long and drawn out. With each  passing year though, we know a little bit more. At least, I hope we do. And we  begin to fall into these automatic routines.  

 The days and the years start to compress and then, time of course then  ends up moving quickly. Or you could think of it this way. Have you ever driven  your car on the highway and then, you suddenly realize you don’t remember  the last few miles? It’s suddenly like you’ve come to, only to realize that even  though you were driving safely, time somehow slipped past. Now, when you  were 16 and you were learning how to drive, you had to focus on each and  

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every part of driving. I know this because, Jack right now, is in the process of  learning how to drive, which is scary I know. But it’s funny how much we don’t  have to think about once we’ve learned how to drive. The pressure on the  pedals, how much to turn the steering wheel. He has to focus on each and  every one of these little moving parts, so he’s so much more aware.  

 When I drive, and likely, when you drive, you don’t think about each little  thing. Now that’s not a bad thing, driving is a habit and we’ve talked about the  benefit of habits before, because they take the thinking out of it. So therefore,  

our brain can focus on bigger more important things. We just want to make  sure though, that we aren’t spending all day, every day simply going through  the motions of life. We want to be able to stop and enjoy the moments. Now,  in a study examining our perception of time in routine versus non-routine  situations. Researchers had participants look over a long list of numbers. The  participants then had to count how many times an underlined number  appeared. So they were divided into two groups. Group one, was considered  the Routine Group. So they always had five numbers that were underlined.  Group Two, was the Non-Routine Group, the amount of underlined numbers  was always different.  

 After doing the exercise, they then had both of the groups estimate how  long the task took. And even though these were simple, nearly identical tasks,  the non-routine group estimated the task took five times longer than the  routine groups’ estimates. So the researchers summarize their finds as, “unless  people experience major changes that break the routine in their lives, life can  become one short timeless sequence of routine and action”. Now I don’t know  about you but, I don’t want to describe my own life as being “a short timeless  sequence of routine and action”, that sounds fairly miserable. We want to mix  things up, we want to make things exciting and interesting so that we can  savor that we have.  

 So this begs the question, why does time seem to drag when we’re  bored? Well, it’s the difference between how we experience boredom in the  present and how we remember it later on, when it’s a memory. When we’re  bored, our mental resources are free to monitor our time and make it feel  longer, which is often called the “watched pot effect”. You know that saying,  “a watched pot never boils”? It’s based off that. Now in contrast, when we  remember an event and how long it took, we construct the event in our minds  and we recall when we learned something new, or we had a new experience,  which affects how we perceive the passage of time. So, I think this is really  important. It’s not about how much time passed, it’s really that perception of  the passage of time. How our brain processes it and how we feel about it  emotionally.  

 This false perception of time is important because, it affects how we  estimate how long tasks will take us in the future. We all have 168 hours every  single week. You hear me say that quite a bit on this podcast. And a lot can be  

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achieved in that time if you take ownership of it, and you spend it on  important things. There are four ways that we can spend our time. We can  spend it on thought, conversation, action, or distraction. We have to set our  agenda so that we can eliminate distraction allowing us to focus mainly on  actions. And then, intentionally setting aside time for thought and  conversation as well.  

Now not only do we need to focus on action, we need to focus on actions that  will advance our goals. You know, the important tasks. By reclaiming your time  from the distractions and the insignificant, you can bend time to your will and  work mainly on the things that move you forward. Which then means, you’re  enjoying and you’re learning and you are spending time in ways that makes it  feel longer. A study published in Amen Scientific, found that most subjects  reported that “time feels like it passes by so fast because, we have so much to  do and not enough to do everything”. And that last word there I think, is the  key, everything. We feel like we have to do everything so we are cramming our  day full of busy. Researchers call this “Time Pressure”, which goes hand-in hand with our friend, stress. The more stressed we are, the less likely we are to  be focused on the present as we try to get through our day as quickly as  possible. We’re working fast to cross off as many tasks off our To-Do list as  possible, and we’re not taking the time to really stop and savor the moments.  

 When we move through our day quickly, we’re not taking in our  surroundings, and building detailed memories. So our perception is that, time  moves quickly. And though we might feel like time is passing us by and we  feel the need to rush in, in an effort to keep it up, what we really need to do is  make progress and not our achievements and milestones along the way. This  creates a succession of memories to look back on, and it stretches out that  passage of time. This all comes back to the idea of intention, where we spend  our time thoughtfully. And I think that’s really what’s important here is,  spending our time thoughtfully. That means of course, that we need to make  our tasks manageable. We tend to overpromise and then, we find ourselves  over-extended and overwhelmed. We overpromise at work, we overpromise  with saying ‘yes’. We overpromise our schedules, we over-pack our days and  create an unachievable vision of what we can accomplish. This is why we feel  busy all day long, only to fall into bed at night feeling like we haven’t done  enough, even though we were busy all day long. That’s not the way any of us  really want to end our days. We need to set up our days to be achievable.  

 Before we can fix the problem though, we have to understand where it  came from. Especially, if you think you don’t have time to do so. I think that’s  really important. The problem is, we get stressed and then we don’t feel like  

we have time to really fix our stresses and so it builds and it builds and it  compounds over time and then, we just become one giant stress ball. So we  need to take our time and really understand it. We tend to think about how  long our tasks are going to take in the best case scenario. We remember that  

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one time we got it done super-fast instead of, the typical two hours that it  normally takes. So we tend to lean on this best case scenario. We end up  finding ourselves saddled with an unrealistic amount of work to do, that’s  because of our planning fallacy. Basically, we tend to grossly underestimate  how long our tasks are going to take us to complete.  

 Now, we’ve talked about planning fallacy in the past. We talked about it  back in Episodes 18 and Episode 59, so if you’re interested in learning more  about this, I would definitely give those a listen. But let me give you a quick  rundown of what planning fallacy is. Basically, it’s a tendency to underestimate  the time that a task will take and multiple studies have shown that when asked  to estimate how long projects are going to take subjects, they get it right less  than 50% of the time. That my friends, is a failing rate. When you  underestimate how long something will take over and over, you end up filling  your day with an unbearable workload. And there’s not nearly enough time to  complete it. So we need to make sure that we’re adding buffers to our time  estimates. Typically, one and a half times the amount of time you think it’s  going to take. So for example, if you think a task is going to take 10 minutes,  then you need to allot 15 instead. So you take the amount of time you think  and you add another 50%. So instead of, 10 minutes it would be 15. If you think  that you’re especially prone to this planning fallacy, you could double your  estimate. But generally, adding a 50% buffer, is enough to take care of it.  

 When we make our important tasks manageable by correctly using time  buffers, we feel happier and more motivated to keep working on those tasks.  When we fall prey to this planning fallacy, we ultimately demotivate ourselves  because, we don’t understand why a task is taking so long. We feel like we’re  dragging it out and it’s going on and on and on, when really it’s the  appropriate amount of time to get that task done. We also need to eliminate  some of the tasks that we’re doing, focusing really on what is important. Not  just the urgent. We talk about that a lot in this podcast too, the idea of urgent  versus important. And while you should add a buffer to your estimate of how  long goals will take you, try also giving yourself small blocks of time to work  on action tasks, to work on the things that are truly important. Then, if your  buffer ends up being extra time, and you complete your work early, that’s time  that you can bank up and use for something that is a memorable experience. I  think that’s really important is carving out intentional time to do your  important work. That allows time to stretch.  

 One of the other reasons besides planning fallacy that we tend to take  on so much work, is truly our desire to please others. We want to say ‘yes’  when they ask us to do something. We think that by saying ‘yes’ we are  creating and strengthening a bond with them. That ‘yes’ feels so good when it  crosses your lips. And then, 10 seconds later you think, “Why did I say that?”  Right? It makes us feel great in the moment and then, that just becomes our  default. We have to make sure that we are saying ‘no’ more than we are saying  

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‘yes’. I don’t believe we have to say ‘no’ to everything, at all. I really believe in  saying ‘yes’ to the things that are important to you. But we have to start  saying ‘no’ more in order to be able to say ‘yes’ to our own things. You have to  stop telling yourself the story that you can’t help it, that you have to say ‘yes’.  Or that your relationship will suffer if you say ‘no’. Neither of these stories are  true. You always have a choice of where you spend your time. You are in  charge of those choices, so you have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I want to  encourage you to find tasks that energize you and motivate you and say ‘yes’  to those instead. You’ll be a happier person with more memorable experiences  to share in the end.  

Now, advice about time management often involves saving time, spending  time, wasting time. Doing the most amount of things possible in the time you  have. But what if instead, we consider the idea of giving the important things  the time they deserve by lingering? I love that word ‘lingering’, it sounds  decadent and so ridiculously enjoyable. And for many, unattainable for how  they run their days. But that’s what we’re aiming to change here. Remember,  it’s not about making more time, it’s savoring the time that we’ve got. Laura  Vanderkam describes this idea in her book, “Off the Clock”. By looking at a  family with multiple kids going to competitive sports practice. Now this family  used to always be late. Rushing around all the time, and they were the last  ones to arrive at practice. You may see yourself in this scenario, I don’t know.  But, they realized if they put everything in their car long before they needed  to leave. They could actually be early.  

 But how did they turn this monotony of the regular shuttling to and  from practice into lingering? Well, they started looking for new experiences  within the travel that they did. If they found themselves in a new place for a  game, they would go to interesting shops. They would ask the owners  questions and they would learn new things. Even after regular practice, they  would try to linger at the dinner table and talk more rather than, rushing to  cleanup. This family’s mantra became, “Nothing is Wrong” because, they no  longer felt the need to rush around anymore because, they were always early.  They were really proactive in making sure that they were early. And they didn’t  rush from one task to the next. Lingering is truly about intentionality in  creating experiences. When your action biased mind asked, “What am I  supposed to do now?” And is looking to rush forward, tell it calmly. “Linger.”  That’s a really good answer. We sometimes have to remind ourselves how  important it is to just take a breath and enjoy the moment.  

 So I want to share six ideas on how to really reinforce this idea of  lingering. Six ways that you can make it really easy and simple to implement.  The first one is to, focus on mindfulness and living in the moment. We’ve had  full episodes where we talk about being present and being mindful. So I want  you to set up cues to pull yourself back into the moment. For example while  eating, slow down and savor every bite. You could set up an hourly reminder  

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throughout the day to remind you to pause, breathe and take in your  surroundings. There are apps that can help you do this, meditation apps for  your phone that can help you to remember to stop and breathe. Or if you have  like an Apple watch, it can do that as well. I want you too, to remember to  pause before you respond to colleagues, or to children, to help you become a  little more mindful in your relationships and your conversations with others.  

 The second way to promote lingering is to stop putting so much on your  schedule, and really take into account how much you can get done in the day  before you start overloading your schedule in the first place. Too often we sit  down and we make a list that is far too long to really get done in a day. I want  you to take that planning fallacy into account, figure out how much time you  really have and how much time you can dedicate to different tasks. And then,  set your day for that day only and set it to be achievable. This will help  prevent stress and allows you to stay focused rather than, rushing through  everything.  

 The third thing you can do, is to develop a morning routine. Instead of,  getting out of bed and starting your day with rushing right from the start.  Create a routine that gives you time and space to wake up and get going. This  is also time where you can take care some of your own priorities first. If your  priorities are health or exercise, carving that into your time. Or journaling or  meditation or spiritual time. Put those into your morning routine so you can  start your day with a little bit of lingering.  

 The fourth thing you can do is, schedule an activity at the end of your  workday. We get this one more thing-itus towards the end of our workday.  We’re trying to cram in one more thing, which can easily overflow into our  personal time. Scheduling something right after work like, an exercise class or  time with friends or a phone call with a family member. That helps you force to  quit when it’s time to quit.  

 The fifth thing you can do is, embrace new experiences. I think this is a  great one because, time tends to fly by, because we are not paying attention  to what’s going on. We have fewer, new and novel experiences as we get  older. When we’ve gotten overly comfortable or even … Maybe even stuck in a  rut, it’s time to start trying some new things. So this could be as simple as  trying a new restaurant, going on a weekend trip. Hey you know what? Maybe  take a different route from work home today. Something to just switch things  up a little bit. And I think it’s really important to try to challenge yourself often,  to have new experiences. Even once a week if possible. You’ll start to create  memories and you’ll feel time stretching like taffy.  

 The sixth thing you can do is to keep learning. Just like creating new  experiences, you want to keep learning. The one constant we have in our lives  is change, which can have a really big effect on how we perceive time. Think  back to when you were a child, this could feel like a lifetime ago because of  

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how much you’ve learned and grown and changed since then. But when  you’re learning your experiencing new things. The novelty of these  experiences, help time feel longer and it curbs that feeling that it’s just passing  you by.  

 So here’s how I want to leave you today. I want to give you a challenge. I  want to challenge you to find one moment, sometime in the coming week to  linger a little bit longer. To savor the time, and enjoy the moment. This could  be, taking a little bit longer after you finish dinner with your family instead of,  hopping up from the table and rushing to go cleanup. It could be finding some  space in your day to sit outside and enjoy looking at some clouds. It could be  spending a little bit of time reading a chapter of a book you’re really enjoying.  Find some time on your calendar and pencil that in. One time in the next  seven days, that’s my challenge for you. I promise you, it will be worth it. And  then once you’ve done it, you can build on it. Find two ways to linger in the  following week. Until you begin to feel like your weeks and eventually, your  months have become just a little bit happier. That’s what I want for you.  

 Next week on the podcast, we’re going to be continuing talking about  this idea of happiness by talking about Cultivating Our Relationships. This  week also, on Tanya T.V., I’m doing something a little bit different, I’m doing a  live walk through of our brand new, 2019 Planners. If you’ve been paying  attention to our launch at all, you know this is a huge year for us with so many  big changes. So I’m scheduling in some time to meet with you to answer your  questions and help you walk through those planners. So, I’d love to have you  join me there. You can find my Tanya T.V. channel at inkWELLpress.com/ youtube. I’d love to see you there. Alright. Until next time, have a beautiful and  productive week.  

Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join  Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/group.