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
- Related Episodes:
- Six Ways to Help Increase the Feeling of Lingering:
- Focus on mindfulness and living in the moment
- Stop putting so much on your schedule
- Develop a morning routine
- Schedule an activity at the end of your workday
- Embrace new experiences
- Keep learning
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.