The Big Idea
Stop trying to managing time and choose to start savoring it.
Questions I Answer
- How can I do better with time management?
- How can I feel like time passes slower?
- How can I live more in the present?
- Is there an activity for when I get stressed or overwhelmed?
Actions to Take
- Take the time to savor the moments and find that patch of happiness that belongs to you. I really think that everyone deserves happiness. We just have to carve it out in our day.
Key Topics in the Show
Increasing happiness through savoring moments
How to stop rushing to begin savoring
Five ways to create savored moments
Take a daily vacation! I’ll share a quick and easy exercise you can use right away
Resources and Links
- Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam
- Live Inspired Podcast with John O’Leary
- Related Episodes:
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 is Episode 91. Today is our final episode for Season Seven where we’ve been talking about cultivating happiness through productivity, and it’s hard to believe that this is the last episode because I have truly enjoyed creating each and every one of these episodes.
I feel like happiness is one of those topics that’s often forgotten when we’re talking about productivity. We’re all so busy, rushing and hurrying. Our days feel like they’re chock-full to the brim with every minute filled with tasks and activities. It feels really hard to slow down. It feels difficult to stop and really savor the moments, and that’s really what I want to focus on today, savoring. I love that word. To savor is to feel pleasure and to appreciate that you’re feeling pleasure.
Doesn’t that sound like something we all want more of? But we’re often so busy following our task list as it leads us everywhere but where we really want to go. We don’t believe we have the time to sit and linger in the goodness of our days. It feels kind of frivolous, like a luxury, but it’s not. It’s something we all need to do, and it is possible.
Think about how we stretch time often without even really meaning to, how a day spent lazily sitting on the beach can feel so long, or how those last 10 minutes on the last day of school in the eighth grade seemed to stretch out forever. We forget that we have this ability to stretch time and allow moments that feel like lingering.
You might remember I recently read Laura Vanderkam’s book, “Off the Clock,” and I had her as a guest on the show discussing the book. And I fell in love with this idea of really looking at time and creating ways to maximize it, not so that we can do more, but so that we can enjoy it more. If you haven’t listened to that episode, I would definitely recommend checking it out after you listen here. It’s Episode 72.
So, let’s talk about this idea of savoring. Fred Bryant is a Social Psychologist at the Loyola University Chicago, and is considered to be the father of research on savoring. He’s discovered that being mindfully engaged and aware of our feelings during positive events can increase happiness in the short and in the long term.
It’s that same idea that we discussed a few weeks back in that episode with John O’Leary, this idea of contentment. And if you recall, we talked about the richness of that word, that it evokes this idea not just of fleeting happiness, but of
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really enriching every part of the journey that we’re on, and that’s really what we’re looking for. Savoring not only increases that contentment, but it also strengthens our relationships, improves mental and physical health, and helps us find more creative solutions to problems.
Now, this idea of savoring might feel a little foreign. Often that term savoring is used when we’re talking about food in the sense that when we eat great food more slowly, and we take our time to really enjoy tasting it, and we notice all the details of the taste and the texture. Savoring food though is just scratching the surface because truly, you can savor anything. Savoring can teach you to stop, be mindful, and live in the present.
Let’s start though where it feels natural. Let’s begin with that idea of food. You could start with the literal practice of savoring food or a drink, and this’ll help you understand this practice. Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Zen Buddhist, shares a great example of finding happiness in something really simple, and appreciating each step of the process. He shares the enjoyment he experiences when drinking tea. As I said, a very simple experience.
But here’s what he says, “You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea. Only in the awareness of the present can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup. Only in the present can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you’re ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, you’ll completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea. You look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone. Life is like that. If you’re not fully present, you’ll look around and it will be gone. You’ll have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and the beauty of life. It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go. The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it. Worrying is worthless. When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you’ll be present in the moment. Then you’ll begin to experience joy in life.”
I think you can clearly understand why he’s considered the calmest man in the world. The simple act of drinking tea can bring him so much joy, and we can do that too. Try, for example, the next time you have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee to stop and truly enjoy the entire experience from start to finish, and see if you don’t feel time stretching, and if you don’t really think the drink itself tastes better. Often we are gulping when we need to be sipping.
We have to slow down and start paying attention. The closer your attention, the more you’ll get out of savoring. You don’t rush to the next bite or the next thing or to the next drink, but you stop and you give some space to the activity. You’re not worrying about what’s next on your to-do list. You’re just fully enjoying the present moment. And you can do that right now without eating anything. Just pause and look around you. Notice the details, the sights, the sounds, the feelings and savor the moment. Even if it doesn’t seem to be a special moment, take time and savor it. Appreciate the moment that you’re in right now.
Laura Vanderkam found that the first step to starting to savor your time was to stop rushing. Easier said than done, right? Especially if you’re a chronically late
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person. If you find yourself rushing and always late, you might need to consider adding a little more buffer time to your time estimates. Back in Episode 19, we talked about this idea of planning fallacy where we tend to underestimate how long tasks take us. We love to remember the one time we got to work in 10 minutes because we hit every single green light, even though it normally takes us 20.
We all do that, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we could shoot to be early instead, which will probably mean we actually show up on time. And anyways, what’s wrong with showing up early? In general, try slowing down when you feel yourself rushing, stop and take a deep breath and see if you can’t slow yourself down just a little bit. Rushing makes us feel like we don’t have time for everything we want to do. Slowing down can feel like a treat. Slowing down also allows you to pay attention to the things around you. It’s a conscious effort that you’re in control so you become more aware of what’s going on.
Now, not all the parts of your life will lend themselves to slowing down. Let’s be realistic here. There are times where you have to move fast, and that’s okay. We just want to get out of having that rushed feeling be our default mode. We can’t slow down all the time, but we can intentionally work to create some moments with more meaning. And once you’ve stopped rushing so much, you really can start savoring, and that adds a layer of acknowledgement of the normal ratification that we’re looking for in our days.
When you mind your hours and you keep track of where your time goes, your experience of time changes and leads to more savoring. When you know where you have to be, and when and where to get there with enough time to avoid rushing, you can learn to relax and then find ways to savor the space of the time that you’re in.
So, I want to talk about that now. I want to talk about five ways to create savored moments because oftentimes they are moments that are already there in your day. So, the first way I believe to create a savored moment is to find the extra in the ordinary. Similar to that idea of the cup of tea, what can you do to take an ordinary moment and transform it into extraordinary? Savoring time isn’t about stretching it out when we’re on vacation. It’s about finding ways to celebrate the moments in the every day. These are things that you’re already doing anyway, so why not make them feel more intentional?
Notice the ordinary good in ordinary moments. That’s an acquired skill, but it can be as simple as telling yourself there is nothing wrong or I’m not unhappy right now. That might feel a little bit silly, but when we’re spending so much of our time noticing when things are wrong, or when we’re unhappy, it can take a little bit of effort to notice when there isn’t anything wrong, or when we’re really happy or really just not unhappy. Really start being a little bit more aware of those moments can make a difference.
Give yourself the space to allow that stretching of time. Instead of picking up your coffee in the drive-through and drinking it on the way to work, maybe try leaving a few minutes earlier. Then go ahead and pick up your coffee and enjoy the smell as you drive to work. The anticipation of the drinking can really make a difference in how that drive feels for you because once you arrive to your work, then
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you can allow yourself to spend a few minutes maybe sitting outside on a bench and sipping it slowly, taking note of how good that first sip feels when it hits your mouth. Feeling the heat of the cup and appreciate the feeling of it as you drink it.
We have to actively look for the goodness in our days. This is a simple way to do that. Fred Bryant says, “Bad stuff will kick your door in and force you to deal with it, but the good stuff doesn’t kick your door in, doesn’t come after you. You have to find it and wrestle with it, and that’s more of a subtle set of skills.” We really want to build up, just like John O’Leary was talking about a few weeks ago, that muscle of happiness, that muscle of really actively finding the goodness in our days because when we’re spending so much time scanning for what is not good, that becomes our default. So, let’s really actively work to change the way that we’re looking at things.
The second way to create savored moments is to use all of your senses. When you’re in a good moment that you want to savor, take a mental photograph. Notice the details around you like the sound of a loved one’s laugh or a touching moment between two friends or family members. Include these details when you share your savoring with others. In effect, you’re starting to train your mental filter to look for that good in the world, not the bad. You’re building up that muscle. Notice in that mental photograph that you’re not just remembering the visual. You’re using all of your senses. Taking the time to use your senses consciously helps you literally savor the moment.
Let me tell you what I mean. There was a study where college students were given a piece of chocolate, and one group was told to focus on the chocolate, while the other group was distracted while they ate it. The students who focused on the chocolate reported feeling more pleasure in eating the chocolate than those students who were distracted.
So, think about that. Just the act of paying attention to the chocolate as it went into their mouths and really savoring that taste made a big difference in how they felt about that pleasure. So, the next time you’re having a wonderful family meal that you want to maybe remember, take the time to smell the food. Maybe even close your eyes and really focus on the taste of it. Shut out some of your other senses, and hone in on one to really commit it to memory.
This is similar to that idea I shared on a Tanya TV episode a few weeks back when I talked about Shawn Achor’s tips for happiness. He has one that he calls doubling, and he believes this doubles your happiness and is really, really easy to do. At the end of your day, you simply think of one good thing, one good thing that happened in your day. And then focus on three details for that one event. Just three, and you relive that moment thinking through all the different senses, and that affects your brain in the way similar to visualization. So, it actually doubles your happiness because your brain feels like it’s reliving that moment. So do take the time to really look around, and take in with all of your senses when you find a moment that feels really good to you.
The third way is to get lost in the moment. Seriously, sit back and just enjoy it. Tell yourself there’s nothing you need to worry about. Let go of your conscious thoughts and absorb your positive feelings during this special moment, kind of like
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taking in a beautiful piece of art. Studies show that people most enjoy themselves when they’re totally absorbed in the moment or the task that they’re doing. They lose their sense of time and place.
Look at the children in your life for guidance on how to do this. Think about when kids are doing something. When they’re really involved, they hear nothing else around them. They’re totally immersed in the experience, and that feels harder for us adults because we’re more accustomed to rushing around and getting easily distracted by technology and that temptation to multitask. So, if you’re feeling that urge to check your phone or do something “productive” in a moment you want to savor, take the time instead to pause and reflect on positive experiences right then on the spot, and see if that doesn’t help you stretch that time a little bit more.
The fourth way to create moments to savor is to focus on your gratitude. Give gratitude. Count your blessings. Give thanks. Tell your loved ones how lucky you feel to have them, or take time to appreciate the food before your meal. If you say grace, this would be an ideal time to really reflect on this gratitude and to mean it. Saying
thank you out loud can make us happier because it affirms our positive feelings.
Giving new, specific gratitude each day or night or thinking about a specific positive experience truly helps you savor it. But that’s the key here. We can’t say the same thing every day. We’re grateful for our family. We’re grateful for the weather. It needs to be something you’re grateful for for that day. You don’t want to give gratitude for the same things day after day because it reduces that positive effect.
We want to avoid that killjoy thinking and focusing only on the bad in our day, and spending a little bit of time with our gratitude really can help turn that around. Even after a bad day, there’s always something good you can think of, no matter how small. I know some days this is hard. I have that problem too some days, but when you really dig and you find things you’re grateful for, it really can change how you felt about the day as a whole. It could be as small as the taste of your coffee in the morning, being thankful to come back to a warm house at the end of the evening, the fresh water we have to drink out of the tap. When you can think of any positives in your day no matter what kind of day it was, you’re more likely to truly enjoy the good days when they happen.
And the fifth way to create moments to savor is to create experiences. You can engineer and create your own savored moments by clearing the calendar of things you don’t want to do to make room for lingering when you have a good time. A planned hike could be stretched out to a whole day spent outside if the weather is nice. Drinks with friends could become dinner and an evening spent together. There’s no watching the clock to make sure you don’t stay out too long. You just savor the time you’re spending doing something that you love.
Now, I know setting aside a whole day or evening isn’t always possible. Let’s be honest. For most people, that is really hard to do. We don’t often have a full day we can just scoot everything aside. But what you can do is an activity that Fred Bryant calls a daily vacation exercise, and the way you do it is this. Each day for one week plan to do something enjoyable, uninterrupted. That’s the key. Do something enjoyable uninterrupted for 20 minutes. So, every day for one week, 20 minutes of
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activity that you’re really going to enjoy. Bring pleasurable experiences into your daily life. So, this could be things like taking a bath, reading to your child, snuggling with a loved one, going for a walk, reading a book, playing that guitar you have at your house that you haven’t played in forever, calling a friend for no other reason than simply to visit.
The more you can incorporate this practice into your daily life, the better you’ll get. Make this activity even easier and purposely choose a time that makes it easier to minimize distractions so you’re not getting interrupted during the activities. I get it. You may not feel like you have 20 minutes, but I promise you, you do. Find it in your day, maybe at the end of the day or maybe early in the morning. Carve out that space for yourself to truly do something that you enjoy for 20 minutes, and after you do it for a week, I think you’ll begin to see how much of a difference that makes in your happiness.
You really want to practice savoring. Noticing your senses as you’re doing these activities helps build those positive feelings. And then after you finish the activity, plan tomorrow’s daily vacation, and at the end of the week, think back through all seven of those vacations. Remember, time passes quickly, but instead of thinking of this in a negative way, think about how you’ll connect with a short moment in the future and how it connects with your past. Imagine yourself in the future when you’ll look back at this moment, and think what a good memory it is. There’s a lot to be said for the memories we’re collecting.
So, I want to encourage you to really try this daily vacation activity because I think it will make a difference. Life isn’t about managing our time. It’s savoring the moments and finding the happiness in our every day. Savoring isn’t always possible, but it isn’t all or nothing. Even if some moments don’t lend themselves to savoring your day, others will and having that mental ability to notice those moments and take stock in them, that will begin to have a profound effect on your perception of time and happiness. Most moments can be savored if only we remember to do so. Savoring is about learning to live in the present and fully enjoy the gift of each moment. It takes practice, but it’s practice that will truly cultivate joy in your life.
The other day John O’Leary interviewed me for his podcast, and he asked me what I was looking for with people who listen to my podcast or take my course or buy my products, and I told him, “Happiness.” That’s ultimately what I’m wanting to give. Life is far too short to live with regret, and each day feeling like you’ve spent it well, that’s a well-lived life, and that is what I want for you. Take the time to enjoy the moments and find that patch of happiness that belongs to you. I really think that everyone deserves happiness. We just have to carve it out in our day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this season of the podcast. I know I have. Next week will be the start of a whole new season and a brand new topic. I cannot wait to share it with you. I’ve already even got a download plan for next week, so we’re kicking it off with a bang. If you want to make sure that you get that freebie before you listen to the podcast episode, go ahead and sign up for my newsletter. Just go to inkWELLpress.com/podcastemail to sign up, and any time I have a download, I send it automatically to your inbox. Next week will be the start of Season Eight. And until then, have a beautiful and productive week.
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