3 Surprising Science-Backed Ways to Find More Time Today

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Somehow, time is your enemy, while more time is also a luxury.

Things weren’t much different a few centuries ago in 1682, when William Penn wrote: “Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst.

Understanding our strange relationship with time simply helps us manage it better. When you feel like you have time, the world opens up. You’re motivated to act and explore on the one hand, and savor and breathe, on the other.

Contrast that when you feel like you don’t have enough time. It’s stressful and taxing and you start making decisions based on that anxious feeling of lack. It might mean reaching for the quick, unhealthy snack rather than your usual walk and putting those non-urgent (but important) activities that nourish and enrich you, like exercise, personal projects, and relationships, on hold.

Since how you think about time affects the reality of how you spend it, the ability to influence that perception can be incredibly powerful. Here are three surprising methods, backed by research, that will help expand your sense of time and motivate better decisions about how you use it.

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Do What Is Important

Whenever I realize I’ve been running ragged, I know I’ve fallen into a rut of reactive rather than proactive work. Instead of going about my day steered by plans and intentions, the unstable “whatever comes up” gets to dictate my day.

This schedule of working deadline to deadline, fighting fires and flying by the seat of your pants racks up time debt. You’re borrowing from other areas of your life like spending time with your family or on your wellbeing.

Humans tend to be bad at understanding how we’ll feel in the future. In our mind’s Pollyannaish eye, the future is a world of order and excellence in which you exercise everyday, you don’t bring work home with you, you finally learn Spanish, you catch up with that friend you haven’t spoken to in forever. In reality, something always comes up, there is always something to do.

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How Fast Web is Impairing How You Think

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Before you realize, habits form. How much thought do you put into your daily routine, and how much of your routine is formed as a response to outer influence? In other words, do you know why you work the way you do?

Being purposeful with your work philosophy might be the missing key to achieving a healthy rather than hasty, always running-behind pace. Understanding the psychological benefits of controlling the flow of your time and attention reveals the wisdom in taking things slow.

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Treat Yourself Like a Role Model

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In December I completed my first 200-hour yoga instructor certification. With New Year’s resolutions in full gear and Q1 initiatives in motion, I’m often reminded of an idea I explored during my certification and has guided me since, in both my personal life and in all of my work at Zirtual.

The idea is simple yet stunningly important: You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Our society has an intense quest for productivity and endless improvement. We look at our past with a dissecting eye and zoom in on what we didn’t accomplish. We set goals and record what we did, day in and day out.

But how do we use this data? Is it to celebrate each accomplishment? Hardly! We usually use what we have done to highlight what we haven’t, and everything starts to center around what’s next. “Tomorrow I’ll get through this,” we say. Or “next quarter I’m finally going to tackle that.”

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4 Ways Your Community Will Help You Get Stuff Done

A community is a group of people who have gathered around a shared idea, value, concept, or interest. What people sometimes forget is how a community is also an ecosystem of supportive productivity in which people connect to help each other solve a problem or accomplish goals.

Your community can help you get stuff done. This stands true whether you’re thinking of community as part of your personal life or in relation to your company.

Our recent work with CollaborativeConsumption.com to strengthen their leadership in the “sharing economy” (or “collcon” space) is just one example of how the care, passion, and dedication of a community can enable and inspire its members to create value together.

In converting their highly-trafficked blog into an international media site with 30 global contributors, we found that community members can actually produce on behalf of the company. By creating a structured content strategy, style guide, and contributor onboarding process, CollaborativeConsumption.com increased user-generated content submissions by 650%.

Not only did this make its community more self-sufficient and scalable, their participation helped create high-quality content to educate the audience-at-large on collcons, the ultimate goal. Lauren Anderson, Chief Knowledge Officer at Collaborative Lab, explains, “We recognize collcons is a global movement and we wanted to empower local people to share stories of their region and build their profile as local leaders in the space.”

Whether your community is a book club or a B2B business coalition, whether it meets on an online platform or at in-person events, there are opportunities to increase productivity and move projects forward.

Here are a few ways you can leverage your community to get stuff done.

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How to Do a Time and Motion Study to Make Real Change

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“The unexamined life is not worth living,” said the great management thinker Socrates.

Every day, people say that they’ll change. At the beginning of every year, millions make resolutions. Most do this without data, hypotheses or any idea of what they’re going to do differently. And they wonder why nothing really changes.

Intention without information is powerless. To misquote great management thinker, Albert Einstein, doing the same thing and hoping for a different result is the definition of inefficiency.

This is where the personal time and motion study can help.

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The Best 20 iDoneThis Blog Posts of 2013

The Best 20 iDoneThis Blog Posts of 2013

‘Tis the season of end-of-the-year lists!

We dug into the iDoneThis blog archives to bring you a collection of our most popular and favorite pieces from 2013 to enjoy amidst the hustle of holiday festivities and some much deserved, hot cocoa-fueled relaxation.

There are also handy save-to-read-later options to jumpstart your reading in 2014. Here are the best 20 iDoneThis blog posts of 2013, broken down by category.

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The Science of Motivation: Your Brain on Dopamine

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I spent an hour on this opening paragraph:

The hour wasn’t time well spent, mind you. Sure, I was working — writing, deleting, fiddling with words here and there — but my paragraph-per-hour pace was more the byproduct of a stubborn lack of motivation than of indecisiveness.

I spent five minutes in email, ten minutes on Twitter, and fifteen minutes doing who-knows-what on Tumblr. Just kidding, I know exactly what I was doing:  looking at dog pictures.

Sound familiar?

Motivation is a tricky thing to corral. Tricky, but not impossible.

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The Work Will Always Be There

When we think about our work and what we have to do, it’s almost always about pushing. Push yourself, push harder, push through the pain. But pushing won’t get you through every door.

When you take a look at the routines and rituals of super-productive people, they often turn out not to be about pushing at all, but pulling and drawing energy back into yourself. These recharging routines are about creating “me-time” — not in some selfish, diva way, but in an effort to care for and re-center yourself, to protect at least some of your time from being dictated by others.

Me-time routines are renewable fuel, a sustainable antidote to burnout and life as a work vampire.

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Are You Thinking Enough Before You Commit?

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Back when I was a first-year physics graduate student, one of my favorite professors used to get on my case about using pencil instead of pen for my notes and problem sets.

He’d say, “think and then commit with ink!”

As I progressed through my studies, I realized that my use of the pencil was a symptom of something deeper. I’d developed the habit of trying to get toward a solution by writing equations down and having to erase my errors as I went along.

This is fine at first. But when a complete equation involves so many complexities and spans multiple lines, you begin to confuse the activity of writing for clear thinking, diving in for the sake of starting. Using the act of writing as a way to figure out what’s going on in a physics problem can end up obstructing itself and taking too long for a good feedback loop to form. It becomes difficult to actually think because there are so many adjustments and things on the page to take in.

I eventually did switch to ink.

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