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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How to Stop Life from Passing You By: the Weird Science of Stretching Time

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One unnerving aspect of getting older is how life seems to start speeding up. Feeling that whoosh as time rushes past you can be disheartening as you wonder where the days, or months, or even years go.

Yet we’re not doomed to march to time’s relentless beat. Your sense of time is weird and pliable — stretching, compressing, coming to a standstill. And you can mold it, to some extent, to move to your own beat.

When you encounter the familiar, time seems to constrict and when you acquire new knowledge, it expands. Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains:

Time is this rubbery thing…. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, “Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,” it shrinks up.

That relationship between time’s elasticity and whether your brain is processing new information gets at why time seems to turn up the tempo as we age. As the world starts to become more familiar, we learn less and sometimes even seek information and experiences that fit within what we already know. There’s less adventure, play, exploration, creativity, and wonder to invite and engage with newness.

The way you spend your time influences how you perceive it. So the choices you make about what to do now impacts how you’ll manage your time later. Here are two ways to make your days richer and more memorable so that your sense of time expands and life doesn’t pass you by.

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Treat Failure Like a Scientist

During a wonderful conversation with my friend, Beck Tench, she told me about an interesting shift in thinking that occurred while she worked at a science museum. Beck said that she learned how to treat failure like a scientist.

How do scientists treat failure? What can we learn from their approach?

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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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Stop Fooling Yourself by Changing Your Mind

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Here’s a way to arrive at what you believe: first, decide that you believe something. Then, throw your very best arguments against it until you believe something else. Repeat as many times as possible.

Most people do this in some capacity, probably subconsciously and very quickly, but I recommend doing it consciously, slowly, and deliberately. You may be surprised by what you find.

Now, no blog post by a (former) physicist is complete without a Feynman quote, so let his words enlighten us here:

  • “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
  • “We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.”
  • “I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong.”

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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?

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The Benefits of a Power Nap: The Best of the Internet

Make it CountFriday link love! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week:

Why Does Your Work Matter?

The Science Behind Why Small Teams Work More Productively.

Why You Shouldn’t Scale Your Startup

Technology: “For everything we gain, we lose something in return.”

Microaggression & Mismanagement

Naps are amazing. ‘nuff said.

imageDundee’s Tip of the Week: We’re working on the start of an iDoneThis newsletter. Interested in being that super special person who will give us helpful feedback and suggestions? Sign up for some test runs until we learn how to officially fly here.

Making Your To-Do List Work

The Wall Street Journal‘s At Work blog put together a great collection of 10 career and work resolutions for the new year. We can definitely get on board with: Redo Your To-Do List.

Heidi Grant Halvorson explains a particular strategy called if-then planning:

The trick is to not only decide what you need to do, but to also decide when andwhere you will do it, in advance.  The general format of an if-then plan looks like this:

If (or When) ___________ occurs, then I will ________________.

For example:

When it’s 3 p.m. today, then I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and work on that project.

If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, then I’ll go to the gym before work.

If it’s Tuesday morning, then I will check in with all my direct reports.

This technique is also called implementation intention, a planning strategy that helps automate a desired action with cues and context.

Read the science behind making to-do lists for more details and strategies like implementation intention to help you become a to-do list master!

Are You Checking Your Attention’s Blind Spots?

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Ever get so caught up in a task that you don’t notice something in plain sight? There’s actually a term for that — inattentional blindness — a state of unseeing created by where you’re focusing your attention.

A famous example of inattentional blindness is the invisible gorilla study. Before participants watch a video of two teams of three people passing a basketball, they are told to carefully count the number of passes made by the team dressed in white (the other is dressed in black). Halfway through the video, a woman in a gorilla suit walks through to the middle of the screen, beats her chest, and then walks offscreen.

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The Science of Resolutions

While 75% of us keep our new year’s resolutions for two weeks, the chances are slim that we’ll make it further. Here are some tips drawn from two awesome posts by Eric Barker and Buffer’s Leo Widrich on the science of resolutions and how to make them stick.

1.   Break down the goal into baby steps. 

2.   Write it down, and keep track of your progress.  This keeps you accountable and motivates you to keep going.

3.   Dust yourself off and try again.  You can’t learn how to ride a bike without a couple falls. Don’t give up when you slip up!

(Source:  https://www.youtube.com/)