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5 Steps to a Zen Commute

5 Steps to a Zen Commute

“I love sitting in traffic,” said no one ever.

You have to get from A to B, B to C, and C to D. You need to get groceries, go to work, get to the gym, and maybe you would like to go out for a drink. Let’s face it – most of the time that involves getting into your car. And if you live in a big city, more often than not, it also involves traffic. How can you make that time less stressful and more zen?

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Here are 5 tips:

1. Listen to an audio book.

How often do you complain that you do not have enough time to read? How much time do you spend in the car? Why not use this time to check a book off your to-do list, or learn about something new that interests you? Here’s the best part: the library. The library has hundreds of audiobooks to be checked out – for free! When you have an audio CD, it automatically stops and starts up again when you get in and out of your car. No playing around with your cell phone, no problems if you are in a rush and cannot find where you left off last. Audio CDs make it simple and efficient to listen to in the car. You’ll be surprised when you find yourself nodding in agreement with your latest self-help book, or laughing out loud to a celebrity autobiography. Your commute goes by faster, and it does not feel like you are just sitting in your car wasting time.

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2. Find your calm.

What symbolizes calm to you? Find a small object or picture that reminds you of calm: a picture of a beach, a pinecone, a flower, a pebble, or a picture of your family. Whatever it is, hang it from your mirror or place it somewhere close to you. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to hold your calming object. Reconnect with your breath. Change your perspective and realize that change is the only constant in our lives, and this frustrating or exhausting experience will end. Make the choice to breathe. You do not have to judge yourself or change how you are feeling. Just breathe. Yes, you would probably like to be anywhere but in your car, but here you are. How can you connect with this moment?

3. Be grateful.

When you find yourself slipping down the slope of self-pity, begin to list all the things in your life you are thankful for. If you are on your way to work, that means you have a job, and that is something to be grateful for. If you are headed to pick up your kid, they will probably tell you a funny story on the way home and make you laugh. If you are headed to the grocery store, it means you have money to put food on the table. Begin to focus on and appreciate all the wonderful things you have in your life, and realizing that extra time in the car is sometimes just a price we pay for living wonderful, full lives.

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4. Practice positivity.

Stuck in traffic? Look around you at all the people who are also in the same spot. This is the best way to get out of the movie scene you have created for yourself in your head. Wish them a safe commute. Wish for their health and happiness. Send them good vibes and you will also start to feel better. The good energy you send out will come back to you.

5. Visualize.

Use your commute to visualize your day. How do you see it going? What challenges do you foresee, and how can you handle them with grace? What choices will you face? Use your time in the car to manifest the day you want.

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Featured photo credit: www.picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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