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You Have to Crave Real Alone Time to Be Smarter

You Have to Crave Real Alone Time to Be Smarter

Lots of research has pointed at the notion that people who socialize more tend to be much happier. But this doesn’t apply to everyone. One factor where socializing more doesn’t equal more happiness is intelligence. People who are highly intelligent become less happy the more they socialize because it’s thought smart people adapt more easily to the modern world. In other words, they understand that our primal need to keep close contact with a social group for food and shelter is no longer applicable in modern society.

In fact, the more intelligent someone is, the more they tend to focus on long term goals instead of short-term gratification. Socialising, therefore, doesn’t hold as much value as working towards their goals.

You’re Not Alone in Embracing Your Alone Time

If you’re reading this thinking how much you love your alone time and proud that you carve out time for yourself on a regular basis, you’re one of many. One survey found 85% of adults believe alone time is important to them [1].

While the increasingly popular concept of mindfulness encourages us to connect with ourselves, the importance of alone time is becoming a necessary part of our lives. But do you we really use this time to our advantage? Do we really spend this valuable alone time “alone”?

How We’re Spending Alone Time in the Wrong Way

Being physically alone in a room is one thing, but if you don’t utilise this time in a way that you’re free from social stimulation, you’re not getting the true benefits.

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With modern times comes digital distractions. Having time by yourself means you can enjoy doing the things that relax you but these days that can mean idly jumping on your phone or computer. Replying to texts and messages and browsing Facebook is providing the danger of becoming less relaxed and satisfied with the benefits that alone time can create in your life.

Our idea of alone time needs to be defined as distancing ourselves physically and digitally from the world. In fact, when we’re mindlessly browsing social media or watching television, our brain is actually shifting into a state where it starts to crave social interaction with others [2]. This obviously counteracts the very reasons why you need alone time in the first place.

Why FOMO is the Death of Your Alone Time

FOMO or the Fear of Missing Out is a phenomenon all social media users have experienced at one time or another.

It’s that needy, anxious feeling you get when you haven’t checked Facebook or Twitter – that fear that there’s stuff out there that you’re missing out on and leads you to check just one more time to see what’s new.

But what we’re essentially checking are things that don’t matter or add value to our lives. It may evoke that sense of security that we’re up to date on what’s going on, to be able to talk about the latest goings on with our peers but it’s creating a greater insecurity in the long run.

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Social media has the ability to have a huge negative effect on us. It creates a sense of competitiveness and comparison that affects the mentality we have of ourselves. It takes away those precious moments where we could be doing more productive tasks that actually go towards our personal growth and well-being.

How To Lessen Distractions

The key to this is lessening time spent on social media or watching TV rather than cutting it out altogether and there are ways to help you do this.

One is an online app called StayFocusd for Chrome users. Select the websites that you consider your biggest time wasters and set a time limit. Once this time has run out, Chrome will block you from using it giving you no choice but to focus on better things.

Another app is Forest where your seed will gradually grow into a tree. The idea here is if you move away from the app, your tree is in danger of withering away – encouraging you to stop the habit of using your usual distracting apps.

Practical Activities To Get More Out of Your Alone Time

The time you spend alone is a great opportunity to increase your well-being and promote positivity within yourself. Whether you have 15 minutes or several hours, there are certain activities that can help cultivate personal growth.

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Self-Reflection: ask yourself a lot of questions

Self-reflection is something we tend to overlook. By not going through the process of deliberately self-reflecting on our thoughts and actions, we risk missing the opportunity to find growth and likely end up stuck in the same patterns.

  • Review regularly how you spend your day, week or month
  • Ask yourself what could you do differently to create challenges or create more happiness
  • How can you change your current perspectives?
  • Ask yourself: am I living my best life? If not, what small or big changes could I consider making?

Questioning yourself can sometimes feel uncomfortable but it’s this resistance that is showing you there are answers you may need to face in order to create a better life or grow positively as a person.

Journalling: free your mind

There’s a lot of power in writing things down and can be extremely therapeutic for the mind. When something is troubling you, writing it down can help clear it out and relax your mind. To do this, first write down your worries and feelings and then step back and contemplate them. Ask yourself if they’re really valid and question why you’re having these feelings.

The beauty of this process is finding time to intentionally stop and listen to your inner thoughts and feelings, taking time out in order to stop overlooking them and allowing them to grow bigger. Always remember this rule: when it comes to unhappiness, the more you write it down, the less you’ll remember it.

Meditation: learn how not to think

While meditation is a wonderful tool for relaxing, it has many other benefits too. Research has found it has positive effects on our health including lowering blood pressure, increasing positive mental attitude, improving focus, memory and boosting creativity.

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And you don’t have to sit for hours on end to get these benefits. Just 5 minutes out of your day to sit quietly and focus on your breath will be enough to see an improvement and reap the rewards.

Watch Movies or Read Books That Change Your Perspective

Reading is a popular alone-time activity as is streaming your favourite movie. But consider reaching for a book or film that will change the way you view something.

Escapism is great every now and then, but in this busy world our time can be precious and using this time to change our mindsets and perspectives can be exponential for our growth and understanding.

The benefit of spending time alone is being able to make choices without others’ influences. As humans, we tend to allow our egos to be persuaded by outside opinions instead of changing beliefs ourselves. By being solitary, we can help avoid this and discover our own ideas and challenge existing perspectives. A good way of doing this is through reading different books and watching movies that challenge our ideas about the world.

Our alone time can be extremely beneficial to us if we use it in the right way. Make the time for yourself as quality-focused and growth-oriented as possible. After a while you’ll start to see and feel the positive effects.

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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