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Getting Off the Treadmill of Life

Getting Off the Treadmill of Life
Treadmill

    Do you wish you could slow things down, especially your mind? Life is hectic and harried, but there are several ways you can jump off the hamster wheel of life to get some much needed respite. You only need to mentally commit to it and you can make it happen. Here are a few ideas.

    1. The Bathroom Break
    You may laugh at this idea, but it isn’t called the rest room for nothing. For many of us, our day is a never ending stream of requests for our attention from others. When you find yourself hitting the wall, go take a bathroom break whether you need to go or not. Go into the stall and have a seat, close your eyes, take a deep breath (if it’s safe), and relax. Try putting your hands over your eyes and rubbing your temples. You’ll feel better even though this is a short break. Use the time to think about what you really need to do next instead of just reacting to every request.

    2. Meditation Nap
    This has been featured on Lifehack before. Here is a very quick synopsis: take a 5-20 minute break where you stretch, close your eyes, and empty your mind in a relaxed but wakeful state. You will be amazed at how much this can rejuvenate you!

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    3. Appointment with Yourself
    Set aside a one hour appointment with yourself during your day. No one needs to know that the appointment is only with yourself. Where? Library or a bookstore are both nice quiet places you could retreat to. What should you do during this time? Since it is not a huge amount of time, I would suggest using part of the time for a meditation nap, and then use the remainder to think about your dreams and how you can move towards them. You might want to schedule this kind of time once a month or once a week even.

    4. Play Hooky for the Day
    Sometimes when you’re working hard, it can be easy to feel like you’re never going to reach your dreams. You may feel tired, down, or frustrated. This is when you should take a whole day for yourself! If you are doing work that is not towards your dream, use the day to redesign your life. Where do you want to go? How do you want to live life? Map out how you will get there. Start today! If you are already working towards your dream and you are simply exhausted, use it as a day to play and relax. Go see a movie, visit a museum, anything that will allow you to forget about work and enjoy life.

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    5. Change Your Perspective
    Sometimes we can’t get our minds off our work, even when we come home from work. So how do you slow down your mind? Many turn to TV to help turn off our minds. But how about doing something totally different? You could: go to an art opening, do some volunteer work, visit a lecture at the local library, go see a live play or live music, or anything else that will help you forget about work for a while, but at the same time open your mind to other ideas instead of turnig your brain off the way TV can.

    6. Change Your Location
    Another idea for freeing your mind is to go to a place you don’t usually visit. Or go to a place that you do go to frequently, but this time really take notice of what’s going on around you. For example, a great place to go is simply out in nature. The woods, the beach, the mountains, the park. As a child how did you feel when you were in these places? Can you notice those things again today as an adult? Go ahead and take some time to enjoy fond memories. Let them take you away from it all. Do the smells, sounds, and scenery of a place talk to you? What do they say? What do they motivate you to do differently going forward?

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    7. Play!
    Take some time to play some games, sing, or dance with your children or with friends or family. Make it a point to become really engaged. Tell yourself that all your worries and thoughts will still be there when you’re done playing. Commit to letting it all go while you do so. If it’s hard for you to do this, then schedule it with someone with whom you won’t be able to break the date. Have fun for a change. A good warm up is to play some music before to get your fun self moving and grooving and leave your work-a-holic self in the dust!

    8. Going to Sleep
    At night, there are a couple things you can do to get off the treadmill of life. First be kind to
    yourself by going to sleep when you’re tired! Find a way to turn off the TV an hour or more before your target bed time. TV is a stimulant, even if you think it helps you fall asleep. Better yet, leave the TV off except for your favorite shows or educational TV. Don’t be afraid to be alone with yourself or alone with your spouse. When the TV is turned off you can begin to think, to unwind the day. Try it or a week. If that’s hard for you to do, you could try putting the TV in the garage for a week to failproof it.

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    The second thing you can do when going to sleep is, if you find yourself thinking too much, try this mantra, “Empty the Mind.” Just repeat that as often as is necessary to release your mind’s clinging to work, worry, and ceaseless thinking. Remind yourself that by releasing your thoughts and succumbing to rest, your subconscious mind will continue to work on the problems for you while you sleep. You will wake up refreshed and with the energy needed to tackle your challenges anew.

    Which idea will you try today? What other ideas do you have for escaping the treadmill of life?

    K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. A few of her most popular articles are How to Stop Being “Busy” and Live Your Dream Life, Creativity Blocks? Bash Through in 15 Steps, How to Nap at Work – or Anyplace You Need a Rest, and The Cure for Overworked, Overtired YOU!.

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    K. Stone

    The founder of Life Learning Today, a blog that's dedicated to life improvement tips.

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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