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5 Tips for Taking Quality Time Off

5 Tips for Taking Quality Time Off

The busier we get and the more commitments we have, the harder it can become to take quality time off. We’ll go into the weekend or our much longed-for vacation iPhone in hand and laptop at the readyjust in case we need to deal with any emergencies. Time off becomes “time to get all those little tasks that keep slipping down the list done and dusted”, instead of the relaxation break it’s supposed to be.

When it comes to taking quality time off, the problem doesn’t lie so much what we have to do, but with ourselves and our mindset. The more we become used to spending our evenings, weekends and vacations with our minds still at work, the harder it becomes to truly separate out work from personal time and take quality time off.

Taking regular breaks to switch off, relax and recharge is an important part of self-care. It helps us return to our everyday lives with renewed energy, a shifted perspective and a greater capacity to be the vest version of ourselves we can be.

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Here are five tips you can use to take quality time off that serves you:

1. Set an intention: what do you want to get out of your time off?

Knowing what you want from your time off means you are more likely to get it. If you can identify the needs that you want to meet beforehand, you are far more likely to be able to meet those needs (and therefore take quality time off), than if you’re unaware of what you want to get out of your break.

As well as focusing on needs, your intention might revolve around an activity or experience. For example, if you have been feeling stressed about the clutter in your home, you might think about using this weekend to meet your need for cleanliness and order by clearing out the living room. When you have that kind of intention in mind, you avoid spending your time off on autopilot, doing things that aren’t really meeting your current needs.

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2. Set Boundaries

Quality time off means real time off, not time off spent doing laundry, cooking meals or picking the kids up from here and there (not unless these activities fit in with your current needs, anyway). To take quality time off, you might have to be assertive and set some boundaries around needing a certain amount of time to yourself. This might mean asking your partner to weigh in on household chores, saying “No” to a work-related request, or even hiring a babysitter for a couple of hours.

If you’re not used to walling your time in this way, doing so can feel selfish. Remember, however, that you can only give to others what you give to yourself. Once you’ve taken the time to meet your own needs, you’ll be in a much better position to be the best employee, partner, friend, mother, and so on, that you can be.

3. Take a digital sabbatical

Just as you might have to set boundaries with people, taking quality time off might involve setting boundaries with the gadgets in your life too. Smartphones, laptops and tablets are all gifts of our day and age, but they also make it far harder to disconnect. I’m the first person to admit that when faced with a queue, a journey or a quiet moment, I’ll whip out my iPhone and start aimlessly checking my mail, Facebook and other apps just to keep myself entertained.

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When we’re distracting ourselves with the internet, TV, games or any other features of modern technology, we’re not taking quality time off: we’re distracting ourselves. Switch it off, leave it at home, and, most of all, be conscious of how you’re spending your time.

4. Keep a list of activities

Make a list of activities you know will recharge and rejuvenate you ahead of time. Then, when it’s time to take a break, you have a pre-prepared variety of activities to choose from. This helps you avoid the temptation to veg out in front of the TV, or think that since you’re not sure what else to do, you might as well go to the grocery store after all.

As you create your activities list, find a combination of activities that include relaxation and stimulation, as we’ll talk about next.

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5. Create a balance

Taking quality time off doesn’t necessarily mean lazing around. If this is the default you revert to when you’re not sure how else to spend your time, create a balance between your time off activities.

Make sure you connect with friends and family, and make time to get moving too. Even when we feel exhausted, getting out and getting active can actually help recharge our batteries more than sitting around at home, which can perpetuate the feeling of exhaustion. Enjoy a long, gentle walk, or take yourself to a yoga class—after all, taking time off is as much about caring for your body as it is for your mind.

What are your tips for taking quality time off? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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