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8 Ways To Avoid Getting Lost

8 Ways To Avoid Getting Lost

When I think about getting lost, two particular instances stand out in my mind. One was when I was in my late teens and I drove out to a forest in the middle of nowhere with a group of friends. It was daytime, sunny, and perfect for a picnic. We found a lovely spot deep in the forest and enjoyed a selection of tasty food. Soon dusk arrived and it got a little cooler, so we built a fire. We stayed so long that complete darkness fell and the fire died down. We were cold and tired and ready to go home. Except… which way was that again?

We looked around us and all we could see were the trees directly in front of us. One of my friends has one of those mini torches on his key-ring, but that was about as useful as wearing flip flops in the snow. Just to clarify, this was also before every man, woman, child and baby owned a mobile phone, so if we wanted to find our way out of that forest, we had to find use more traditional methods. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely terrified.

Somehow, we managed to find our way out of there and I cannot begin to describe the relief I felt when we saw the car parked up on the roadside. It had taken us well over an hour to find our way out of that creepy black forest and it was a situation I never wanted to repeat.

Fast forward several years and we come to a more recent experience. I used to have a satnav, but when I got a smart phone I wondered why I bothered carrying several electronic devices when my phone was able to do everything. So I tapped in the address of my friend’s house, a friend I had never visited before. To be fair, I did know most of the way to her house, I was just a little unsure of the last few miles of the journey. I plonked my phone on the non-slip mat on my dashboard, turned up my tunes and set off.

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It was a beautiful day and the sun was hot on my face. Unfortunately, it was a little too warm for my phone, but I didn’t realise that until I got closer to the destination and needed that little extra guidance. I looked at my phone, expecting to see a map and an arrow but to my horror there was just a black screen with an error message reading ‘Temperature Too High’ or something like that. I pulled the car over to a safe place and pressed all buttons, but nothing happened. My phone had overheated in the sun.

Now not only was I unable to see the directions, I couldn’t phone my friend either in order to ask how to get there. I had been so reliant on my phone that I didn’t have her number written anywhere else and I couldn’t even remember the name of the street she lived on! I felt so stupid for putting my entire trust in this minicomputer that was now just bits of overheated plastic, metal and glass.

In the end, I had to wait until the phone had cooled down before I could start again on my journey.

I expect you have had experiences of getting hopelessly lost too, otherwise you wouldn’t be looking at my eight fantastic ways to avoid it! In an attempt to prevent others from experiencing the sheer panic that washes over you when you realise you’re lost and/or stuck, I have put together some tips and tricks on how to get yourself back on the right path – literally!

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1. Recognise the landmarks

I now make a point of paying particular attention to things that catch my eye when I’m out and about somewhere unfamiliar. You can either use your memory, a small notebook, or if you’re confident of the battery life of your camera or mobile phone, you can take pictures of where you have left your car and then several landmarks along the way. You can note down street names, pubs that you pass, memorable places such as cemeteries, churches, schools etc. It’s much easier to find your way if someone gives you directions such as “Keep going straight on until you see the giant doughnut on the left, and when you see that take the next right and look out for the pub covered in hanging baskets, when you see that, turn left.”

Getting directions like “Drive for half a mile, turn right and in a quarter of a mile turn left” can be confusing, so try to give people directions using landmarks too! They will thank you for it.

2. Follow the people

If you’re in a city and you’re not familiar with the language, you can follow the general flow of the people to find the most popular parts of town. Especially during rush hour. Using this method, you’re most likely to follow people to the train station or bus terminal and from there you will be able to get public transport to wherever you’re trying to get. Terminals and stations also often have an information desk which will hopefully have information in several languages.

3. Look at the roads

Find the biggest road you can if you’re lost. The wider the road, the more traffic it is designed to carry, which means it is a main route. Follow the road and you will find yourself in a town centre before you know it or you will see road signs along the way which should point you in the right direction.

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4. Learn to use a compass

You can either carry an actual compass, or if you have a smart phone, you can use a compass app. Learn to use the compass in places that you know well to get to grips with directions. You will notice that satellite dishes on houses all point towards south-west and churches and gravestones usually face east. When you arrive in an unfamiliar place, take a note of which direction you are facing. Keep checking your compass to see which direction you’re walking or driving. If you get lost, you will be able to go back in the opposite direction until you find familiar surroundings again.

5. Use nature

If it is night and the sky is clear, the North Star is always helpful in giving you a sense of which direction you are heading in. If you checked your position when you arrived, you will be able to use the North Star to tell you which way to go back.

If it is daylight, you can push a stick into the ground and mark the end of its shadow. Wait a little while and you will see the shadow move. The direction the shadow has moved in will be east to west. This should give you some idea which way to go if you are in the middle of nowhere.

6. Read maps

It seems like an obvious point, but take a map with you whenever you travel to somewhere new or make use of the map app on your smart phone. Actual physical maps are ideal to have in your pocket, especially if you find yourself in an area where you don’t have any signal.

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Study the map before you leave for your new destination so that you can get familiar with place names, landmarks such as big parks or lakes as well as train stations, rivers and visitor attractions. Have an idea of where you want to go and look at it on the map in relation to where you will be staying or parking. Once you’re there, the street names will feel familiar to you and you’ll have a good idea of where to go and how to get there.

7. Grab a GPS to go

Also known as a Global Positioning System or satnav, when you have a good connection to a satellite these pieces of kit are invaluable for someone who does a lot of travelling to strange places. You can use it whilst driving as it will sit on a special mount on your windscreen, or you can carry it when you’re on foot. You can even get a wristwatch with built in GPS  so you can easily find your way in unfamiliar territory.

8. Learn the basics

If you’re going to a foreign country, make sure you learn some simple phrases to ask for directions, and make sure you will be able to understand the answer. Also learn words that appear often on road or street signs so that you make sense of your surroundings once you arrive. If you’re really struggling with the language, go to or call a nearby hotel as they almost always have someone who can speak English and they will be able to help you.

Featured photo credit: Jessica via flickr.com

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Carles Sabarich

Carles aspires to encourage people to live actively and take charge of their lives.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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