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Dear 20somethings, 5 Tips on Investing Your Time

Dear 20somethings, 5 Tips on Investing Your Time

I’ve always been a bit obsessed with the idea of not wasting time. Even as a kid, I had things to do. I wanted to get through school so I could get to the good stuff. Then I wanted to get through sleeping so I could get to morning again.

There’s too many interesting things, too much to learn to let the days slip by on things that don’t matter.

I’m in my 30s now, and I’ve figured out a few things worth giving my time to… and a few things that definitely shouldn’t get your precious minutes.

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1. Don’t waste your time worrying about what other people think of you.

Easier said than done, I know. This is a lifelong struggle for most of us, because even the most stoic still secretly like to be admired and appreciated. We want to feel good about ourselves, and it’s easier to do that when we know other people feel good about us.

But you can’t make everybody happy. It’s not your job, and it’s not even within your power. Once you realize that other people’s happiness is up to them – not up to you – you also begin to realize that you can control your own happiness. That truth helps you let go of the need to please other people.

2. Quit trying to find your passion.

Yeah, the trendy thing is to live your passion, follow your passion, do work you love (passionately), and, in short, know a lot more about yourself than most twenty-somethings know. The truth is that it often takes a long time – sometimes years, sometimes decades – to develop a deep, abiding passion about some subject or area or person or life purpose.

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In other words, if you don’t feel like you “have a passion” yet, don’t waste time trying to find it, or feel bad that you don’t have it. This is the time to learn, to get input, to explore, to discuss, to try and fail at a few dozen things. Do that for a few more years and you’ll have some good fodder to develop into a lifelong passion.

3. Cultivate a hobby.

Here’s a thing about life as a twentysomething: almost all the stable things in your life will change. You will experience change in your student status, your job(s), perhaps even your entire career direction, your relationships, your locale, your housing situation, and more. You are in the decade of new beginnings, which is great and all… But new beginnings come with a lot of change, a lot of upheaval, and a lot of adjustment.

This may sound silly, but in the midst of the big changes, it’s really important to have something that stays normal. Something that is unique to you, something you can cultivate into a routine, a ritual, a dependable part of your life that can flex with you through all those changes.

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A hobby is just that sort of thing. You can take up kayaking or karate, scrapbooking or banjo playing, and that hobby will adjust with you through the changes of your life. It’s a small thing, but one small, steady thing can help you adjust to each new normal.

4. Let go of friendships that aren’t working.

Friends are, arguably, more important when you’re in your twenties than they ever have been before. You’re identifying your own life and role outside of your family, and friends play a big part in that.

But some friends will hurt you, not help you; we’re all in different places in life. The sooner you can see that letting go is, at times, the best decision you can make for everyone, the better off you will be.

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5.Trust yourself more.

This is the one that will make the most difference in your life, right now, if you’ll do it. The truth is that you will make plenty of mistakes. Some will hurt. Some will change you. But all of them will teach you something. When you can begin to trust yourself enough to take the risks you need to take, you will still have to walk through mistakes. But you will get stronger through each one. You won’t waste time pretending to be something you are not. You won’t stuff down the little voice inside that knows what works for you and what doesn’t.

In short, you’ll still have plenty of changes to make stupid decisions, and deal with the consequences, but you won’t be wasting time on stupid decisions that are pointless and consequences that carry no benefit.

When you trust yourself and move forward, even if you mess up some in that process, you learn about yourself. You learn to listen better. You learn to take yourself seriously. You learn what you need to learn so you can do better next time.

That’s really what we’re all still learning.

Featured photo credit: Bev Goodwin via flickr.com

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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