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How to Make Your Day Last Longer

How to Make Your Day Last Longer
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Do you have days when you ask yourself how you could make your day last longer?

No matter what your social status, how much money you have and how many people you know, every day your wallet of time is refilled with 24 hours to spend. How you are going to consume it depends on you.

Think for a second about all the moments in your life that gave you the most satisfaction. What was it that made it feel this way? Was it specific people, or maybe the thing you were doing?

Usually these moments are connected with a feeling of deep engagement in some activity, or the sense of being right here, right now. Let us look closer at how we can consciously get into the states of Flow and Mindfulness.

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Flow

This is how Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘Flow’ in his book of that title:

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

If you want to make your day last longer, you have to possess the skill of getting into Flow. It is not merely about having more time. It is about getting the most satisfaction out of that time. Do you remember some challenging activity that engaged you for several hours? I bet the feeling at the end of it was really worth it!

My adventure with Flow started with eliminating distractors and applying the Pomodoro Technique for just one hour per day. I was amazed how much I could accomplish when I turned off all distractors and focused on one thing completely. Then I started to raise the bar and make most of my activities challenging. This way I was more energized and stimulated. I was learning faster and with greater joy.

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The opposite feeling, known very well to all people, is entropy. Described by Csikszentmihalyi thus:

When we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing to do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing.

It is all about moving from entropy to flow. See this short film about finding your creative flow state:

Mindfulness

Your day can be full of activities that get your energized focus, yet there is a completely different state of mind you need as well. It is Mindfulness. It is concentrated attention and awareness about the present.

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Just think about the moment you are reading these words. Think about how you breathe. Think if you are relaxed. Think about the tensions in your body. Look at your hands. Feel the smell. Look at the people and items around you. Consider what you feel and think.

Feel it.

This moment is called: Here and Now. Let it be the 30 longest seconds you have ever spent. Don’t lose your focus!

I started my adventure with Mindfulness during my daily shower. I was thinking about the day: What happened? What have I learned about the world and about myself? At the same time my focus was shifting – I could feel the water, how it touches my skin. How it feels. How it smells. How it looks. I was completely present in that moment. Later I tried to put that practice into every minute of my day, at work and at home – to sense my feelings, thoughts, the feelings and the faces of others, aroma. I swear I felt time slowed down.

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Try it. When you have your next meal, just allocate 100% of your attention to the smell, the look and the way it tastes. This may be your best meal in a long time!

Always remember that when you are left alone, with no demands on your attention, your mind will eventually wander into something painful or disturbing. If you want to make your day last longer, you want to maximize the time that you are in the Flow and Mindfulness states: be completely present in the activity, or just focus on here and now.

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Piotr Nabielec

Author, CEO, Consultant

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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