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Episode 41: Making the Most of Your Time

The things you say to yourself about time – and your expectations of time – totally shape your experiences of it. 

So if you want to make the most of your time, listen up. This is for you.

Do you find yourself saying “I’m so busy! I wish I had more time!” or “I need to start making the most of my time!”

Or perhaps you simply feel rushed, like life is passing you buy, or that time is flying.

We often talk about wanting more time, wasting time, or spending time – or even having the time of our life!

And it’s true; time is a resource that, much like money, we can spend or save.

Before we launch into it, consider three important facts about time.

Fact #1 – Time is a mental construct.

It’s something that was invented by a human mind. It is simply a unit of measure of the progress of our civilization. Humans came up with the concept of time thousands of years ago and used it to measure the natural cycles of day, night and the seasons. Wikipedia says that time was probably first measured around 6000 years ago using the moon.

These days we have even created ‘daylight savings’ – a seasonal change in the clocks so that we can adjust our access to winter and summer daylight.

Fact #2  -Time is a precious resource because it is finite.

There’s a saying below the London Court Clock in Perth, Western Australia, that has stuck with me since I was a teenager.And that saying is “No minute past comes ever back again. Take heed and see ye nothing do in vain.”

Fact #3 – Time is something we can’t control.

So if time is a mental construct, and a finite resource that is outside of our control, how does that affect the way we experience time?

How Thoughts Affect Experiences

The first thing that comes to my mind when reflecting on those facts is that they might create a scarcity mentality around time.

What we say to ourselves affects the actions we take and the results we get.

So if you feel like time is flying, that time is going too slowly, or that you need more time, it’s going to totally affect your experience of time and your happiness around that experience.

Here’s an experiment to illustrate that. 

Fill a glass with water and hold it at arms’ length. Hold it there for a minute.

Notice that as your arms tire, the glass feels heavier.

Try for another minute.

What is your brain telling you right now, as you do this?

Chances are that while you are standing there just focusing on the glass of water, you are thinking about how tired your arm is getting, wondering how long it is to go, or asking yourself when this is going to be over.

In that simple example, you just created a perception that time slowed down, and that it was a difficult experience.

With that example in mind, let’s look more deeply at how we experience time so you can start saying to yourself – “I’m making the most of my time.”

Simply noticing the detail of something in the moment – mindfulness – is the simplest way to slow down time and feel like you are making the most of it.

How to Slow Down Time (and Feel Good About It)

How often have you said to yourself something like:

“Why is this taking so long?”

“What’s the hold up?”

“Can we speed things up a little?”

“Are we there yet?”

In this case your experience of time is that it’s slow – AND – that you are frustrated by that. 

Slow and frustrated is NOT such a great combination.

Perhaps in this case, your expectation might be that things should move faster, you should be able to get more done, or you should be finished by now.

Notice the shoulds that come into your inner dialogue here, and how these expectations affect your experience of time.

But if you enjoyed the slow pace of activities, you might have a totally different type of thought:

“I LOVE the feeling of the sun on my skin.”

“This is so good, I wish it would go on forever.” 

“I am really savouring this moment.”

“Look at the amazing detail in that….”

In this case your experience of time is slow – AND wonderous. Enjoyable. Awe-inspiring.

As you can see, the experience of ‘slowing down time’ happens when we do one thing at a time with intention. 

Like holding the glass of water.

That’s not such a fun task though, so think about other ways to slow down time that ARE enjoyable.

You can slow down time enjoyably like spending time doing yoga, or meditating…or simply by breathing deeply. 

Or spending time walking in nature, listening to music, or playing with your kids, or on a date night with your partner.

Simply noticing the detail of something in the moment – mindfulness – is the simplest way to slow down time and feel like you are making the most of it.

Notice how the feeling that time is going slow is based on the thoughts that might come up around the activity you are doing.

Time feels slow when you pay notice every second that ticks by. And you can only do that when you do one small thing at a time with great attention.

Often, time is slowest when we’re alone.

Consider how the positive thoughts about your experiences cause you to have a better experience of time.

When Time Flies (and How to Feel Good About It)

In contrast to this, we experience a speeding up of time when we are multi-tasking or juggling lots of things in life.

Think about how the day flies by when you are working intensively on a project, or juggling work and kids and family duties.

In these situations, you might be thinking things like:

“Wow I’m SO busy.”

“Hurry, we’re going to be late!”

“Quick! We have to be there in 10 minutes.”

The Concept of Flow

This is positive psychology in action – it’s called being in flow.

When we are in flow, we have a balance between skill and challenge, we lose track of time, we become totally absorbed in what we are doing, and what we are doing feels good; rewarding.

Being in flow can bring a rich experience of time.

Diagram source: https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-flow/

In Summary

It could be said that the way you experience time is strongly linked to your expectations.

If you think you have too much to do and not enough time, then you will expect that to be the case, and that will be your experience.

The reverse will also be true.

I have created a new equation to define our experience of time: Optimal Time = Thoughts + Experiences + Connections

So considering how our thoughts and actions affect our results, what will you choose to think from now onward?

What will you expectations of the time that you have available?

And how will that affect your experiences of that time?

Ready to make the most of your time?

Write something here that ties in with the topic for the podcast! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Episode 7: How To Live and Work Like an Athlete

Episode 7: How To Live and Work Like an Athlete

This podcast will help you create balance and endurance in your life. 

I would like to introduce you to a confounding problem and a life-changing solution.

As a Health and Wellness Coach, I have learned so much from my clients.

I’ve learned that a problem we all face is how to be consistent with our habits.

A lot of my clients want to eat salad every day, go to the gym four times per week, and cut out all junk food, chocolate or alcohol.

They try so hard to be consistent, yet they all struggle to manage their time, energy, money and/or calories – anything else that requires that repetitive, continuous effort.

Through my work as a Biologist, I have learned that we are wired to run on autopilot.  Our brains LOVE the consistent, repetitive, predictable routine because it’s energy efficient.

So how can it be that we are creatures of habit, yet we struggle with consistency?

On the surface, it seems like a confounding problem. But what’s really going on?

When we say we want to be consistent, we think that means ‘continuous repetition.’ I’d like to offer a more realistic definition of consistency and show you how you can achieve it.

First, let’s consider the fact that nearly everything we do in our lives involves cycles. Nature provides daily, weekly, monthly and yearly triggers that every living thing responds to.

Instead of responding to that natural rhythm, we fight it.

We are convinced that we must do exactly the same thing every day.

When I work with clients who think like this, I find they struggle to form new habits, or even just cope with sudden changes in their home life, relationships and work. They’re too inflexible.

On the flipside, I’ve had several coaching clients who like to be totally flexible and live in the moment – but this has its own set of pitfalls. These clients often find it hard to stick to routines, set boundaries or commit to things. Consequently, they may struggle to build relationships, lose weight, save money, get new clients, build a business or feel a sense of purpose.

The facts are this: we are wired to live on autopilot, yet our environment demands us to be agile. Many people swing to either extreme, but what we really need is a middle ground. Let’s redefine consistency in that context. I propose that consistency means ‘cyclic repetition.’ That is, we are agile enough to adapt our regular habits to fit with the cycles of nature.

As Charles Darwin famously said:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

I’d like to offer a compelling rationale for this definition of mine and then explain how you can get it. The rationale is simply this – all living things naturally respond to the sun, moon and seasonal cycles. It’s called a circadian rhythm and there are daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual cycles that make up this circadian rhythm.

Each day, the intensity of the sun and day length affect our sleep, temperature, blood pressure, hormones and energy levels. Each month the moon influences our hormonal and sleep cycles. Even at the seasonal level, we have shifts in mood (such as seasonal affective disorder in winter) and changes in food preferences and cravings (in winter we tend to want heavier, starchier meals – and this happens to coincide with the types of foods that grow best at that time of year).

The trouble is our brains love running on autopilot, we love this ‘set and forget’ way of being.

What we need is a plan for our year – our season – broken into work and rest phases.

Athletes have a pretty good formula for operating at peak performance.

We can learn a thing or two from this. We can learn to live and work like athletes.

Depending on the sport, the pre-season to competition season is around 6 – 9 months. 

Take AFL football as an example, where the season runs from late February to early October.

  •         They spend 2 – 3 months building general endurance and training at low intensity.
  •         The next 2 – 3 months are sport-specific training and maximal strength.
  •         Then they ramp up to competition by alternating hard training with easy training sessions.

They are at peak fitness then, ready to bring their very best to the final games. 

Then they have an off season where they go on holiday, and for 4 – 12 weeks to allow for the body to recover both physically and psychologically.

What we can see is this: athletes recognise that their bodies can’t go full on all year round.

Yet when I see my coaching client Sue, she is extremely worried because she doesn’t feel like eating salad all year round. She is struggling to go to the gym 5 days per week for the whole year. She pushes herself at work every day and wonders why she is stressed and exhausted. She hasn’t had a holiday in 3 years. Sue is pushing the proverbial up hill.

The athletes have got it wired. What we need is a plan for our year – our season – broken into work and rest phases.

The reason we create a plan is that it’s a ‘set and forget’ approach that allows us to make the decisions all in one go, then simply run on autopilot. That is how we give our bodies the regularity and agility that they need. We create a plan for the year that involves times of peak effort and times of rest. We cycle our exercise and eating approach. We cycle our sleep and waking habits.

But we write it all down. That way, there’s no need to use brain power to make decisions every day when we’re busy. 

We just follow what’s on the plan – and perhaps review it every quarter to make sure we’re on track.

That way we can know we are on course to achieve everything we want. We’re never bored. We’re never expecting too much of ourselves. There’s no room for guilt.

We have a way of living and working that ticks all the boxes and creates that cyclic consistency that we need to thrive.

 

Ready to create balance and endurance in your life?

You too could live and work like an athlete! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

Learn more here:

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Work-Life Balance – Slaying the Mythical Beast

Work Life Balance | Melanie White

With all the press about work life balance, including the fact that it’s a myth, I thought I’d chip in with my 2c worth.

Regardless of whether you believe in work-life balance or not, the insatiable quest to slay that mythical beast will probably remain.

So assuming that work-life balance is a tangible thing, I propose a definition, simply:

“spending what you feel is the right amount of time working, and the right amount of time on things that support your well-being.”

It’s up to you to define what ‘the right amount’ is and it’s fair to expect that there is some invariable overlap between the two (especially if you run your own business).

An idyllic work-life balance scenario might involve going to work, doing your job and then coming home to spend enjoyable time with family, friends, on hobbies or leisure/pleasure activities.

Well, there’s the real myth…..

Some of us have kids, some don’t.

Some of us work to live, and others live to work.

In other words, there’s no one-size-fits-all life situation, therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all scenario for work-life balance.

In context of all that, the answer to work-life balance – the sweet spot – may lie in balancing two things:

  1. your personal drive to meet expectations/responsibilities (yours/others)
  2. allowing yourself to meet your personal well-being needs.

That comes down to your personal beliefs and values –what drives you, and why that’s important.

What Drives You?

You might be the kind of person who gets up and skips breakfast to be at work on the early bus so you can finish the report you’re working on, then you work late to get it finished, existing on take-out food, then get the last bus home and stumble into bed.

In this scenario, your drive to meet a deadline, please your client/boss, cope with workplace pressure, feel adequate or be productive may take priority over your immediate health needs (eating breakfast, staying calm, exercising, sleeping well, connecting with others).

Or, you might be the kind of person who gets the kids up and feeds them (and your partner), skipping your own breakfast so you can bustle around for them, making lunch, getting them off to school/work, cleaning the house, doing the shopping and washing, organising dinner and then visiting your sick mother who needs your help before picking the kids up, making them a snack, taking them to sport and getting their homework started before you finish off dinner for the family, so you can watch the news and then stumble into bed.

In this scenario, your focus is taking the responsibility for everyone else’s well-being, such that there’s no time left for you.

These are just two of many possible scenarios….but in any case, you’re appearing unlucky last on the priorities list.

Meeting Your Own Needs

The secret to slaying the mythical beast of work-life balance is simple and fairly un-sexy.

It’s simply allowing yourself some time to meet your own needs.

Maybe that’s an hour in the bathroom by yourself on a Wednesday night.

Maybe it’s reminding yourself each day that you achieved something good.

Maybe you need to have Friday nights out with your friends to simply laugh and have a relaxing dinner.

Regardless of WHAT it is, your solution lies in deciding how important your needs are, setting some realistic boundaries around them, and finding creative ways to slot them into your day/week/life.