Have you ever wondered how you could be happier? It is something that is unique to each individual person and can often change based on things out of our control. Have you ever gotten sad because it’s cold out, or felt happier when the sun made its appearance? It’s recognizing these traits that will help you have more moments of happiness in your daily life – but what about the ones you can control? If you know what you can do to make yourself happier, that’s incredible – you’re already one step ahead of us. For those of us that need a little help in that department, we’ve come up with a few solutions to help you kick your negativity to the curb and jump-start your positive, happier behaviour in five minutes!
Minute of Gratitude
This is one of the most affective ways to help your mood go from terrible to terrific in less time then it takes for you to put your shoes on! When everything is going wrong, it’s hard to break the ‘whoa-is-me’ bubble you’re living in. You get easily sucked into everything that is going wrong and you find yourself circling a drain that almost encourages negative thinking. If you find yourself in this state of mind, stop and think about all the things that have gone right in your life. Side note: it doesn’t have to be from the day you’re having. If it’s pulling things you did last week or five years ago, then by all means let it brighten your day! The change in mood should help you see more positively and think your way through the solution at hand.
Pay it Forward
Measuring happiness is a personal preference. Some may be happier when thinking of the future (a trip or event), others may find gratification in purchasing something. There are some however, that find sheer joy in helping complete strangers. It may seem like just a simple act of kindness to buy the person’s coffee behind you, or give them a discount code you’re not using – but it reminds us that we’re all in this world together. And unless you’re the Grinch, this will be a great way to brighten not only your day but someone else’s as well.
3-Minute Slow Down
With every one being in such a hurry these days, it’s hard to remind ourselves to take a break and be thankful for all we do in this crazy world. Whether it’s in the morning or before you go to bed, try to reconnect your body and mind. Start by taking three deep breaths while stretching your arms up or touching your toes. Focusing on nothing more than just your breathing and letting your thoughts drift off, it is a great way to clear your mind! Not sure where to start? Try these breathing exercises to get you started.
Say Yes (or NO!)
It may sound simple, but try thinking back to the last time you were truly open-minded and didn’t just have an answer ready before the question was finished being asked. We’re not saying you should be forced into something you don’t want to do; we’re just suggesting you try to keep an open mind to new adventures. Try saying Yes more often, or using more positive wording in general. Talking negatively only puts you in that mind set – so try applying positivity to your daily life (even when speaking) and you’ll be surprised at the results!
heroically pushing her out of the way of an oncoming imaginary sniper bullet,
(Laughter) for which I have yet to be thanked, I was trying as hard as I could — she didn’t even see it coming — I was trying hard to be on my best behavior.
And I saw my sister’s face, this wail of pain and suffering and surprise threatening to erupt from her mouth and wake my parents from the long winter’s nap for which they had settled. So I did the only thing my frantic seven year-old brain could think to do to avert this tragedy. And if you have children, you’ve seen this hundreds of times. I said, “Amy, wait. Don’t cry. Did you see how you landed? No human lands on all fours like that. Amy, I think this means you’re a unicorn.”
Now, that was cheating, because there was nothing she would want more than not to be Amy the hurt five year-old little sister, but Amy the special unicorn. Of course, this option was open to her brain at no point in the past. And you could see how my poor, manipulated sister faced conflict, as her little brain attempted to devote resources to feeling the pain and suffering and surprise she just experienced, or contemplating her new-found identity as a unicorn. And the latter won. Instead of crying or ceasing our play, instead of waking my parents, with all the negative consequences for me, a smile spread across her face and she scrambled back up onto the bunk bed with all the grace of a baby unicorn —
with one broken leg.
What we stumbled across at this tender age of just five and seven — we had no idea at the time — was was going be at the vanguard of a scientific revolution occurring two decades later in the way that we look at the human brain. We had stumbled across something called positive psychology, which is the reason I’m here today and the reason that I wake up every morning.
When I started talking about this research outside of academia, with companies and schools, the first thing they said to never do is to start with a graph. The first thing I want to do is start with a graph. This graph looks boring, but it is the reason I get excited and wake up every morning. And this graph doesn’t even mean anything; it’s fake data. What we found is —
If I got this data studying you, I would be thrilled, because there’s a trend there, and that means that I can get published, which is all that really matters. There is one weird red dot above the curve, there’s one weirdo in the room — I know who you are, I saw you earlier — that’s no problem. That’s no problem, as most of you know, because I can just delete that dot. I can delete that dot because that’s clearly a measurement error. And we know that’s a measurement error because it’s messing up my data.
So one of the first things we teach people in economics, statistics, business and psychology courses is how, in a statistically valid way, do we eliminate the weirdos. How do we eliminate the outliers so we can find the line of best fit? Which is fantastic if I’m trying to find out how many Advil the average person should be taking — two.
But if I’m interested in your potential, or for happiness or productivity or energy or creativity, we’re creating the cult of the average with science. If I asked a question like, “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom?” scientists change the answer to “How fast does the average child learn how to read in that classroom?” and we tailor the class towards the average. If you fall below the average, then psychologists get thrilled, because that means you’re depressed or have a disorder, or hopefully both. We’re hoping for both because our business model is, if you come into a therapy session with one problem, we want to make sure you leave knowing you have ten, so you keep coming back. We’ll go back into your childhood if necessary, but eventually we want to make you normal again. But normal is merely average.
And positive psychology posits that if we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average. Then instead of deleting those positive outliers, what I intentionally do is come into a population like this one and say, why? Why are some of you high above the curve in terms of intellectual, athletic, musical ability, creativity, energy levels, resiliency in the face of challenge, sense of humor? Whatever it is, instead of deleting you, what I want to do is study you. Because maybe we can glean information, not just how to move people up to the average, but move the entire average up in our companies and schools worldwide.
The reason this graph is important to me is, on the news, the majority of the information is not positive. in fact it’s negative. Most of it’s about murder, corruption, diseases, natural disasters. And very quickly, my brain starts to think that’s the accurate ratio of negative to positive in the world. This creates “the medical school syndrome.” During the first year of medical training, as you read through a list of all the symptoms and diseases, suddenly you realize you have all of them.
5 Minute Read | February 25, 2021
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the decisions that go into buying a new home. Brand-new or existing? Cottage or McMansion? Fixer-upper or move-in ready? City or country? After all, a home is a big purchase, and you want it to be a blessing for many years to come.
But one question holds the key to home-buying success: How much home can you afford?
Lucky for you, you don’t need a degree in rocket science to find the answer. You just need to know how to budget. Here are five steps to buying a home to make the process smoother.
Step 1: Add Up Your Income
You can’t make a budget if you don’t know how much you can spend. So sit down and add up every source of income you receive each month.
Let’s crunch numbers based on a two-earner household. In our example, Josh brings home two paychecks a month, while his wife Jess receives one.
Josh and Jess’s Monthly Household Income
Step 2: List Your Household Expenses
Next, write down every place your dollars go each month.
Worried about affording a house? Our free Home Buyers Guide will help.
Josh and Jess rent a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of town so they can be close to work. A big chunk of their budget goes toward saving for retirement and a down payment on their new home. Here’s how their current budget looks:
Josh and Jess’s Pre-Home Budget
Of course, everybody’s budget is going to be different. We’ve assumed some things in this sample. If some of these categories don’t fit, feel free to make them your own.
Step 3: Calculate Homeownership Costs
Okay, now make sure to limit your housing payment to no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay—otherwise you’d be house poor!
That 25% limit includes principal, interest, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and, if your down payment is lower than 20%, private mortgage insurance (PMI). Plus, don’t forget to consider homeowners association (HOA) fees—if your new home is part of an HOA.
To maximize your savings, you should get a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. For help figuring out how much house you can afford, try our mortgage calculator.
As for Josh and Jess, the maximum amount they should spend on their home payment each month is $1,500 ($6,000 x 25% = $1,500). But Josh and Jess also need to make room in their budget for expenses like home maintenance and repair. And they need to add extra heft to utilities and transportation since they’ll have more square footage and a longer commute in their new home.
Josh and Jess’s down-payment goal will be complete when they purchase a home—meaning they can lower the amount of money they put into savings, and then use what’s left over to bump up the budget where needed.
Josh and Jess’s Budget: Changes Made With Homeownership in Mind
With these adjustments, Josh and Jess still have money left over—but the budgeting doesn’t stop here.
Step 4: Give Your Budget Room to Grow
Life is going to happen in the years you occupy your home. Before you take on a mortgage, look ahead and consider events that might increase your living expenses down the road.
Josh and Jess don’t have children yet but hope to start a family next year. Guess what? Kids cost money! According to the USDA, a middle-income married couple spends an average of nearly $800 a month on non-housing expenses in a child’s first years of life. 1 Depending on what you make or where you live, it could be more, it could be less.
Josh and Jess build cushion for Junior into their budget by parking an additional $800 into their savings account each month. That puts their savings total at $1,400 and bumps their monthly expenses up to $6,550.
Josh and Jess’s Budget: Changes Made With Kids in Mind
Step 5: Make Adjustments
Right now, Josh and Jess’s expenses outweigh their income by $550, so they’ve got some balancing to do. Josh and Jess realize that spending 25% of their income on a mortgage will squeeze out their ability to afford diapers and daycare. So they aim for a more conservative home payment and tighten the purse strings in a few other areas.
Josh and Jess’s Final Home-Buying Budget
Boost Your Buying Power
When income minus outgo equals zero, your job is done because every dollar has a name. That means you can feel confident buying a home that won’t bust your budget. Just keep your mortgage to 25%—or less!—of your monthly income and don’t borrow so much that you can’t breathe if life changes down the road.
Now that you know the secret to being a happy homeowner, it’s time to go out and get the most home for your money! All you need is an expert negotiator by your side. A buyer’s agent brings your best interests to the table so you can get the best deal on a home that’s right for you and your budget.
About the author
Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.
The physical benefits of exercise — improving physical condition and fighting disease — have long been established, and physicians always encourage staying physically active.
Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.
When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. Or, if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress.
Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Relationship of Exercise to Anxiety Disorders
Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, but anxiety disorders, which affect 40 million adults, are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the U.S. The benefits of exercise may well extend beyond stress relief to improving anxiety and related disorders.
Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate depressed mood in many people. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.
Science has also provided some evidence that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.
Exercise as Part of Therapy
According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.
Although exercise has a positive effect for most people, some recent studies show that for some, exercise may not have a positive effect on anxiety or depression or may not make a strong impact on long-term mental health.
Like all forms of therapy, the effect can vary: Some people may respond positively, others may find it doesn’t improve their mood much, and some may experience only a modest short-term benefit. Nonetheless, researchers say that the beneficial effects of exercise on physical health are not in dispute, and people should be encouraged to stay physically active.
Resources – ADAA Member Experts
Read all about it: Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, by Michael W. Otto, PhD, and Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD (Oxford University Press, 2011)
Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress
The most recent federal guidelines for adults recommend at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two.
If you have an exercise program already, keep up the good work. If not, here are tips to get you started.
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.
Cold Weather Exercise
- Dress in layers. Exercise in layers that you can remove as you start to sweat and put back on as needed.
- Protect your hands, feet, and ears. Make sure your extremities aren warm and wear gloves, socks, and headbands to prevent frostbite.
- Pay attention to weather conditions and wind chill. Rain and wind can make you even more vulnerable to the effects of the cold. If the temperature is below zero degrees and the wind chill is extreme, consider taking a break or finding an indoor activity.
- Choose appropriate gear. It gets dark earlier in the winter, so be sure to wear reflective clothing. Wear shoes with enough traction to prevent falls in snow or ice.
- Remember sunscreen. It’s just as easy to get burned in the winter as in summer, so don’t forget the SPF.
- Head into the wind. Plan your route so the wind is at your back toward the end of your workout to prevent getting a chill after working up a sweat.
- Drink plenty of fluids. It can be harder to notice the symptoms of dehydration in cold weather, so drink fluids before, during, and after a workout, even if you’re not thirsty.
- Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Know the signs and get help immediately to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.
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Can you improve your happiness simply by breathing for two minutes a day? Apparently so, says Shawn Achor, Harvard-trained happiness researcher and New York Times best-selling author of Before Happiness and The Happiness Advantage.
Achor–quite possibly the funniest and most entertaining scientist you will ever see on a TED Talk stage–has spent years studying happiness and says you can boost your happiness to new levels with a short exercise that has been shown to produce powerful results among participants in his studies.
In an interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday, he shared the game-changing findings behind his research.
“Here’s what we found: For two minutes, watching their breath go in and out–literally two minutes–it gave their brain a new pattern,” he says. “[It went from] multitasking to single-task. Their happiness levels improved, their stress dropped, and, amazingly, the stress of the people around them dropped as well. It starts to cause this chain reaction.”
But first, a little context. Why do we need to change our brain patterns? What gives? Well, historically, most overachievers follow this formula for success: If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.
Achor says this is “scientifically broken and backwards” and not how the brain works. If happiness is on the opposite side of success, our brains will never get there.
For example, we get a good job, now we have to look for a better job with more pay; we hit our sales target, we’ll now strive for a higher target. Every time our brain has a success, we change the goal post of what success looks like.
Achor says our brains work in the opposite order. “If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage. Your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral, or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise,” he says.
In Achor’s research, he found these outcomes from a happier and positive brain:
- Productivity rose by 31 percent
- Sales increased by 37 percent
- The likelihood of promotion rose by 40 percent
- In medicine, doctors were 19 percent faster, and more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive.
The five steps to train your brain to become more positive.
Achor’s technique is so simple, a sixth-grader can do it. We can actually rewire our brain, allowing it to actually work more optimistically and more successfully. Here’s the magic formula:
- Three acts of gratitude. Spend two minutes a day writing down three new things you are grateful for. Do this for 21 days in a row. (Note: The reason this is so powerful is you’re training your mind to scan for positives, instead of threats. It’s the fastest way of teaching optimism.)
- Journal one positive experience. For two minutes a day, write in detail about one positive experience you’ve had during the last 24 hours. (This allows your brain to relive it, and teaches your brain that the behavior matters.)
- Exercise. If you hate exercise, here’s the good news: All it takes is just 15 minutes of fun cardio activity. (Achor says this is the equivalent of taking an anti-depressant for the first six months, but with a 30 percent lower relapse rate over the next two years. And the reason why exercise is valuable is it trains your brain to believe, “My behavior matters,” which is optimism.)
- Breathe. Stop what you’re doing, hands off the laptop. Now breathe and watch your breath go in and out for two minutes. Do this every day. This allows your brain to focus on one thing at a time. (Achor says it will “raise accuracy rates, improve levels of happiness, and drop stress levels.”)
- Express kindness through a text or email. The most important of the five: For two minutes per day, write a positive email or text praising or thanking someone you know. And do it for a different person each day. (Achor says people who do this become known as positive leaders with strong social connections–the greatest predictor of long-term happiness.)
By doing these activities to train your brain, the brain releases dopamine and creates a positive mindset for the long term. It will literally reverse the formula for happiness and success. Watch Achor below at TEDxBloomington.
Last Updated: January 29, 2021 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Kathi Burns, CPO®. Kathi Burns is a board certified Professional Organizer (CPO) and Founder of Organized and Energized!, her consulting business with a mission to empower people to master their environment and personal image by assisting them in taking control, making change and organizing their lives. Kathi has over 17 years of organizing experience and her work has been featured on Better Homes and Gardens, NBC News, Good Morning America, and Entrepreneur. She has a BS in Communication from Ohio University.
There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Keeping a schedule for your day will help you manage your time more efficiently. You can get more done and are less likely to forget tasks or become sidetracked. Although it may seem simpler to take things on as they come, you may find yourself overwhelmed, disorganized, and forgetting things. Making and keeping a schedule can take a little getting used to, but soon you’ll be glad you did–it will help you decrease your stress and make you feel more in control of your life. Scheduling your day allows you to self-regulate and track your own behavior by keeping records of what you need to do and have done.
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A s adults, we countdown to our summer holidays to recharge our batteries. But they can also be a profoundly beneficial time for children. Parents are focused not on work, but on play, thereby giving their children the prized gift of time.
Dad or Mum, building sandcastles, playing badminton on the beach, jumping over waves. It seems like fun, but it’s also “attachment play”, and it’s vital for bonding. Attachment play also enhances self-esteem, sending a child the psychological message: “You have my full attention. I delight in you. I delight in being with you.”
Family holidays take on an even greater importance if you compare them with what goes on at home. So many families have stress-filled lives. Here are some sobering statistics:
- Two-thirds of conversations between parent and child are about daily routine (Elizabeth Buie, TES).
- 65 per cent of parents say they only play occasionally with their children.
- One in six fathers say they do not know how to play with their child and a third say they simply don’t have the time to play (Parent-Play survey, Playmobil UK).
- Only a quarter of children say they talk to parents more than once a week about something that matters (Child of Our Time).
- We worry about our physical health but we need to pay just as much attention to relationship health within the family. And, of course, research shows that relationship health is vital for physical health (Holt-Lunstad et al, 2015).
What is less widely known is that holidays can also advance brain development in children. This is because on a family holiday you are exercising two genetically ingrained systems deep in the brain’s limbic area, which can all too easily be “unexercised” in the home. These are the PLAY system and the SEEKING system (Panksepp 2016).
The brain’s PLAY system is exercised every time you bury your child’s feet in the sand, tickle them on the pool lounger, or take them for a ride on your back. The brain’s SEEKING system is exercised each time you go exploring together: the forest, the beach, a hidden gem of a village.
These brain systems were discovered by Professor Jaak Panksepp, a world-leading neuroscientist at Washington State University. Once your family holiday experiences activate these systems in your brain and your children’s brains, they trigger well-being neurochemicals including opioids, oxytocin and dopamine. Panksepp calls them “nature’s gift to us”. They reduce stress and activate warm, generous feelings towards each other and a lovely sense that all is well in the world. With all the anti-stress aspects of these systems firing, family members get to emotionally refuel.
“We can choose activities and pursuits that release the oxytocin stored in our own inner medical cabinet…We have this wonderful healing substance inside us and need only to learn the many ways we can draw upon it,” Panksepp explains.
The amazing thing is that these systems are like muscles: the more you use them, the more they become part of your personality. Or, as the neuroscientist Bruce Perry puts it: “Emotional states become personality traits” (Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg, Neuroscientist).
So when you take your child on a holiday, you are supporting their explorative urge (SEEKING system) a vital resource for living life well, and their capacity to play (PLAY system). In adulthood, this translates into the ability to play with ideas, essential, for example, to the successful entrepreneur.
Really using the brain’s PLAY and SEEKING systems well, as often happens on a family holiday, brings about brain growth and maturation in the frontal lobes, the very part of the brain involved in cognitive functioning, social intelligence and well-focused, goal-directed behaviours that may last a lifetime (Panksepp, 2015; Burgdorf et al, 2010).
Building concentration skills
But what about being outside, a key aspect of many family holidays? Research has revealed improvements in a child’s attention and concentration levels after being in nature for only 20 minutes. Green-play settings were found to be as good as, or better than, medication for children with ADHD.
There is also evidence that a walk together in green space calms the body, lowering blood pressure and stress hormone levels and even cholesterol – so parents and grandparents stand to benefit, too (Roe et al, 2013).
Is there a relationship between holidays and IQ?
An “enriched” environment offers new experiences that are are strong in combined social, physical, cognitive and sensory interaction (Hannan 2014). Think: family together in the pool; walking together through the forest; touching long tall grasses waving in the wind; toasting marshmallows on campfire; hanging out together under warm sun, feeling sand between the toes. As Nietzsche put it: “ All good things have something lazy about them and lie like cows in the meadow.”
Enriched environments turn on the genetic expression of key “brain fertilisers” in the frontal lobes, enhancing executive functions such as stress regulation, attention, concentration, good planning and ability to learn, also improving physical and mental health. The brain fertilisers triggered in enriched environments are also associated with higher IQ in children (Gunnell 2005). So, spend time exploring together in a new space, and you’re making your child smarter.
An investment in your child’s brain
So if you are choosing between buying your child a tablet or taking them on a family holiday, consider the profound effects on bonding and brain development; there is no competition.
Dr Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist, is Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health. Her three DVDs on “How to have the best relationship with your child” offer practical ideas for brain development and bonding.
If you’re looking for ideas for family holidays, check out our guides to the best summer holidays for 2017 with babies & toddlers; kids aged 4-11; and teenagers.
Good time management depends on knowing the value of each minute. If you can correctly tell how long it will take to do a task, your schedule will never go haywire. So here’s how to get good at estimating time.
Wear a Wristwatch All the Time
To learn to estimate time, you need to be able to regularly check what the time is. It’s that simple. So wear a wristwatch. When you check it repeatedly, it becomes a habit and you will slowly start guessing the time as your hand rotates. I used to have trouble with time but this simple trick has worked wonders for me.
If you have trouble with time, always wear a wristwatch. In case there’s a large wall clock in your room, you can take off your wristwatch—but make sure you put it on again when you leave to go any place where there isn’t a clock. Having any clock at a quick glance is important.
Set an All-Day Alarm that Snoozes Every 10 Minutes
Appreciating small chunks of time sets you up to better estimate large chunks. Do you really know how much you can get done in just 10 minutes? Stephen M. Meade, Founder-CEO of Magazine Moments, shares his trick in LinkedIn :
Take your phone, computer, outlook, calendar, etc. and set up an alarm. Then, set the alarm to snooze for ten minutes each time it goes off.
As you work through the course of your day, notice each time the alarm goes off.
Over time, track what you get accomplished between each alarm notification.
Ten minutes might be too disruptive for your workflow, so feel free to fiddle around with that. The point is to get better at understanding how much you can get done in a short amount of time.
Procrastination researcher Timothy A. Pychyl suggests taking a whole week to track every single activity you do, even things like showering or eating. He says in the Journal of the American Psychological Association that people tend to overestimate how long it will take to complete short tasks and underestimate the time longer projects will take—in other words, the planning fallacy .
Track Your Moods, Not Just Your Results
When you’re having a good day, you will get more stuff done in 10 minutes. On days where you’re feeling drowsy or lethargic, your productivity will decline. If you don’t account for how you are feeling, your time-tracking will not be accurate.
Write down how you spent your minutes and keep notes on how you felt. Be honest. Sometimes you can identify that you feel “on a roll,” which is a good sign that you’re figuring out something about your productivity. So is feeling like you’d really like a nap.
Again, this can’t be done in one day or two. You’ll have to track your results and mood across longer periods —at least a week, ideally a month. Once you do that, you will spot patterns that can be used to refine your judgement of time.
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Calculate Your Fudge Ratio to Give Yourself Breathing Room
You won’t suddenly start to estimate time accurately. It takes… time. Personal development coach Steve Pavlina recommends building a buffer by calculating how far off the mark you usually are. He calls this the “fudge ratio.”
The exercise is tedious, but it will help you out in the long run. Essentially, it’s simple time tracking for projects or tasks that require 10-20 hours of work. You could use any of the time-tracking applications or any method you prefer to record yourself.
So write down the list of tasks you have, or break big projects into smaller tasks , and assign how much time you’ll need for each. When you complete a task, write how much time it took you. When you’re done with all the tasks, add up the actual time and divide it by the total estimated time.
For example, if you estimate that a certain list of tasks will take 12 hours to complete, but they really take 15 hours, then your fudge ratio is 15/12 = 1.25. This means you it took you 25% longer than expected to complete the tasks.
My average fudge ratio is about 1.5. This means that whenever I make an off-the-cuff estimate for how long a task will take, on average I’m too optimistic; the task ends up taking about 50% longer than my initial guess.
This fudge ratio is what you need to bring out when someone asks you for a deadline. Think about how much time you’ll take to do that and multiply it by your fudge ratio. That’s the amount of time you ask for your deadline.
If this seems like too much trouble, you can rely on the simpler “Scotty Principle”, which is basically estimating a time, adding 25% to 50% to that, and committing to the longer time. In fact, there are lots of ways to extend your deadlines .
These practices and tricks should help you get better at estimating how long it takes you to get something done. You’re never going to be 100% accurate every time, but do it enough times and you’ll get a rep for being punctual, and that’s a key trait of being successful .