NPR Told me I Don’t Have Time To Think and They Are Right

78321193 thinking“I’m so busy I don’t have time to think!” Do you feel like that sometimes? I know I do. The thing is, I realized this week that I DO have time to think, I’m just spending that time doing other things instead.

My Gut Reaction

I’m an NPR junkie, and I heard a story called “bored and brilliant” this week that made me instantly feel defensive. The premise was that because of the instant and constant availability of Smartphones, we don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore. My gut reaction was, “What’s so wrong with that? Sure, I use my phone a lot during the day, but it’s to be efficient with my work and squeeze every moment out of my workday. I never pull my phone out during family time. This is just another story making technology out to be evil. Grumble grumble grumble.”

Then I listened more closely to the story. The author makes the point that we’re more likely to get our most brilliant ideas when we’re bored, daydreaming, or thinking about something else. Makes sense. That’s why we come up with our best ideas in the shower right?

My Realization

Then it hit me. The shower is one of the last places we still let our minds wander, and when waterproof phones are everywhere, that will probably change too.

Now I notice my aversion to being even the slightest bit bored all the time. Waiting in line at the post office? Pull out my phone. Arrive a few minutes early for a meeting? Pull out my phone. Out to dinner and my hubby gets up to go to the bathroom? God forbid I sit and enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant for 90 seconds. That’s 90 seconds I could be using to check my very important email.

There is a very fine line between being efficient, and never allowing your brain any moment of downtime. I’m going to try to manage that balance much better. Because you know what? I DO get my best ideas when I’m not trying. So I’m going to try to “not try” more often.

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Why Does Time Move Faster as We Get Older?

Time Management FlowerThis weekend, while sitting around watching football with friends, we started talking about how life seemed to move so much slower when we were little (the Oregon Ducks were dismantling Tennessee, so the game had become pretty uninteresting at this point.) Do you remember waiting for your 5th birthday to arrive? Or the summer before you started 1st grade? Didn’t it seem like forever? Why is that? Never fear. I turned to NPR to figure out the “why” and this blog will provide the “so what.”

One Theory

A neuroscientist explained to NPR that one theory of why time moves faster later in life is that when we’re young, we experience a lot of “firsts.” First day of school, first bike ride, first trip to the beach, etc…During these experiences, you soak up every last detail — the sights, the smells, the sounds — because everything is new. You have no prior experience to compare anything to.

Then, as we accumulate a lot of the same experiences, they all start to run together. We stop noticing details. We become heavily entrenched in our routines.

Be An Observer

So how do we stop this? How do we put the brakes on the runaway train? Be an observer. Be a “notice-er.” When you walk outside, take a second to observe how the sun feels on your skin. As you take a sip of coffee, take a moment to observe how good it smells. This is not to say you should meander through life slowly gazing at everything you pass. No, let’s be honest, you have to get stuff done too, but being a more careful observer can help bring back some of the novelty to your life’s experiences.

And don’t put too much pressure on yourself to appreciate just the big moments. I remember during my first trip to Disney World a few years ago, I kept thinking, “Are you appreciating this right now, Emily? Like, really appreciating it? Because you won’t be back here for a while. Appreciate harder.” It’s so much pressure! Being a careful observer will help you appreciate the little things and make valuing your life’s experiences a habit.

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