Sink or Swim

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You don't have enough time to do the things that matter, but your time seems to just get sucked down the drain by pointless things. Often you even look back at the day and can't figure out where all the time went!

What we can do about it:

Solution: To start off, just notice and name your time sinks. Use time tracking, even if just for 3 days (consider using an app if a lot of your time seems to be on your phone or computer) so you can get a better picture of where your time is currently going.

To actually gain some of that time back, here's three simple methods you can try, from most chaotic to most organized.

Setting intentions (without the other two methods) is peak chaotic time management. This is GREAT for people who feel restricted by things like calendars and checklists. It's all about vibes - not necessarily the specific actions you want to take, but a general focus or feeling for the day. Early on in the day, spend just a few quiet minutes to yourself to decide what you want your day to revolve around, and then remind yourself throughout the day - using post-its, notifications, or even a note scrawled on the back of your hand!

Setting a 10 minute timer, where you work on ANYTHING intentional (housework, reading, playing with kids, exercising, painting, journaling - literally anything that is part of what you value) is great because it takes such little time on a daily basis, but over the course of a week, it adds more than an hour of working toward your goals. And even if you forget til the end of the day, it only takes 10 minutes to get it done.

Finally, you have the option to schedule your intentional time right into the calendar. When the time comes around, you put down the phone or otherwise pull yourself away from the drain and spend the dedicated time working on something intentional, then go back to whatever you were doing before without judgment.

These methods can also be combined in any way you want. You can schedule in 10 minutes to work on the intention you set in the morning, for example - or you can use any one method on its own.


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About the Ex-Gifted Podcast:

If you are a former gifted kid who grew up to struggle with basic adulting, then you need the Ex-Gifted podcast.

Host Ren Eliza talks about gifted kid burnout, and the damage that lasts long into adulthood. Damage like battered self esteem, decimated internal motivation, and a continued failure to live up to expectations even while we were placed on pedestals and alienated from our peers.

Ex-Gifted will cover failure, procrastination, imposter syndrome, and chronic anxiety and depression, and a whole lot more.

Each episode also offers suggestions to deal with your executive dysfunction in adulthood so you can rebuild the systems that allowed you to shine so brightly in childhood.

We’re making exceptional children into functional adults.



Sib if you don't have time for all the things you actually care about, but you can't even say where that time goes, then this is the show for you. This is Ex-Gifted.

Hello and welcome. I'm Ren Eliza. And this week we're talking about, I refer to, I may refer to them as time sinks or attention sinks kind of as if they mean the same thing, but they're not exactly the same. There's a slight difference, but there's also a whole lot of overlap. , so let's start off just talking about what a time sink or an attention sink is.

The time sink, I think is a little bit more intuitive and straightforward. That it's just anything that kind of when you start like that, your time seems to just get sucked, sucked away, sucked right down the drain. , so it can be something like social media. It can be video games. It can honestly even be things that you like to do and want to do. It could be for some people, it can be reading. It can be, , journaling. It is not, it's important to note for these things that they are morally neutral. They are not good things and bad things. They're not things that you should do and things that you shouldn't do.

Time sinks are, it's not a bad thing to have them. They are not bad. They are not things that you shouldn't be doing. They are just things where your time kind of evaporates without you, even noticing and for a lot of people that can be their work -stuff that they do for work. And whether that's a good thing or not, it's kind of up to you and up to the individual, individual circumstances surrounding that work project.

Attention sinks tend to overlap a lot with time sinks. The difference is that instead of looking at it as that your time is getting sucked away without you noticing it's a task where your attention seems to just get pulled in and disappear, basically from your own, your own control. And having some amount of control and direction over your over your attention is pretty fundamental as far as controlling your intentions.

So the attention sinks can be the same kinds of things. , the video games, TV things that once you turn your attention to them, it's really hard to turn your attention away from them. And that's generally what causes the time sink in the first place. Right? So attention sinks are often just the things that it's easy for us to hyper-focus on.

It's the things that we, once we start doing them, our attention goes directly. One track, mind. And then as your attention is on that thing, your time also just disappears.

So the, probably the most impactful attention sink for me is transitions. So last week I was talking about the small things. With small things, you're switching between a lot of different things, really fast and yet I never feel -when I'm working on small things, I never feel like a lot of that attention is actually getting lost in transition times. Like I do when I'm working on one thing and then have to shift to something different, , because I am trying to push or pull my attention to something different or if my attention gets kind of interrupted halfway and I go to work on one thing and I'm having to use, use mental power to shift it to something else that always causes a big loss in my attention to transitions and I have to spend effort to get my attention. It's like lagging behind. And so the transition always ends up taking longer.

With the small things though. I've realized since I made that last, the last episode, that small things is really a different kind of flow. It's something that I actually have called in the past hummingbird mode because you're just kind of flitting around from one thing to the next. And because you're not really consciously directing your attention, the transition time between one thing and is very fast because your attention is already on that other thing, which is why you're switching to it in the first place.

We talked about a couple of weeks ago about what people traditionally think of as being the flow state looks like. But what I've come to realize is that there are actually different kinds of flow states. Hummingbird mode is another one of those. And actually hyperfocus also is obviously a flow state. That's why a lot of people try to harness it using things like the sensory techniques that we talked about.

However. Flow states. And we know hyper-focus for certain. They're not always beneficial when it comes to kind of reaching your goals, getting the things done that you're intending to do.

And sinks are absolutely another kind of flow state. That's why we're using the same kind of energy. Sink is literally a descriptor for a certain kind of flow for water or heat or whatever, to flow from one place to another. That's why it's called a sink. So it is also a flow state but it's one where it's just like raging rapids and you have to have some certain skillsets to navigate them. In a way that is. Most useful for you that doesn't end up sucking you down with it.

So I do want to talk more in the future about different kinds of flow states, but for now we're going to talk about sinks. The reason I brought up the small things is again to just kind of reinforce that point that for sinks. It's not necessarily the thing you are doing. That's the problem. It's the, how you are doing it. That creates a problem for you.

If you're always feeling like you don't have enough time to do things that are important to you to live up to your values, to do the hobbies that matter to you, to spend time with, with the people that matter to you to take care of yourself. If you don't have time to do the things that you love, but also at the end of the day, you feel like you haven't done anything- that that's a very familiar state for me, but the good news is that there are lots of things that we can do.

And so to start off just noticing and naming what your time sinks are is huge. So for me, like I said, transition times is a big one. There are a few ways that you can cut down on transition time. One of them is actually the hummingbird mode, cause the faster, your attention switches, the less time you're going to spend in transition. But we're not going to get into all of the different ways that, it seems like a great topic for another day.

The transition time and when I'm using it, I'm not really now, but when I'm using it, social media is another big one. And third is probably just random internet searching rabbit holes, just whatever my hyper fixations are. At the time. I'm currently just all in, on my, the D&D campaign that I, that I DM. And so every waking minute, that's where my attention is drawn. And that's something that matters to me. That's important to me and it can still be an attention sink.

Those two things can overlap, especially if you find yourself kind of so consumed by it that you're not even really doing things efficiently. This is kind of a classic thing for creators or entrepreneurs, spending like three hours on one little social media graphic for one post that you're going to use one time. That's what makes it a sink instead of just, just doing your work.

So to start off just noticing and naming what those things are, and whether you think, you know, what they might be or not a really good way to start is to time track, even if it's just for three days. I know, I know it's a big ask, but if you use a lot of time on your phone or on a computer, you can use, an app like rescue time or other related apps like that, that will just tell you what apps you are spending time on. Or what websites you're spending time on. I can link some of them in the show notes.

And you can also use a paper planner that will allow you to mark out the times that you spend on different kinds of things.

So for one week, if you can, because. If it's just, if it's like a normal week than doing it for one week, will capture all the different kinds of days, that you usually have, whereas three days get at least one day in there. That's kind of like your weekend, whether that's actually on Saturday and Sunday or not, but somewhere between three and seven, Track it and just try as best as you can to record exactly what you're doing at every minute, over the course of the day.

I know that it's rough. I know because I have done it multiple times, because as your life changes, the time sinks and the things that you spend your days doing change as well. So this is unfortunately not necessarily a one and done, but for just a few days, intensely track your time. As much as you can down to down to the half hour, really, it would be, would be ideal.

You could even set a timer on your phone for every hour, every half hour to remind you to write down basically what you have just been doing over that last, that last time, time block. Just so that at the end, you can actually see and actually know where your time goes. And instead of thinking that you know, which I would hope that we all know that that's not the same thing as actually knowing.

So that's what you can do to just notice your time sinks. And honestly, just that is already big help because it makes it easier for you to notice. 15 minutes or whatever into scrolling Facebook knowing that that's a thing that you lose a lot of time to makes it easier for you to notice when you're losing a lot of time to it.

So just that is a really big start, but there are other things that we can do as well. There's lots of different options. I'm going to just give three and I'm going to, this is the chaotic organized podcast after all, I'm going to go from kind of the most chaotic option to the most organized option.

So to start with. You can work on what they call setting intentions.

If you just do this one thing, if you just kind of start your day off, setting intentions, it's like the most chaotic time management technique that you can use because it's not really giving you specific rules or even guidelines to follow. It's just kind of vibes. It's vibes based times time management.

So to do this, there's lots of ways that you can do it. You can use tarot, you can just do some journaling. But sometime early on in the day, it is one of the very first things that I do when I wake up is spend just a little bit of time, maybe five minutes thinking about how you want to spend the rest of your day. Just kind of a key word or two that's just the feeling that you want the day to have.

And so if it's fun, then you might put more focus for the rest of the day into things that are fun. Like maybe that's playing with your kids or going to the park. Maybe it's playing video games. Maybe that's actually what you want to do for the day. Maybe for you the peak fun is reading a book, nothing wrong with that.

So if you have your vibe for the day to be fun, even if you have to get the dishes washed, you could wear your headphones, put on a fun book - fun audio book or listen to critical role while you're doing dishes. I don't know anyone who does that. Or just put on some music and dance a little bit while you're doing your dishes, because your intention for the day is fun.

Or maybe it's peace. And you're going to spend the day trying to focus on doing more calming things. And so when you notice that you're kind of getting into. High energy things and you remember, no, I want to, I want to be having peace for the day, you shift your focus to something that's a little bit more chill.

So you can use the intention setting on its own, or you can combine any of these three things, kind of however you want. So if you just use intention setting, that's not going to add a whole lot of more structure to your day. Remember, this is, this is the pure chaos method. So for some of you, that might be exactly what you want is to not add the structure, but still kind of be able to sculpt your time to use it a little bit more intentionally. And so we do that by setting intentions by telling our brain what it's trying to look for, what it's supposed to be doing.

Number two, this is somewhat more organized. You can set a 10 minute timer for doing your, whatever your intentional things are. And you can, again, you can use these things together or separately, so you could start the morning setting intentions, and then later set a 10 minute timer.

And during that 10 minute timer, you are going to be dedicating, definitely focusing on doing something fun or related to whatever your intention is.

But you can also do it without setting intentions. You can just, at any point in the day say, okay, I have something that I know I need to get done and set your timer and work on it for that 10 minutes.

Since it's just 10 minutes and you're going to set a timer so that, you know, you can actually stop after 10 minutes. even if you do make it to the end of the day and you're getting ready to go to bed. You can be like, oh shit, I forgot. You can still just go ahead and set it. It's only going to be 10 minutes, even if you do it right before bed.

10 minutes seems so minuscule when we're talking about over the course of a day. Remember that also 10 minutes over the course of a week is at least an hour.

Even if you miss a day, it's still an hour and adding an hour of time that you're spending intentionally the way that you want to spend it, instead of it just disappearing down the drain of your time sink. That's not something that you should be ignoring. That's a big deal. An hour of intentional time is a big deal.

And as you do this with a 10 minute timer, you also can add slowly, like maybe once more a month or something, add in a second 10 minute timer. Remember each 10 minute timer you do a day. Translates into about an hour over the course of a week.

And third, you can actually make a schedule. And your schedule doesn't necessarily have to be hourly like this, and it doesn't have to be on paper. You can use it in Google calendar. You can. Use it in a paper planner, you can do a bullet journal, which you know that I love.

Scheduling your time is obviously the very organized way to do it. And I do think it's important to note that even scheduling has various levels of organized-ness. Organization. No, that's not really the same thing. But you can have a very strictly laid out and regimented schedule and you can have a very loose kind of flowing schedule that you might just have a block of like three hours that says work, and you're not necessarily supposed to be working all of those three hours, but you need to work at some point during those three hours. It's up to you exactly how strict and specific that you want your schedule to be. And of course, don't fight your brain too much on this.

For the next episode, I am going to talk through. Some of the actual practicalities of using a planner, because I know that a lot of people, myself included. Tell you to use a planner and then you either try it or you just think through it and you're like, yeah, that sounds like a fucking perfect solution. Why did I never think about that? But you've tried it before and you know that it's not that simple.

I know that it's not that simple because I still go through it all the time. I have days that I forget about my planner. I have days where I don't forget about it, but I just like, can't do it. And I know about all of those difficulties around. Using a planner. So I'm going to talk through not the not the kind of tips about like how to set up your planner or anything about that, but like how to actually incorporate it into your life, because that's what you need to know. The planner only works if you actually use it.

For now, just know that you can also, you can use your schedule with the 10 minute timer and/or with the intentions, or you can use it really without that, you can just write down what you want to do and just do the stuff then, but you could also schedule in a timer that you definitely want, or you can schedule any time that you definitely want to use that 10 minute timer. Like maybe you know, that you want to get it done sometime in the block from like 10 to noon or something.

Honestly, scheduling in when you're going to do that 10 minute timer makes it a lot less likely that you're going to forget until the end of the day when you're like already going to bed.

So those are my favorite methods to kind of combat the time and attention sinks. You'll notice that they don't necessarily direct, directly attack the time sinks because that's not really the goal, right? Like what's the point of addressing your time sinks? Is it so that you don't have wasted time because does it matter if your time is wasted?

In my opinion, wasting time is, is neutral. I don't really care that my time is wasted. What I care about is that the stuff that I love, that I care about that I want to do, is something that I spend my time on? So. Putting the focus on trying to stop the time sinks that's not the right place to focus.

Instead, I'm putting the focus on the positive, putting the focus on doing the things I want to do rather than putting the focus on stopping the things that I don't want to do. Which again, depending on what your time sinks are, they might even be things that you do want to do. So it can be especially hard to, to try to stop them.

But of course there are things that you can do for that too, for things that you just have that you have no real control over. Like Facebook generally is for me. , it's very hard for me to use Facebook in moderation and. It's easier for me to just step away from it completely.

And I have talked about some of the ways that you can, that you can do that, but really my suggestion is focusing on putting in intentional time, rather than focusing on eliminating the sinks. Or reducing the sinks, which is even harder than eliminating them.

Because the more you do that and focus on the things that you care about and that you want to do the happier you're going to be overall, the more time you're going to have on those things. Kind of the more your brain is going to naturally gravitate to those things because they make you happy.

So go forth and try it out. Try adding this intentional time, back into your days, and then let me know how it works out. I'd like to hear which if any of these three methods you try and which ones seem to have the best results for you.

And if you want to start a planner, but you're scared that it's not going to work for you or you've tried it a lot of times and it hasn't worked for you, if that sounds like you definitely a tune into the next episode. Cause that's something that I went through more than once. And so I will talk you through some of the things that I did to make planning something that I actually do consistently and how to not forget your planner.

I am going to take off for the rest of the month of June. So look for that sometime in early July. And I'm going to do like a whole thing how to use your planner.

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So check that out and until next time, byeeeeee.


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