Off the Clock Summer in September challenge day 1: Plan something memorable

While researching Off the Clock, I came across a fascinating insight from Alan Burdick. He wrote: “Very often when we remark, ‘How did time fly by so quickly?’ what’s actually meant is some version of ‘I don’t remember where the time went.'”

Time perception turns out to be all about memory. The more memory units we have from any span of time, the longer it appears to be. That’s why the first day of a vacation somewhere exotic seems so long. Your brain has no idea what it needs to know in the future, so it’s remembering all of it. All these memories make the time expand.

The opposite is also true. When time isn’t memorable we don’t remember it. When too much sameness stacks up, whole years can disappear into memory sinkholes. We have no answer to the question “why is today different from other days?” and so the day is forgotten.

Some of this is inevitable. You are not going to commute to work 250 different ways this year. But in my Off the Clock time diary study, I found that some people were better than others about planning little adventures — little memorable adventures — into their lives.

I had 900 people with full time jobs and families track their time on a March Monday. I asked questions about how they felt about their time. The people with the highest time perception scores were highly likely to have done very interesting, very fun things on that March Monday. One person went to a big band concert. Another went to salsa dancing lessons. One went to a movie — on a Monday night!

Their evenings didn’t disappear into the familiar work-commute-dinner-TV-bed routine. They created memories, which helped them feel like they had more time.

Summer is certainly a prime time for adventure. Having such adventures makes time feel expansive. But adventures need not be confined to summer!

This leads us to the first challenge in the Off the Clock “Summer in September” series (which is all about keeping the summer vibe going into the school year).

Look at the upcoming weekend. What little adventure could you plan into your life? What could you do so that, come Monday, you’d think of September 8-9, 2018 as a memorable weekend?

And then the follow-up — more advanced! — challenge. What adventure could you plan into the upcoming work week? What could you do that would make at least one day stand out from the rest?

We actually have a long weekend coming up with Rosh Hashanah (our school district has Jewish holidays off), so I’m planning a zoo or apple-picking trip with my kids on Monday (possibly both, depending on the weather). I then have a much bigger (potential) adventure coming up the next weekend, but more on that when it’s finalized.

In any case, “memorable” need not mean elaborate. A weekday evening picnic at a park would be out-of-the-ordinary. Or even a picnic breakfast in the back yard!

What adventure will you plan to stretch the experience of time?

7 thoughts on “Off the Clock Summer in September challenge day 1: Plan something memorable

  1. I was just thinking about this! I realize that the weeks where I have no evening plans are just so hard to get through, since everyday runs together. My kids are in school but no evening activities yet, even, to add some variety to the days. Its just work/home/dinner/bed (I don’t even have time to watch TV in the evenings anymore, since I go to bed right after the kids do in order to read for 20 minutes and get to sleep for the 5:30 wake up). I am committed to eating at home this month (to save $ and calories) and that rules out the usual trick of going out to eat for a treat. Its too hot to even go to the park. I need to brainstorm something to break up the monotony of the week because its only the 2nd week of school and I’m already feeling blah about it all!
    I’m thinking an evening work out class (something different than my usual) would be fun, or going for a swim at the Y, and I like the idea of picnic dinners (if/when it cools down before it gets cold!)

    1. @Ana- those are all great ideas – evening swim, evening workout class, eating outside. I’m not sure if it will be nice at all before it’s cold here but we can hope!

  2. This explains another reason why I love book club aka wine tasting meetings with the girls — seems to break up the “monotony” of the typical evening.

    1. @Eileen – exactly! One reason I started singing in choir is that a lot of my evenings looked pretty similar too. Nice to have something different going on (even if each choir rehearsal isn’t *that* different from the others).

  3. I love these ideas for making your evening more interesting! Netflix is great but it gets so monotonous. Sometimes I will take the kids to the public library after dinner. Or just go down to the beach and throw rocks. I also enjoy doing picnic dinners but it seems to require too much planning. Like I only have ingredients for lasagne, or something else that is not practical to pack up. Going out to a restaurant is probably my favorite way to make an evening feel more special.

  4. I love this idea, and am going to put some thought into it. I still plan my weeks on Sunday (works better for me than Friday, when I’m just too tired!), and it’s my birthday next week, so it’s a good time to plan a little adventure.

  5. I have 46 weeks and two days left of fellowship. How about some suggestions on making it go by as fast as possible. I am sick of medical training.

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