Quotidian Serendipity: Take back your time


A month vacation in my original country, Spain, has left me relaxed and, I must confess, with a little bit of jet lag. And I say this because, let’s face it, Spain is on the same time as Norway, but Spanish habits and Norwegian habits are far from synchronized.

When Norwegians finish work around 16.00, Spanish are waking up from their naps. When Spanish eat dinner (around 22.00), Norwegians rest carefree and many hours have passed from when they had that meal. It is surreal how different cultures use their time so differently, and this got me thinking. Despite cultural differences, are there any things we can do on a specific time of the day to get the most of it?

The answer is yes, according to Michael Smolensky, a professor of environmental physiology at Texas School of Public Health (Houston). Here is a list of activities you can do to squeeze your time, and be productive, rest better and improve your life in general.

Between 8.00 and 10.00: Remember information
This period of time might seem way too long, but science shows that we actually have two mental peaks during the day, that help us retain information. One takes place in the morning, in which our short term memory works best. The second mental peak occurs in the evening, when our brain is able to memorize information that we need to be stored for a longer amount of time. So, imagine you need to study for an exam: you can use the evening to study the most, and the morning before the exam to give a quick review and remember facts better in that moment.

Between 10.00 and 11.00: Get a haircut, your grocery shopping and other errands
This tip comes from a dear friend and hairdresser, who assures you that right after a salon opens, it is when the stylists are fresher and feeling more creative. This tip has a logical base, and the same applies to grocery or clothes shopping: you too will feel more relaxed because the morning is not peak time for shopping, which means you will be able to focus on what you need, decide what to buy with less people around you. Let’s not waste any time in long queues.

Between 13.00 and 14.00: Take a Nap
This might sound as a tip in the form of Spanish intruder, but those who have the chance and feel the need to do so, should take a break in the middle of the day. No longer than 20 minutes, according to Smolensky. It is about giving your body what it needs, and according to Richard Schwab, in modern life, we are often sleep-deprived. It is important to remember, despite all, that more than 30 minutes can have the opposite effect we look for in a nap: instead of feeling rested and energized, you might feel more tired. So control the clock!

Around 16.00: Clean the house
Some might find this activity irrelevant and boring, but we all know we need to do it once in a while. And in the afternoon our hand-eye coordination is at its highest, according to Smolensky. So who knows? Maybe taking the vacuum cleaner at the right time can save us some time that we can use in, well, anything else but cleaning.

Around 17.00: Ask for a raise
This tip is not only based on pure logic (who is not happier at the end of a long day of work?), but also in Science. According to Smolensky, at the end of the afternoon our body temperature tends to be higher, which makes us more alert. This means that you will be more prepared to defend the reasons why you deserve your raise. That added to your boss’ probable good mood, and a fewer number of things to do at the end of his or her day can be of big help.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “lost time is never found again”, so use yours wisely. This way, you might able to compete more fairly in the eternal fight that we, young adults, hold against the always stressing, never-stopping clock.

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