For anyone who lives in Minnesota, you know that summer is when everyone is eager to enjoy what our great state has to offer. Home of thousands of lakes, hundreds of miles of trails, and thousands of acres of forest, there is no shortage of “stuff” to do this summer.
Do you have your plan on how will you get to it all? Is it even possible?
Yes. It is. All it takes is one simple trick. But first, let’s look at the concept of “time.”
In the “Nick of Time”
What is “time”? Can we actually perceive “time” as something tangible? Philosophical giant, George Carlin said, “There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past.” To be sure, we rely greatly on our memories to perceive “time.” What did we eat for breakfast? Who won the horseshoe tournament last summer? Did I just take a sip of water? These events can be recollected, so they must be part of what we perceived.
But, what about the concept of the recent past. When does the recent past transition from “now“? The concept of “now” lays on a razor edge. Some say that “now” is actually in the past. Carlin sure thinks so! Indeed, your brain perceives “now” at an 80 millisecond delay. But, some think that we have a little more leeway, more like three seconds in which “now” is “right now“.
So, we’ve got about three seconds to experience something before it becomes memories. But, how do we maximize these experiences before they become relegated to “the past.” After doing some research, I found that each separate group of “three seconds” are not collected equally. In order to maximize our “time”, we need to actually be engaged in our activities. These “three seconds” intervals feel longer if we actually have memories stored in them.
Think of the last time your were stuck in a traffic jam. You can recall that you were inconvenienced, maybe uncomfortable, but you probably don’t remember much more than that. You can recall that you were stuck in traffic for a certain amount of time, but recalling every moment of that experience is probably difficult. The reason is because you probably weren’t “in the zone”. Your “flow” was not achieved.
So, what is “flow?” Our good friend, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has the answer!
According to the Hungarian psychologist Csikszentmihalyi, flow is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
In other words, time well spent is when you are “fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity,” or put colloquially, when you’re “in the zone.”
Studies are showing that when we are watching television, scrolling through our social media feeds, or other passive activities, we may be zoning out, but we are definitely not achieving “flow”. When we look back at a day full of a Netflix binge, we may have a memory of it, but we probably don’t have high memories of it. What that means, is that the memories aren’t as fresh, full of color.
Anthony Burgess wrote in the New Yorker in 1973 on the subject of time. He lamented the increasing demand for “routine work, work with no zest of creativity. The things we eat, clothes we wear, places where we live become increasingly standardized…Life ticks along for most of us like a Woolworth’s alarm clock.”
There are studies saying we have only started to experience these different time variations once we started following this “clock time”. You see, other than circadian rhythms, there’s not really an internal biological method for telling time. We have become “in synch” with clocks. And with clocks becoming linked to our biology (through fitness trackers, cell phones, etc.) it is becoming more and more difficult to become “lost in the moment”.
With this increase in technology (and a greater dependence on “clock time”), humankind has increased its ability to take on more work, but also more entertainment! We can work from home, telecommute, and consider ourselves “available” at any hour. We can queue up hours (days!) of our favorite shows on demand. We can track our packages down to the minute. Tech has given us the freedom (and shackles!) of being able to do a lot more things with our time. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, are we actually doing more?
Have you ever been standing in line at the grocery store and the guy in front is taking forever? What do you do? Instead of being alone with yourself, you instead check the Twins score. You update your Facebook profile. You read your favorite blog (*ahem*). This is called “living away” from yourself, and these intervals of time (remember those important “three seconds”) are measured less because you’ve not achieved your FLOW.
Summer in Minnesota
So, what does this have to do with summer in Minnesota?
It’s simple. Minnesota is awesome.
It hosts heritage festivals on an almost daily basis. Boasting over 65 state parks, you can visit each one every other day of summer and never repeat. Plus, you’ll never go hungry with hundreds of local farmers markets to choose from. Long answer, short: Because you live in the great state of Minnesota, you are able to fill your summer with unique activities every single day.
These are all things that can help you achieve your “flow”.
But, here comes the caveat: How can you enjoy all these newfound activities in only a few short weeks? From the beginning of June to the end of August, we are given only 12 weeks to cram in a summer. Time (as a tangible concept) is felt ever more in these weeks. We can “feel” our summer slipping away, and unless we plan properly, we are doomed to do the same things we always have done. This is why you need to try new things!
This is the best way to “stretch time,” so to speak. It all comes down to what your brain perceives as novel. When you spend time doing something unfamiliar, your brain focuses more on collecting the data associated with the activity, thus creating a more thorough memory of the experience. When you reflect on that memory, it feels like you had more time.
So, how do we fit the most into our summer? The answer is to do different things.
- Go to a new restaurant
- Walk along a beach you haven’t been to before
- Go to a neighboring town’s farmer’s market
- Venture through a neighborhood you haven’t visited in awhile
- Hike a trail in the opposite direction
- Bike to your best friend’s house
These are just suggestions to get your own ideas flowing. Also, I’m not suggesting you put away your tech. Use your gps to go geocaching. Track your bio data through your fitbit. Use your camera to document your surroundings. But, above all, remember that the goal is primarily to create new experiences. Maximize your memories and “stretch time” to be able to get to all you want to do.
Maximize Your Memories
You now know how you can maximize your summertime by filling it with new experiences, so here are some ideas to get you going. I dipped heavily into the excellent work over at Only In Your State. They have put together a ton of destinations and road trips specifically for each state. I’ll highlight a few, but you should definitely go on over to their site. They do great work.
The Great Ice Cream Road Trip
For those of you that have a sweet tooth, this is the best way to indulge. The Great Ice Cream Road Trip will give you a chance to indulge at six different ice cream shops with stops spread out over 150 miles. Starting on the east side of the Twin Cities in St. Croix, the trail loops south and east into Afton, Farmington, Rochester, and finishes in Lanesboro. At each stop, you have the chance to experience a new homemade flavor of ice cream. Talk about sweet memories.
Bike Trails for All Levels
Living directly on one of the longest paved trails in Minnesota has spoiled me. If I wanted to ride my bike to work (Brainerd to Pine River), I could do so without touching a road. The Paul Bunyan trail is a beautiful, easily rode trail that welcomes beginners (with flat surfaces and easy grades) and experts (for those that want to bike over 100 miles in a day). But, Minnesota has many more trails to offer. Are you looking for a short 19 mile ride following the contours of a gentle river? You can’t go wrong with the Cannon Valley Trail. Are you looking for a more exciting jaunt? Check out the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails. There is huge buzz for what is happening in Crosby/Ironton area. The little town is experiencing a renaissance, of sorts, that all began when the mine pits (through which the Cuyuna area was formed) were discovered to be perfect for mountain biking. Give them a try!
Food For Miles
According to Minnesota Grown, there are 184 farmers markets taking place over the summer. If you did the math, you would find that there are 84 days in our summer.It may put a damper of some of the other experiences you could do during the summer, but if you were committed you would be able to peruse over two markets a day. You could find ingredients for a locally made salad for lunch and then buy new ingredients for a locally made dinner in the evening.
Festivals For Weeks
Here’s a small list of festivals all around Minnesota. You can find a lot more at Only in Your State.
Bullhead Days – Waterville – June 9-11
Agate Days – Moose Lake – July 15
Festival of the Voyageur – Pine City – September 16-17
MN Garlic Festival – Hutchinson – August 12
Potato Days- Barnesville – August 25-26
Bean-Hole Days – Pequot Lakes – July 11-12
King Turkey Days – Worthington – Sept 15-16
Corn Capital Days – Olivia – July 24-30
Dam Festival – Little Falls – June 16-17
Summerfest – Pine River – July 28-30
Finding your flow this summer will take a little hard work and a lot of self control. If you wanted to write down a list of things you wanted to achieve this season (a “bucket list” of sorts) that would be helpful. But, I would recommend against it. Planning for the summer can definitely help you check off the most boxes on your list, however, is that the goal of summer?
I feel that summer is meant to be a time where memories can be quickly made and savored a leisure. However, if more of your time is being spent planning, managing, and squeezing every last drop of summer into your head then less time is actually being spent on focusing on your experiences. You’ll never get “into the zone” that way. I would recommend to make a simple plan and see where the summer takes you.
You have plenty of time.