Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Temporal Landmarks. That's A Thing.

I've written here a number of times about the significance of beginnings and endings of units of time. Last September, I wrote about September becoming the new January for people making changes in their lives. Turns out, there's a term for these kinds of moments. Temporal landmarks. And there's research to describe it.

Hengchen Dai, Katherine L. Milkman, Jason Riis in their paper, The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior (No, I didn't read the whole thing.) describe temporal landmarks as "distinct events that “stand in marked contrast to the seemingly unending stream of trivial and ordinary occurrences that happen to us every day.” I found that a little vague. They also talk about something more specific-- "special occasions and calendar events (e.g., a birthday, a holiday, the beginning of a new week/month), which demarcate the passage of time and create numerous “fresh start” opportunities at the beginning of new cycles." That's better. I'm thinking January and September fall under "beginning of new cycles." 

In their study, Dai, Milkman, and Riis found what they call a fresh start effect whereby people were more likely to  engage in improving behaviors following temporal landmarks, such as the initiation of new calendar cycles (e.g., the start of a new week, month, year, or academic semester), holidays, and birthdays. One of the reasons this could happen: the temporal landmarks may create discontinuities in perception of time that make people feel disconnected from their "past imperfections." I had problems staying on task before, but I'll do better after school starts, after school gets out, after vacation, after my birthday, after your birthday, after winter's over.

Using Temporal Landmarks 

The research team suggests that individuals can not only take advantage of their fresh start feelings at naturally occurring temporal landmarks like holidays, but they may also be able to create fresh starts themselves by creating their own temporal landmarks. For writers, those might be retreats, starting new projects, or vacation writing.

Or it could be a "created" writing event like National Novel Writing Month. In fact, I learned about temporal landmarks in an article on NaNoWriMo in the November/December 2016 Writer's Digest, How a Month of NaNoWriMo Can Lead to a Lifetime of Better Writing.

Next week I'll have more on creating temporal landmarks.

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