Third-day syndrome

Published by Lori Pickert on September 13, 2010 at 03:19 PM


He has not read any of the research papers he brought. And the $25 million e-mail? “I was never worried about it. I haven’t thought about it,” he says, as if the very idea were silly.

Mr. Kramer says the group has become more reflective, quieter, more focused on the surroundings. “If I looked around like this at work, people would think I was goofing off,” he says.

The others are more relaxed too. Mr. Braver decides against coffee, bypassing his usual ritual. The next day, he neglects to put on his watch, though he cautions against reading too much into it. “I sometimes forget to put my watch on at home, but in fairness, I usually have my phone with me and it has a clock on it.”

Mr. Strayer, the believer, says the travelers are experiencing a stage of relaxation he calls “third-day syndrome.” Its symptoms may be unsurprising. But even the more skeptical of the scientists say something is happening to their brains that reinforces their scientific discussions — something that could be important to helping people cope in a world of constant electronic noise.

“If we can find out that people are walking around fatigued and not realizing their cognitive potential,” Mr. Braver says, then pauses and adds: “What can we do to get us back to our full potential?”NY Times: Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain

We were on vacation for a couple of weeks, road-tripping through Colorado and Utah.

I had read this article just before we left, and while we were gone I realized that for us, third-day syndrome is a way of life.

Working and learning at home, without a lot of jarring transitions, we exist mostly in a mode of relaxation and quiet focus. There is plenty of uninterrupted time for concentrating on something interesting. There is enough structure so that work and leisure are both pleasantly anticipated and enjoyed.

Does a slow life help people reach their full potential?


Comment by se7en on September 13, 2010 at 09:16 PM

Hay, how bizarre is that !!!! I read that article and thought wow... I know what it feels like to have stepped off the world!!!! I think there are quite literally folks that just don't know how to stop and have to just "go-go-go" to survive. We have stepped off and life is chilled... I think we need a bit of both worlds to perform our best... to strive when we need to strive and reflect when we need to reflect. I guess there is a time for everything under the sun!!!

Comment by Cristina on September 13, 2010 at 10:17 PM

I've argued for a slow lifestyle for years. In our area, it's easy to get caught up into everyone's urgency. Those who work faster/ read faster/ get places faster seem to be the ones we reward. Many equate faster with more efficient. I disagree. People who rush through their work tend to make more mistakes. I am a slow reader. I ponder and my mind wanders as I read. But I retain what I read for longer. I try to leave in enough time and drive within the speed limit, which makes me a safer driver than someone speeding and weaving in and out of traffic.

Our society doesn't understand slowing down. We rush through life, drink too much caffeinated beverages and live in a hyper state. But I can tell you from writing my comics, if I've been too busy all week, my creativity level goes down. I fix this by spending some time relaxing in my garden, sleeping in, or taking a walk. It really does increase my potential when I slow down.

Peace and Laughter!

Comment by shelli on September 14, 2010 at 01:54 AM

I knew just what article you were talking about when I read your first line. I read it a couple of weeks ago, and I loved it. This is one of the reasons I want to homeschool - so that my boys can grow up with a slower life. I want them to learn balance. We are often connected to the Internet and we watch T.V., but I want them to know how to turn it all off and go outside. I want dreaming and relaxing to be a big part of life.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 14, 2010 at 02:12 AM

se7en, i was thinking .. people are kind of addicted to busyness and chaos. even if you said, if you slow down and relax and do less, you'll end up accomplishing more .. you'll reach your *full potential* .. i don't think many people would go for it.

a lot of people seem just uncomfortable with slowing down and doing less. i think you're right -- people don't know how to stop .. but i also think .. maybe they just don't want to!

cristina, yes! spot on about how we reward the over-doers/overachievers. high-school students who cram their schedules so full that they don't have time to eat lunch & etc. -- it's seen as a positive thing.

i'm guessing people in more traditionally creative/artistic lines of work have a clearer understanding about the need for down time, a slower pace, etc.

but really all work -- like the scientists' work in the article -- is creative. they need to think of brand-new ways to look at problems and new approaches to solving them. they need their down time as well. they just don't get it.

shelli, yes, the elusive balance! we watch tv and use the internet, too. i don't believe in demonizing technology. we need to learn how to integrate these things into a balanced life. and, for us, a slow life. ;)

Comment by Karen on September 14, 2010 at 03:27 AM

I believe that the slow life does help us achieve our full potential, because it gives us time to stop and think about, well, everything.

Thanks for this post, and enjoy your trip!

Comment by se7en on September 14, 2010 at 06:57 AM

AAAAHHH!!!! Finding the balance!!!! I know what you mean about loving it!!! My hubs works for an internet provider and they literally work 24/7... driven.... they listen to podcasts at double speed, they dash through their newsreaders, they literally live right on the edge - pushing themselves as far as they can before they crash.... These guys love it, they love the adrenalin rush and they love living on the edge and they think they are achieving so much more than anybody else!!! Then there is us... with a bunch of kids.... life is slow, it has to be!!! And our kids are not in school so we don't even have a morning dash... but one thing folks always ask - because it appears as if we are so slow we might fall off - how do we get so much done!!! Simple: Very little bits at a time!!! When your goal for the day is reading a pile of Golden Books and making dinner it really is quite manageable!!! ANd what as my husband say - if he didn't have our slow haven he would have gone mad years ago... so it does take all types!!! And it does take a little balance!!!

Comment by Jill on September 14, 2010 at 09:57 AM

A slow life is not valued in North America. You just aren't cool if you aren't running around from job to store to games to concerts. If you aren't doing these things, I think it's easy to feel insignificant, whether the pressure is real or imagined. I think doing nothing is valued even less than squandering a night in front of the TV!

But I would def. agree that people reach their full potential in a more calm, slower pace of life.


Comment by Lori Pickert on September 14, 2010 at 02:18 PM

karen, exactly, and thank you for bringing it right back to project-based homeschooling. if we always are moving relentlessly, swiftly forward, we don't have time to process. we don't have time to make it our own, to do something with it, to change it, to improve it.

how can we reach our full potential as *learners* if we don't have time to actually *work* with knowledge?

se7en, lol re: having manageable goals .. that is so true! we do less but we enjoy it much more. and all those people spinning their wheels and rushing about .. i wonder if they really get the full enjoyment of having done a task. i wonder if they can even remember what they did!

i'm very familiar with techy guys and their addiction to zooming through ilfe and technology .. and i'm not sure they retain or remember 90% of what they see/hear/read. maybe that's why the internet doesn't bore them .. they zip through it so fast they're only catching 10%. ;^)

jill, agree, agree. not valued and .. even suspect, i think. if you're immersed in a culture that is busily doing those things then yes, it might be easy to feel insignificant .. you might wonder what you were missing out on .. or doubt your own choices. but if you separate from that way of living, it's easier, i think.

agree too re: doing nothing is worse than watching tv! and what is "doing nothing" anyway? i said to my 12yo the other day, i need a ridiculous amount of time just to think, and he said, "me too!" :) we need a lot of "nothing" to make something of our life. the kind of things we are interesting in thinking and doing and making can't be dashed off quickly between errands.

Comment by Ian on September 15, 2010 at 12:03 AM're brilliant.
On a side note; as you know, the family and I recently went on a long overdue vacation and we totally had the 3rd day syndrome (which could easily be misunderstood by my close evangelical brothers and sisters). Actually, we had the 6 day syndrome! Crystal said that instead of sharing my thoughts and unique commentary on life to the twitterverse I was "totally present" the entire 6 days...Sure our host didn't have WiFi, but still.
btw, did I use that semicolon correctly?

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 15, 2010 at 01:13 PM

thanks, ian. ;)

hey, you owe it to your family to be "totally present" six days a year.

now, imagine how much intellectual potential you could reach if you stopped twittering at work!

and no, you didn't. :)


Comment by estea on September 15, 2010 at 03:50 PM

such an interesting read. and funny that one of the most popular articles on the sidebar is this one:


there was a display at the public library last week about GETTING THINGS DONE - so many books about time management, the ultimate to-do list, etc.


i always wonder, if we as a society (i am guilty, too) are judging ourselves and others by that ever-growing yardstick of How Much We Get Done (which is, of course, a complete focus on the external), what must we *really* think of kids, who don't accomplish much *work* except for play and being their fabulous little budding selves?

veering off the path a little, but i am loving this quote from a fred roger's commencement speech (full text here, it's wonderful, and sorry about the ALL CAPS!:



Comment by Lori Pickert on September 15, 2010 at 04:36 PM

that fred rogers quote is perfection.

really interesting thoughts re: kids & their non-GTD selves. maybe that's why adults are always trying to inject their schedules with more, more, more. there is this pernicious idea that kids need to get busy and start making the most of their time or they won't be able to *compete* .. as though the gates are going to slam open and all the 23-year-olds are going to race into the world at the same time on a neatly lined track.

mr. rogers' message is the one that family used to be in charge of -- values! knowing what's most important. but somewhere along the way, parents drank the kool-aid and bought hook, line, and sinker into the idea of "positioning their kids for success". boo.

Comment by Dawn Suzette on September 15, 2010 at 10:24 PM

A slow life is why we have chosen to homeschool. We wanted our kids to have time to get to know themselves. Time to explore the things that really interest them and see those things through to the end... if there is an end. Some things come and go. They research and explore then decide to move on. Other things stick and they always come back to those ongoing projects. I believe that the time they have to explore and learn at their own pace is helping each one of them reach their potential.
We are tech users. We are also learning when enough is enough. It does take effort to balance technology in our lives. I am guilty of way to many late nights on the computer. I am learning that the key is to remember that there is an off button and it is okay to step away for a while.
Thanks for this discussion Lori.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 16, 2010 at 12:58 AM

dawn, mm, so many similarities with our situation. that come and go .. and returning to ongoing projects .. really, a slow approach and *allowing* them to keep coming back to the same strong interests allows them to keep layering on more knowledge. they return to things as they get older and have more skills and abilities. i've watched them build interests that look like they'll last for years and maybe even into adulthood and careers.

same here re: tech users who seek balance. yes, it takes experimenting to find the balance that feels right for each of us. but it's worth the effort.

thank YOU. ;^)

Comment by kort on September 16, 2010 at 12:59 AM

our to-do list looks alot like se7en's--stacks of book and dinner made. but i wonder sometimes if we're not too comfortable, if we don't have too much time and so don't use it wisely...i mean books and good food and time around the table to enjoy it together, that's time well spent. but it still seems like some sort of structure can help focus our work...


and yes, fred rogers is perfection!

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 16, 2010 at 12:24 PM

kort, yes, we're on the same wavelength. (again!) i've been writing a post in praise of structure! a common problem is children (and adults) not having enough unstructured time .. but on the other end of the scale, if all your time is unstructured and undefined, there's no impetus to get anything done and no joy in "free time".

in one of the recent open threads i advised a mother to set up specific project times, because it gives both you and your child(ren) some structure .. and you can anticipate working at that time and having each other's attention.

to focus our *work*, as you say .. there needs to be a built-in appreciation for doing the important work and a built-in infrastructure for getting it done (time set aside for specifically working on projects, workspace, materials, etc.). your family culture has to prioritize for it. once again, a balance issue. as you say, books and good food and time together are wonderful .. but a full and balanced life includes meaningful work.

Comment by Dawn Suzette on September 16, 2010 at 06:47 PM

We too tend to fall into the "problem" of too much unstructured time. With fall here we are trying to get into a groove that includes a little more structure. Loose but structure still... we will always make time for those nature walks that go from "about an hour" to four hours so we can watch a dragonfly emerge or a crab molt. Those moments are what we have to freedom to witness. No bells ringing moving us on to the next thing wether we are ready or not. I think there is a time and a place for learning when to move on to the next thing but some things just can't be rushed.

Comment by jimmie on September 17, 2010 at 08:40 AM

Thanks for linking to this article. I am fascinated by this topic. I love technology and the Internet, BUT I also love nature and have observed the anxiety that extended computer use causes in me.

We took a family vacation to Yellowstone in June. NO computers, cell phones, email, for ten days. It was wonderful! I love to take computer breaks like that, but it's really hard for my hubby. It took about three days for him to detox. Then he could relax and enjoy life.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 18, 2010 at 01:45 PM

dawn, that bit o' structure is something that is essential, i think, but tricky, right? :^) because definitely leaving exploration times open-ended as you describe is key for kids being able to work deeply and be really engaged.

bells ringing .. gah! one of the things i worked hardest at when i was running my school was eliminating transitions as much as possible. adults have a penchant for wanting to chop up kids' days into defined chunks so they can check off those little boxes.

you are so right about some things can't be rushed .. kids need *time* to relax, concentrate, become fully engaged. and just the knowledge that they'll be moving on in X minutes is enough to keep them from falling into that mode of learning. and the knowledge that they *won't* be moving on in X minutes is enough to get them to slow down and really look.

great thoughts, as usual. :^)


thank you, jimmie. i love technology and nature, too. :^)

interesting that it stressed out your husband to be without his tech .. i have a good friend who reads this blog who just went through the same thing. :^)

yet some of us can unplug without a problem. i wonder why that is...

Comment by Dan Perry on May 16, 2012 at 04:02 AM

I just wrote an article about this phenomenon. It is posted here:
I think it goes a bit beyond the electronics thing. I experienced the shift whenever I went back country long before digital was around.

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