Productivity Tips for People Who Hate Productivity Tips


 

“Traditional approaches to staying focused don’t work for me.” “I know what I should do to be more productive, but I just don’t do it.” I hear sentences like these repeatedly from coaching clients. Many have read articles and books — and have even been trained in productivity methods — but still find staying focused to be an uphill battle. Why do people who know a lot about what helps people focus still struggle to focus? Through my work, I’ve identified several reasons, as well as strategies that may help you gain control.

Assuming that others’ preferred productivity strategies should work for you can yield frustration and a sense of defeat. A friend or an author may advocate their own approach so enthusiastically that it seems fail-proof if properly implemented. But if you experience the approach as inauthentic or constraining, it may not be right for you. Trying to make it work can send you into a rut where you repeat unhelpful behaviors while beating yourself up over your lack of focus.

For example, a subset of my coaching clients has an aversion to structuring their time usage with widely recommended tools like spreadsheets, planners, calendars, if-then rules, and timers. These are often the same clients who are closely attuned to the quality of their work experience, who find joy in flow and seek to create more of it, and for whom the introduction of industrial productivity levers feels stifling. If this describes you, you’ll benefit by paying attention to what’s happening within yourself as you work and using what you observe to inform your strategies.

If you feel defeated, two things will help you move forward and feel more in control. The first is to accept where you are and have compassion for yourself. When you admit to yourself, “I’m stuck. This feels awful,” and let that admission sit in your awareness without fighting it or using it to berate yourself, it loses its power to derail you. Treat yourself with compassion by recognizing your strengths, recalling challenges you’ve overcome in the past, and affirming your capacity to solve problems.

Then move forward by experimenting and reflecting. I encourage my clients to check in with how their work process feels at different points throughout the day and make adjustments to improve the quality of their work experience. Being flexible helps. If one approach isn’t working, try another rather than continuing to hammer away fruitlessly. Frustrated sitting at your desk? Take your work outside or to a coffee shop for a couple of hours. Computer screen making your eyes go buggy? Switch to working on paper or using voice recognition. Perhaps you’re determined to complete something before lunch. But if frustration is building, stepping away, taking a walk, and getting something to eat may be exactly what you need to facilitate smooth and rapid completion of the task after lunch.

Leveraging the connection between mind and body is key to knowing when to make a change. For instance, I’ve learned that I need to get out of my chair to stretch several times a day. Tightness in my shoulders or numbness in my buttocks triggers the urge to move. If I feel myself hunching or my jaw getting tight, I’ll walk to the window or go outside and breathe for few minutes. I also build in exercise nearly every day, typically towards the end of the workday or before something that doesn’t require close attention as I find that it diffuses rather than sharpens my focus. Your body can provide you with important cues to optimally manage your focus.

Some people like to keep track of what they plan to accomplish by when. On the other hand, focusing on the process of work rather than the output is a powerfully facilitative perspective shift for many. For instance, my client Nora learned that if she frames her main goal for the day as “finish project,” she feels increasingly stressed as time goes by if the project isn’t moving along as quickly as she’d hoped — and she’s ultimately demoralized at the end of the day if the project remains incomplete. She’s much better served by an intention to “work on project” or “make progress on project,” particularly when she identifies discrete tasks and little milestones that can serve as indicators of progress.

Staying focused doesn’t have to be a struggle. While it may not be easy, managing your focus can and should be self-affirming and fulfilling. Making progress on work that is meaningful is among the most energizing and satisfying experiences anyone can have. Therefore, it makes sense to engineer your workflow for ease and progress. University of Minnesota professor Theresa Glomb recommends organizing your work for a “downhill start.” Like parking your car on a slope facing downhill, what can you do to set conditions such that you need only lift your foot from the brake to get moving? Clear off your desk before you start a new task? Write down your two top priorities for the next day before leaving in the evening? Perhaps you’re a big-picture person who gets bogged down in details. To move your big idea toward realization, you must pinch a manageable task out of your vision and perform it. Ask yourself, “What’s one tiny step I could take?” For example, if I get an idea for an article I’d like to write, I know that the inspiration will dissipate if I don’t convert it to action. I can do a rough outline in a few minutes (tangible progress). If I have time, I’ll develop it into a more extensive outline (more progress). Outlining is much faster and easier than writing a whole draft, yet it’s a concrete step forward that feels good and facilitates the next phase of writing. Waiting for inspiration to create something big from scratch doesn’t work; in fact, it slams the brakes on productivity. What does work is finding ways to take small steps and enjoying the resulting sense of progress.

If someone else’s productivity strategy feels artificial to you, it probably won’t motivate you. For instance, some people can increase their productivity by setting a series of deadlines for themselves. For others, a deadline only promotes focus when it’s real, interpersonally relevant, and has serious consequences attached, not when it’s made up by themselves or someone else for seemingly arbitrary reasons. A real deadline for me is, for example, knowing there will be an audience waiting to hear me speak at a particular time. With that kind of deadline, I’ll be ready and I will deliver an excellent talk. By contrast, me stating to myself or someone else that I plan to have my slides done two weeks in advance won’t help me focus.

Productivity strategies also lose their potential to motivate when they don’t feel meaningful. Try reframing something you have to do in terms of your core values for stronger and more sustained focus. Let’s say I need to schedule interviews with employees at a client firm. Managing the e-mails and the scheduling process feels tedious if I consider these tasks mindless administrative details. But when I think of them as opening conversations that hold the keys to helping people grow and thrive, they become engaging.

Many people fall prey to distractions, both internal and external, in their quest to focus. A useful tool to fend off distraction is an inquiry into the costs of giving in to it. Surrendering to distraction, while temporarily soothing, will later generate feelings of regret and even incompetence. On the other hand, making progress boosts the wonderfully self-affirming sense of mastery. In the face of temptation to give in to distraction, ask yourself the following question: “What are you saying no to right now?” When you take stock of the fact that tumbling down an internet rabbit hole means letting go of the reins and giving up time for the things you really want to do, you may well find the strength to focus.

Finally, accept that focus is dynamic, a work in progress. There’s no single tool that will help you develop laser-like focus that never wanders. The best response to a few hours given over to distraction is not self-recrimination, but self-compassion paired with curiosity. Regardless of whether your focus has been ideal or not, take a few moments at the end of each day to note what you accomplished and to set yourself up for a smooth downhill start on the next day’s targets for progress.

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A simple trick to help you speak in public without showing your nerves


You don’t have to put up with a thin, shaky voice, says speech-language pathologist Jackie Gartner-Schmidt.

Every weekday for the month of January, TED Ideas is publishing a new post in a series called “How to Be a Better Human,” containing a helpful piece of advice from a speaker in the TED community. To see all the posts, click here.

Ever given a presentation and felt like your throat was closing up or that there was a big lump in it? Or made an important request of your boss but thought your voice sounded as shaky as Jello on a trampoline?

Turns out, you don’t suffer from some unexplained physical malady. There’s an anatomical explanation for what happens to our voices when we’re under pressure, says speech-language pathologist and University of Pittsburgh professor Jackie Gartner-Schmidt.

All humans have vocal cords — also called vocal folds since they’re folds of tissue — which sit on top of our windpipes, right behind the Adam’s apple. “The real reason we have vocal folds is to protect ourselves,” says Gartner-Schmidt. In fact, they do the very important work of preventing us from inhaling water into our lungs whenever we drink something.

But researchers have found “in experimentally induced stressful situations — be it public speaking, hearing a loud startle sound or having cold water put on your body — that the muscles around the voice box and the muscles actually inside the voice box [a.k.a. the vocal folds] react,” says Gartner-Schmidt. “They activate, and in some cases, they close altogether.”

Of course, no one wants to sound shaky, squeaky or choked up when they speak. As Gartner-Schmidt puts it, “We want our voice to reflect our strengths, not our weaknesses.” She says, “in study after study a high-pitched voice has been correlated with the perception of anxiety, not being competent, not being strong, and not being trustworthy.”

And this matters more and more now, as many of our meetings and interviews take place over conference calls or low-res video chats. As a result, says Gartner-Schmidt, “the voice is substantially taking over more and more of how we are perceived.”

To avoid this, she suggests doing this easy exercise (which she calls one of her favorites).

Hold up your index finger a few inches in front of your mouth. As you exhale steadily, make a “Wooooooo” noise (think: little kid pretending to be a ghost) for 5 to 10 seconds. Do this 5 to 10 times. (Watch her demonstrate it here.)

“This … essentially relaxes the vocal folds,” says Gartner-Schmidt. “It establishes breath and air flow and voice stability, which is the cornerstone of any strong, clear voice.”

Right before the next important occasion in which you have to speak — for work, for the toast you’re giving at a wedding, for a speech to a community board — take Gartner-Schmidt’s advice and “spend some time finding your best voice.”

Watch her TEDxPittsburgh talk here:

Dealing with Stress at workplace


Stress at the workplace is common for an employee. Each employee is facing stress at the workplace, but the amount of stress is different from individual to individual and situation to situation. An incident for an employee may cause stress, but the same incident for other employees may not be the cause of stress.

Stress at the workplace not only affects the job satisfaction and performance of an employee, but stress also affects personal life, health and relationship of an employee.

What is stress?

“Stress is a reaction people have to pressure placed upon them and occurs when pressures exceed the individual’s ability to cope”

Stress may be positive or negative, if due to stress the performance of the individual is increased then it is positive stress, but due to stress when the performance is decreased it is negative stress. Stress is a normal part of life and every individual is facing stress in routine life. Stress has both implications, if stress is positive then it is good but if stress is negative then it is harmful. In other words, stress in a certain limit can be good but if stress exceeds the limit then it becomes harmful.

Factors Influencing Organizational /Work Stress.

The following factors directly or indirectly affect the stress level of employees.

  • Workload

The higher workload to the individual employee is a major factor for stress. If an employee is unable to complete the given work in a time frame, the level of stress increases.

  • Working Hour.

Too many working hours or odd working hours may become the major factor of stress.

  • Environment hazards

Some working places are prone to environmental hazards and adversely affect the health of an employee, for example, the chemical industry.

  • Poor Infrastructure at working place

Some working places do not have proper infrastructure facilities such as ventilation, proper seating arrangement, drinking water, toilet etc. which may become the cause of stress.

  • The drive for success

The employee may have a very high drive for success. Sometimes they cannot bear the little failure and create stress for them.

  • Changing work patterns.

Sometimes employees are used to doing work in a certain pattern but if there is a change in working patterns initially employee suffer stress.

  • Little job control.

Sometimes employees do not have any control over his job or have very little control which can also lead to stress.

  • Poor communication.

In an organization, proper communication is very important. Conflict will arise due to miss communication or poor communication, which may lead to stress in employees.

  • Lack of support.

In the organization, proper coordination and support are required. If there is no support from the superior or colleague, then an organization cannot achieve the targets which result in stress.

Early Warning Signs of Work Stress

There are various physical and mental signs of stress such as Headache, sleep disturbances, difficulty in concentrating, short temper, job dissatisfaction, low morale etc.

Stress Management Strategies

Stress can become a silent killer if it exceeds level for more time. So one should identify the stress and if it is negative for a long time, a remedy to control that stress must be searched out. Following are some strategies to control stress.

Recognize the Problem

The most important point is to recognize the source of negative stress. This is not an admission of weakness or inability to cope, but it is a way to identify the problem and plan measures to overcome it.

Stress Management Techniques

  • Change your thinking
  • Change your behaviour
  • Change your lifestyle

Change Your Thinking.

The best way to minimize the level of stress is to change the way you think about the incident. One can change the thinking by way of

(1)     Re-framing

Reframing is a technique to change the way you look at things in order to feel better about them.

(2)    Positive Thinking

Here one should think about the positive aspects of incidents and focus on strength.

 Change Behaviour

A person should express their thoughts, feelings and beliefs directly to others

  • Get Organized

Here one has to prioritize their objectives, duties and activities and make them manageable and achievable.

  • Ventilation
  • One has to talk with friends/colleagues about the problems.
  • Humour

Laughter is the best medicine and best way to relieve stress.

  • Diversion and Distraction

Get away from things that bother you.

 Change Your Lifestyle

  • Diet: Balanced diet is very important for healthy living. One should have proper calories, nutrition and vitamins. The healthy body can resist the stress easily.
  • Smoking and alcohol: One should avoid alcohol and smoking from routine life.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help to lower your stress level. Regular exercise gives positive effects on mood, resulting from lowering stress level.
  • Leisure and relaxation: Going out with family in natural places such as forest, beach, mountains etc. reduce the stress level.

 

 

To conclude one can say that stress is a part of life, we need to identify the sources of stress and need to manage stress so that one can have better performance and more productivity

How To Make Exercise A Habit That Sticks


The NPR staff likes to exercise in several different ways.

 

Maybe you can relate to this: You resolve to get more exercise. And you do — for a while. But a few days or weeks into a new routine, your good intentions fall apart.

How do you bridge the divide between intention and doing? We asked Katy Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School of Business who studies human decision-making. She gave us six tips, backed up by science, to help nudge people toward better, longer-lasting habits.

1. Give it a month.

Commit to about four weeks of exercise, and research suggests that this can help you build a new routine. Milkman’s team at Wharton did a randomized controlled trial in which they paid people to exercise for 28 days. They found many of the participants were more likely to be exercising 10 months later.

There’s no magic number of days it takes to build a new habit, but “the key to habits is repetition,” Milkman says. “And if you can get that repetition going while you have high motivation, you’re much more likely to have a behavior change that lasts.”

2. Try temptation bundling.

Put the Kardashians to work for you: Combine something that you crave with something that’s healthy, and bingo! You’ll want to do that healthy thing.

“We’ve shown that it can increase the rate at which people exercise, if they combine a real pleasure that they look forward to with their workouts,” Milkman explains.

Whether it’s the Real Housewives or the new season of Serial, you can indulge only while you exercise.

3. Set goals — but don’t let them trap you.

Make sure your exercise objective is achievable and ambitious — but give yourself a free pass or two if you fail to meet it.

That will help you avoid the what-the-hell effect, Milkman explains.

“The what-the-hell effect says that if we fail to hit our goals, we can throw in the towel and go crazy,” Milkman says. “That’s the risk of goals. If they’re tough, and then you don’t make it, you can throw in the towel and actually be worse off.”

So give yourself a free pass if you miss a trip to the gym. Think of it as a mulligan.

4. Let flexibility be your friend.

Milkman was part of a team that studied whether it was more effective to work out at the same time every day or build a more flexible routine. They expected to find the answer was same time, every day.

“That’s not what we found,” she says. “The people who worked out at the same time every day, they did actually form a more lasting habit around exercising at that time. But here’s the catch: That was the only time they ever worked out.”

They fell victim to the what-the-hell effect and gave up for the day if they missed their time.

“We actually found that it was more effective if people mixed it up.”

5. Make it social.

Research shows that habits — good and bad — spread through our social networks. “We often look to the crowd for cues about what we should be doing,” Milkman says.

The same goes for working out. If you compare your exercise habits with neighbors or co-workers, you may be more motivated to go to the gym. Or schedule your exercise with a friend. You’ll be more likely to show up, Milkman says.

6. Put some money on the line.

Money can be a big motivator, so put it to work for you. Set up a commitment device, a sort of contract with your future self to follow through on your goals.

A website called stickK.com enables you to set up a contract to give your money to your designated person or charity if you don’t live up to your commitments. Make that device even more powerful by designating your money to an organization you don’t like!

What makes this such strategy succeed? Humans are risk averse: We hate to give up something, like money, that we’ve already earned.

“We find losses about twice as motivating as gains of equal size,” Milkman explains. That’s what psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky found with their Nobel Prize winning research. “If we can motivate people with sticks rather than carrots it can actually be more effective,” Milkman says.

Want to stick to your News Year’s exercise regime? This research can help


Our New Year’s Resolution to visit the gym or do more exercise need not be a stab in the dark with the help of some clever psychology, according to a team of researchers.

The experts from The University of Manchester, Leeds Becket University and the National University of Ireland Galway researched the most effective techniques for changing adults’ physical using a concept known as self-efficacy.

The study of the concept, which refers to the belief in our ability to behave in a way that produces a specific performance and published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, pooled the results of an analysis of 180 randomised trials.

Though it has long been known that higher levels of self-efficacy is associated with higher levels of physical activity, it is not clear which techniques can best increase self-efficacy in the over-18s as a whole.

The ‘This Girl Can’ Campaign to promote sport among women, say the team, is a prime example of how self-efficacy can be used to encourage participation in sport.

Lead researcher Dr. Mei Yee Tang from The University of Manchester said: “One of the biggest influences of our behaviour is our own beliefs. If we believe we are capable of doing something, then we are more likely to devote effort to it and feel we can do it even if it may be a difficult task.”

The team found that the more techniques we use, the more effective they may be at maintaining our self-efficacy – the perception of our abilities and its influence on our behaviour—in the longer-term.

However, the researchers also found that commonly used techniques such as giving people information on the health benefits of physical activity were not effective in increasing self-efficacy.

Dr. Tang added: “We were unable to find clear patterns of techniques which should be used together, or which might not work as well together, in increasing self-efficacy.

“Previous similar reviews which have looked at specific adult populations have found self-regulatory techniques such as setting physical activity goals and monitoring physical activity behaviour to be effective at increasing self-efficacy in obese adults and adults without a clinical condition.

“Yet, these techniques were associated with lower self-efficacy in . In older adults, techniques such as setting graded tasks—such as slowly increasing walking distance each time—were found to be more effective for this population.

“Therefore, it’s important to stress that there isn’t a single ‘magic bullet’ that can increase self-efficacy for physical activity across all .

“On January first we should think about factors such as age and any illness or conditions if we are to support ourselves and our loved ones in achieving their physical activity related-New Year’s resolution.”

10 Simple but Crucial Ways to Deal With Holiday Travel Stress


It doesn’t have to be the worst travel day ever.
people waiting on line while traveling with luggage

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest—and as a result, most stressful—travel times of the year. With everyone around you trying to get to their holiday destinations, that means some serious crowds, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and delays that zero people are psyched about.

“Travel in general can already be stressful for certain people, and the holidays have a mix of even more travelers, unpredictable weather, and dealing with relatives,” Simon Rego, Psy.D., chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, tells SELF. “Those things converge for people and can make them even more stressed than usual.”

We don’t blame you if you’re already anticipating feeling seriously stressed out trying to get from point A to point B, or even if you’re already feeling overwhelmed and scattered right now. That’s why we polled mental health pros for their best holiday travel tips, so that it doesn’t have to wipe you out emotionally and physically.

Here are a few things mental health experts recommend to help you keep your cool this week.

1. Make a list of what, exactly, about holiday travel stresses you out.

Sure, pretty much everyone will say that holiday travel is stress-inducing on some level. But the reason why it makes you feel frazzled can be pretty individual—and identifying your specific stressors is the first step in helping you combat them, Cheryl Carmin, Ph.D., director of clinical psychology training at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.

That’s why it’s a good idea to write down all of your anxious feelings and worries on paper before you travel, Jason S. Moser, Ph.D., director of the Clinical Psychophysiology Lab at Michigan State University, tells SELF. Perhaps you’re most concerned about hustling through the airport with your crying newborn, for example; put this on paper and then think of a few solutions for this, like bringing their favorite toy to distract them or talking to your partner about your worry ahead of time so you can plan and support each other through a worst-case scenario.

“This is called expressive writing,” Moser says. “That effectively can ‘offload’ those thoughts and feelings on paper, make them more concrete, and facilitate rethinking and problem solving.” It can even help to toss the whole thing in the trash after you write it to mentally and physically throw away your fears, he adds. Once it’s on paper and out of your head, you can give yourself permission to stop agonizing over it.

2. Make it near-impossible to forget the most important items on your packing list.

If you know you’re going to be up at night worrying that you’ll forget something, or if you’ll completely freak and beat yourself up if you do end up forgetting that precious item, write it down, Rego says. Then, put that reminder somewhere visible (the front door, a bathroom mirror). “It’s a productive action,” he explains.

If you’re still fretting about leaving, say, your niece’s holiday present at home, you could even go as far as packing it way in advance in the luggage you know you’ll be carrying so that it’s there from the start. “If there is something that’s stressing you out and you can do something about it right now, do it. If you can’t, put it on a to-do list to do at another time,” Rego says. Here are more logistical travel tips to make the whole process a little less chaotic.

3. Try to travel during off-peak times, if you can swing it.

Crowds can be a large source of anxiety for some people. And while masses of people and long lines are pretty inevitable during the holidays, they’ll be less overwhelming during less popular times or days. So to whatever extent you can, schedule your travel on days and times when the crowds are likely to be a little thinner, Rego says, like super early in the morning. Or, if your job permits, consider leaving a few days earlier and working remotely from your destination to avoid the mad rush that typically occurs the day before the actual holiday.

4. Download whatever will help distract you from the chaos.

Given that you may still find yourself in some serious body-to-body situations, make a Spotify list of soothing songs before you leave the house so you can tune people out, Carmin suggests. Or, if meditation is your thing (and you feel like you can do it effectively even when others are around), download meditations from an app like Calm or Headspace.

If you have access to Netflix, you can even download some TV shows, movies, or stand-up to distract you from whatever is happening at the airport. But remember: You’ll likely need wifi to make these downloads, so take care of it before you leave the house. And, take it from us, you’ll want to download way more than you think you’ll need…just in case there are major delays.

5. If you’re not driving, have a pre-travel beer if you’d like.

If you’re at the airport or train station and could really stand to chill a little, it’s OK to have a pre-flight glass of wine or beer to unwind, Carmin says. Of course, you know yourself better than anyone, so skip this one if alcohol isn’t for you.

If you have a serious fear of flying and feel as if you’ll need something to help you get on and then stay calm on the plane, talk to your doctor in advance about whether an anti-anxiety medication for the flight might be suitable for you, Carmin says. That said, you definitely don’t want to mix alcohol and medication together, so this is an either/or situation.

6. Talk to yourself in the third person.

This may sound a little strange, but it can help. Practice labeling what you’re feeling, but use your own name and other non-first person pronouns like “he” and “she,” rather than first person pronouns like “I” and “me,” Moser explains.

“What you notice after a while is that you start to give yourself advice like you are talking to someone else,” he says. For example, maybe you hate turbulence and feel like the plane is going to fall out of the sky. Try saying out loud, Moser says, “But [your name] knows air travel is very safe and even safer than driving. [Your name] knows that this will pass.”

7. Lay a few ground rules for your car.

If you’re the designated holiday driver, you’re the one who needs to be the most relaxed during the journey—and that means you get to set the rules, Carmin says. For instance, consider having a quick reminder chat with your passengers to tell them that you’ll be using your navigation method of choice and don’t need backseat Siris, or that you need everyone to avoid arguing while you’re in the car.

Also, the driver gets to pick the music or podcast—that’s just the way it goes.

8. Be ready for delays and conflicts before you even leave.

Remind yourself that there’s (sadly) a good chance your plane will be delayed. Or that you always feel uptight when you’re around Uncle Al for an extended period of time. So if your flight is leaving two hours later than you’d hoped, or you’re going to be stuck in the car with that relative that you have a tense relationship with, wrap your mind around these things in advance so they don’t catch you off guard. (Plus, you’ll be in an even better mood if these situations don’t end up coming to fruition.)

Being aware of these things in advance, recognizing that they might be issues, and thinking about how you’re going to handle them can help reduce some of your anxiety, Reid Wilson, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety Disorders Treatment Center and adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, tells SELF.

9. Whatever your preferred method of self-care is, do it before you leave.

Go for a jog before you leave, or take a quick bath. “Don’t leave things out that help you manage your stress,” Carmin says. Many people will brush off their regular exercise or self-care before they travel to try to save time, but it can make the difference between you stressing on the highway or keeping your cool. Also, don’t forget to bring workout clothes and sneaks for once you arrive—you’re probably going to need it at some point, Carmin says.

10. Leave (way) earlier than you think you need to.

This one seems obvious, but running behind schedule is often a big part of the reason why people get so stressed out about holiday travel. “If you can do things like pack a little bit earlier, leave for the airport a little earlier, or get out earlier, that can help decrease the pressure that people will feel that make them stressed when they travel,” Rego says. If you’re traveling with other people, don’t be afraid to tell them to show up at a time even earlier than you’re actually planning on leaving to give yourselves a cushion.

Worst-case scenario? You have extra time to kill at the airport or train station, or you arrive at your destination earlier by car—far better scenarios than turning into a ball of stress because you’re cutting it too close.

Programming Your Mind for Success 9 Scientifically-Proven Benefits of Meditation


The ancient art of meditation has been practiced since antiquity in multiple religions. Since the 19th century, it has expanded from religious practice to a secular one and become popular in countries around the world as a way to achieve a deeper connection with one’s own body and soul.

It permits practitioners to find a deep well of calm within their mind that helps still the thoughts of focus and focus energy.

While many people would like to start a meditation practice, they often fail to continue because they fail to find the time or to see the results they were hoping for. Meditation takes practice, but this practice can result in some incredible benefits in your life.

If you’re considering starting a meditation practice, but aren’t sure of what the results will be like, here are nine proven benefits of meditation that will help start you on the road to a successful meditation practice:

It reduces stress

In our fast-paced world, it isn’t uncommon for people to suffer from stress. Rarely do we respect weekends or take our full vacation allotment, which leaves us overworked and very stressed out. While stress is generally unpleasant, did you know it’s also quite dangerous?

Stress can contribute to illness by suppressing your immune system, trigger migraines and weight gain, and cause gastrointestinal issues.

To prevent this, you have to find methods to control your stress. With regular practice, meditation has been shown to help reduce stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Meditation also helps reduce the adverse effects of stress, such as a headache, restlessness, brain fog, irritability and more.

It helps control anxiety

Anxiety is not just worrying. Worry is a natural and vital response that can help keep us safe. Anxiety is what happens when that worry becomes disproportionate and chronic and starts to affect your life negatively. Stress and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, luckily, meditation has the same positive effects on anxiety that it does on stress.

Meditation has been found to reduce symptoms of social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and lessen the frequency of panic attacks. Meditation can also reduce job-related anxiety and can help you cope with worry-inducing events better.

It enhances your self-awareness

A clearer understanding of yourself can help you better harness negative thoughts and impulses and help you better control urges that may be self-destructive. Meditation can give you this control by helping you channel your mental power to combat feelings of negativity, loneliness, and low self-esteem.

It can help fight addiction

Negative urges can be a contributing factor as to why many addiction sufferers fall back into the patterns that lead them to substance abuse issues in the first place. Meditation helps people become masters of urge surfing.

These urges can feel like a kind of tunneling sensation that makes you feel like the only outcome is to seek out your addictive or destructive behaviors. Meditation helps give practitioners a “natural high,” which allows sufferers to find peace within themselves instead of seeking out endorphins or dopamine hits through addictive substances.

It helps with sleep disorders

For anyone that has ever crawled under the blankets, exhausted, but was unable to fall asleep, the idea of getting a long, uninterrupted night’s rest must sound like nirvana.

Insomnia is a relatively common sleep disorder that people can experience at brief intervals, or it can become a chronic condition. Insomnia affects your work performance, personal relationships, and overall well being and can make you more susceptible to illness.

Meditation–and specifically mindfulness meditation–has been shown to evoke the relaxation response in people who practice it regularly, which helps people fall asleep naturally and stay asleep longer.

It decreases high blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure, you know that you have one of the number one risk factors for heart disease. If you have high blood pressure, your heart has to work harder than usual to pump blood through your arteries.

When you’re looking to fix high blood pressure, you will most likely be required to take some medication, maybe lose weight, cut out salt, and exercise regularly, and you will also be required to lower your stress levels.

Meditation has been shown to help sufferers of high blood pressure by reducing their stress levels and by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function.

It improves your attention span

If you find your mind drifting and are unable to focus, meditation may help lengthen your attention span and encourage you to focus. Meditation can also help you remember details more clearly and retain information longer. Even short-term meditation can be beneficial so you will see results even after only a short period.

It can help control pain

Chronic pain can make living almost unbearable. Over time, chronic pain can significantly reduce one’s enjoyment of life and make people irritable, depressed, and withdrawn. The constant aching can make even the smallest task seem impossible, and painkiller use can become a dangerous habit.

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to soothe and slow brain patterns, making the pain more bearable and less noticeable. Meditation has even been prescribed by medical professionals to help patients cope with pain from illnesses like cancer, fibromyalgia, and heart disease.

When you’re looking for pain relief, you may find a lot of sites that compare hypnosis vs. meditation. Both can give you pain relief, but hypnosis is triggered by another person, while meditation is self-directed.

It can help with depression

Meditation has been found to be incredibly successful in treating depression. The brooding that depression causes can be counteracted with meditation. Meditation helps quiet the “noise” of depression and slow the negative cycle of thoughts that contribute to depression.

During mindfulness meditation, you are encouraged to allow negative thoughts to pass over you and understand that these thoughts will pass and that you only have to give them time to do so.

By doing this, you will find that depressive thoughts will become less overwhelming and you will be able to focus more on your recovery and on calming your inner turmoil.

Researchers use DNA nanomachines to discover subgroups of lysosomes


Clockwise from top left: UChicago scientists Anand Saminathan, Kasturi Chakraborty, Yamuna Krishnan and KaHo Leung examine results from a new DNA nano-machine to track lysosome activity in cells.

The story of the lysosome is a classic smear campaign. Once dismissed as the garbage disposal of the cell—it does break down unneeded cell debris—it is now valued by scientists who realized all that dirty work also controls survival, metabolism, longevity and even neurodegenerative diseases.

An innovative tool invented by University of Chicago scientists will give us a new window into the lysosome’s inner workings. Two studies led by Professor of Chemistry Yamuna Krishnan built to tease out clues about lysosomes, including whether they actually come in two or more related types—which may help us understand lysosome-related disorders.

“Both scientists studying the cell and doctors treating patients for lysosome disorders need better diagnostics, so this is a very good step forward,” said graduate student Kasturi Chakraborty, the co-first author for both papers.

Scientists want the ability to watch live footage of what’s going on in a cell, but its inner workings are hard to catch in action. It’s tiny, and what’s more, it’s a harsh environment; lysosomes in particular are highly acidic—not good for cameras. “Most sensors will just stop functioning if the acidity is that high,” Chakraborty said.

To address this issue, Krishnan’s group uses DNA as their to make flashlights and sensors to peer inside. It’s already adapted to life in a cell, and it comes in a handy puzzle-piece format, perfect for building tiny nano-machines that catalogue life inside a living cell.

They designed the nanomachines to measure both pH and the particular ions floating around the lysosome—either calcium or chloride—that are the basis for how lysosomes communicate and carry out their tasks. Through them, can see how lysosomes work—and tease out what’s going on when they’re not working, in certain diseases or hereditary conditions.

One of the most interesting things they found using the new probes was evidence there are actually at least two different kinds of lysosomes.

Scientists had suspected lysosomes came in distinct types with different functions, but it had never been confirmed, Chakraborty said. They don’t yet know exactly how the two kinds of lysosomes differ in function, but they do know one kind is missing in people with a certain lysosome disorder called Niemann-Pick disease.

The key was designing a sensor that could measure two kinds of ions simultaneously. “You absolutely need two independent chemical signatures to discriminate between lysosomes,” Chakraborty said.

“It’s interesting because lysosomes are well-recognized as a multifunctional organelle, and so til now we considered that it was a single type of performing multiple functions,” said Krishnan, corresponding author for both studies. “Our studies reveal that there might actually be different sub-types of lysosomes designated for different functions.”

5 tips for a healthy diet this New Year


Whatever your New Year’s Resolution, a healthy and balanced diet will provide many benefits into 2019 and beyond. What we eat and drink can affect our body’s ability to fight infections, as well as how likely we are to develop health problems later in life, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and different types of cancer.
The exact ingredients of a healthy diet will depend on different factors like how old and how active we are, as well as the kinds of foods that are available in the communities where we live. But across cultures, there are some common food tips for helping us lead healthier, longer lives.

 

 

Eat a variety of food

Balanced diet

Our bodies are incredibly complex, and (with the exception of breast milk for babies) no single food contains all the nutrients we need for them to work at their best. Our diets must therefore contain a wide variety of fresh and nutritious foods to keep us going strong.

Some tips to ensure a balanced diet:

  • In your daily diet, aim to eat a mix of staple foods such as wheat, maize, rice and potatoes with legumes like lentils and beans, plenty of fresh fruit and veg, and foods from animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, eggs and milk).
  • Choose wholegrain foods like unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice when you can; they are rich in valuable fibre and can help you feel full for longer.
  • Choose lean meats where possible or trim it of visible fat.
  • Try steaming or boiling instead of frying foods when cooking.
  • For snacks, choose raw vegetables, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit, rather than foods that are high in sugars, fats or salt.

Cut back on salt

salt

Too much salt can raise blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Most people around the world eat too much salt: on average, we consume double the WHO recommended limit of 5 grams (equivalent to a teaspoon) a day.
Even if we don’t add extra salt in our food, we should be aware that it is commonly put in processed foods or drinks, and often in high amounts.

Some tips to reduce your salt intake:

  • When cooking and preparing foods, use salt sparingly and reduce use of salty sauces and condiments (like soy sauce, stock or fish sauce).
  • Avoid snacks that are high in salt, and try and choose fresh healthy snacks over processed foods.
  • When using canned or dried vegetables, nuts and fruit, choose varieties without added salt and sugars.
  • Remove salt and salty condiments from the table and try and avoid adding them out of habit; our tastebuds can quickly adjust and once they do, you are likely to enjoy food with less salt, but more flavor!
  • Check the labels on food and go for products with lower sodium content.

Reduce use of certain fats and oil

Trans fat

We all need some fat in our diet, but eating too much – especially the wrong kinds – increases risks of obesity, heart disease and stroke.
Industrially-produced trans fats  are the most hazardous for health. A diet high in this kind of fat has been found to raise risk of heart disease by nearly 30%.
Video: Zero trans fat: Eat less fat … live a healthier life!

Some tips to reduce fat consumption:
  • Replace butter, lard and ghee with healthier oils such as soybean, canola (rapeseed), corn, safflower and sunflower.
  • Choose white meat like poultry and fish which are generally lower in fats than red meat, and limit the consumption of processed meats.
  • Check labels and always avoid all processed, fast and fried foods that contain industrially-produced trans fat. It is often found in margarine and ghee, as well as pre-packaged snacks, fast, baked and fried foods.

Limit sugar intake

sugar

Too much sugar is not only bad for our teeth, but increases the risk of unhealthy weight gain and obesity, which can lead to serious, chronic health problems.

As with salt, it’s important to take note of the amount of “hidden” sugars that can be in processed food and drinks. For example, a single can of soda can contain up to 10 teaspoons of added sugar!

Some tips to reduce sugar intake:

  • Limit intake of sweets and sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks, fruit juices and juice drinks, liquid and powder concentrates, flavoured water, energy and sports drinks, ready-to-drink tea and coffee and flavoured milk drinks.
  • Choose healthy fresh snacks rather than processed foods.
  • Avoid giving sugary foods to children. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods give to children under 2 years of age, and should be limited beyond that age.

Avoid hazardous and harmful alcohol use

Alcohol

Alcohol is not a part of a healthy diet, but in many cultures New Year’s celebrations are associated with heavy alcohol consumption. Overall, drinking too much, or too often, increases your immediate risk of injury, as well as causing longer-term effects like liver damage, cancer, heart disease and mental illness.

WHO advises that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption; and for many people even low levels of alcohol use can still be associated with significant health risks .

  • Remember, less alcohol consumption is always better for health and it is perfectly OK not to drink.
  • You should not drink alcohol at all if you are: pregnant or breastfeeding; driving, operating machinery or undertaking other activities that involve related risks; you have health problems which may be made worse by alcohol; you are taking medicines which directly interact with alcohol; or you have difficulties with controlling your drinking.
  • If you think your or someone you love may have problems with alcohol or other psychoactive substances, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your health worker or a specialist drug and alcohol service. WHO has also developed a self-help guide to provide guidance to people looking to cut back or stop use.

How to Prioritize Your Work When Your Manager Doesn’t


 

Prioritizing work can be frustrating, especially if you work for a hands-off manager or a company that doesn’t give you clear goals. Most of us face this reality each and every day. The frequently cited research of Robert Kaplan and David Norton shows that more than 90% of employees don’t fully understand their company’s strategy or know what’s expected of them to help achieve company goals. Compounding the problem, recent research shows that global executives say they have too many conflicting priorities. In a world where conflicting and unclear priorities are the norm, how can you learn to prioritize your own work and still feel satisfaction from a job well done?

First, check your mindset when it comes to setting priorities. Don’t assume that prioritizing your workload is someone else’s job, and don’t choose to see yourself solely as a “do-er” or a “worker bee.” It’s easy to point blame at our managers and organizations when we experience high levels of stress or an overwhelming amount of work. Recognize that consciously setting priorities is a key pillar of success. You can start by assessing how well you’re handling the increased workload that comes with being a leader today.

Select a couple of areas to set priorities in; this can help the brain to manage information overload. Researchers have found that it’s the overload of options that paralyze us or lead to decisions that go against our best interests. Two criteria I use with clients to filter for priorities include contribution and passion. Consider your role today and answer the following questions:

  • What is my highest contribution? When we reflect on contribution, we consider both the organization’s needs and how we uniquely bring to bear strengths, experience, and capabilities. The word contribution captures a sense of purpose, citizenship, and service.
  • What am I passionate about? Motivation and energy fuel action, so when setting priorities, get clear on what brings you inspiration in your work today.

We can put the two criteria of contribution and passion together to create an organizing framework. The framework can help you to sort priorities and define subsequent actions. Consider this chart:

Quadrant I: Prioritize those areas of your job that hit this sweet-spot intersection of bringing your highest value-add and making an impact that you feel excited about. Look at the answers to the two questions above and see which projects, initiatives, and activities show up on both your high contribution and high passion lists.

Quadrant II: Tolerate those parts of the role that are important but drain your energy when you’re engaging in them. What are the possible discomforts, and what can you do about them?

  • Tolerate and accept that you aren’t going to love every part of the job. For example, you may be excited about having a larger role and team but less excited about the increase in managerial processes and administration that come with it.
  • Tolerate the fact that you may be on a learning curve. Perhaps a key part of the job includes something that isn’t yet a strength, such as presenting at town hall meetings or being more visible externally. Keep a growth mindset and push yourself out of the comfort zone.
  • Remember that there is a tipping point in this quadrant. For example, your highest contribution in a strategy role may never offer you the passion you feel when coaching people. The quadrant could highlight that it’s time for a change (which was my situation more than 15 years ago, when no amount of prioritizing was ever going to overcome the fact I was in the wrong career).

Quadrant III: Elevate those tasks that give you a lot of energy but that others don’t see as the best use of your time. Where are the possible points of elevation?

  • Elevate the value-add. Perhaps you see a hot new area, but the impact is less clear to others. Share what you are seeing out on the horizon that fuels your conviction, and explain why it’s good not only for you but also for the company.
  • Elevate yourself. Be mindful of areas that you still enjoy, perhaps from a previous role or from when the company was smaller. Maybe you love to fix problems and have a bias toward action, which leads you to get involved in things your team should be handling. Hit pause before diving in.
  • Ultimately, if the disconnect grows between what keeps you motivated and what your organization values, it may be time to move on.

Quadrant IV: Delegate the daily churn of low-value and low-energy-producing activities, emails, and meetings. If there’s no one to delegate to, make the case for hiring someone. You can also just say no, or eliminate those tasks altogether. The irony is, as we progress in our careers, things that were once in quadrant I now belong in quadrant IV. If people still come to you for these tasks, redirect them graciously by saying something like, “It’s so great to see you. I know how important this is. I’ve asked Kate on my team to take on those issues, and she’ll be able to get you a more direct and speedy answer.”

Operationalize and Flag Priorities in Your Calendar

Look back on your calendar over the last month to see how much time you allocated across the four quadrants. I personally use a color-coding system in my calendar to quickly and visually see how I’m doing. (QI = yellow, QII = purple, QIII = blue, QIV = no color). At the start of a week, flag all QI priorities and give yourself a little extra preparation time on them.

Don’t settle for the status quo. As Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism shares, if you don’t prioritize your time, someone else will. And it won’t always be with your best interests or the greater good in mind. So take ownership and reclaim decision-making power over where you can best spend your time and energy. By doing so, you set yourself on a trajectory to produce meaningful results, experience more job satisfaction, and have increased energy.

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