Monday, February 15, 2010

I want to be productive

If you're reading this website, chances are you're already searching for the path to be more productive.  While there isn't a magic pill or a single secret trick that will instantly give you the motivation and energy to be the most productive person you can be, there are certainly tricks that can help you reach a higher level of productivity.

No, it's not about putting post-its all over your body.  It's about 1) reducing stress and 2) achieving the feeling of accomplishment.  But how can we achieve those 2 goals?  If you think about some of your most accomplished days, those days are typically days when you've crossed off the most number of items off your to-do list.  Notice I said the most number of items.  That doesn't mean you've done the most important things (though you certainly do not want to have completely pointless items on your daily to-do lists).

The psychological trick is that you will feel most productive and less stressed out when you finish a large quantity of tasks.  This has a bad flip-side, namely, you will be extremely stressed out when you have done very few items and you still have a large to-do list (again, even if those items are unimportant).  But the good news is that you can trick yourself into being more productive by putting down a lot of minor tasks on your to-do list and cross them off as you finish them.  For example, as insignificant as it maybe, you can put down 'call back Ron' on your to-do list if you've been meaning to catch up with a friend.  Or maybe you can add 'check phone bill' on your list of things to do.  These might be small, nagging items that you have been meaning to do for a while, but you didn't think they were worth putting down on your to-do list.  Now you know better, as finishing those tasks can often give you the jump-start you need to get your day going!

Now some of you nay sayers will say that one should not put insignificant items on your to do list, as they can just be time wasters or a method to procrastinate.  But for the sake of getting momentum to do work, to get motivation to do bigger tasks, and for feeling like you can take on the day-- well, then those minor tasks you crossed off on your to-do list have a good purpose.  This is the same reason why you will read a lot of productivity gurus talking about reaching for the low-hanging fruit on your list first-- the more you can cross off, the better you feel about your day.

Try this trick out and let us know how it works for you in the comments.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How to get a flatter stomach

The benefits in having a flatter stomach go way beyond the fact that it's more physically attractive. A flatter stomach typically means you have less belly fat which means you have less weight to carry around. A flatter stomach just speaks about your general health overall, so if you want a flatter stomach, you're typically eating much healthier than the average person.   Most importantly, high abdominal fat is linked to heart disease and diabetes, so best to get rid of it on all accounts!

Interestingly, there are foods out there that seem to narrow down on your stomach problem area (think of them as the exact opposite of beer and fried foods, the things that target your stomach and make it look bigger!).

Are there foods that can help with abdominal fat specifically? Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a recent discovery in the nutrition world. Found in grass-fed cow products (both beef and milk), CLA has been shown to reduce abdominal fat in studies. Certain cheese can also contain good amounts of CLA (would you believe reduced-fat swiss cheese is near the top of that list?).  Keep an eye out for alpine products such as alpine cow milk and cheese, as they have higher contents of CLA than other altitude animal by-products.  Why are alpine animal by-products healthier?  Scientists believe it's due to the healthier vegetation at higher altitudes.  This is similar to how eating fish (like sardines) that eat healthy food themselves (namely healthy algae, for sardines) gives you some of the best health benefits.

It's highly recommend you increase intake of foods with CLA rather than take a supplement, so give that grass-fed beef and alpine milk a closer look if you see it at your local grocery.  Just don't expect to find it at your typical supermarket.  You may have to go to a specialty health supermarket for these products. 

Of course, consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet.  Let us know in the comments if you've put CLA into your diet and where you're getting your CLA from!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A quick and healthy lunch that's cheap.

Here's a great video on how to make a quick and healthy lunch.  It's a sardine sandwich!
  • It takes only a few minutes to make
  • It's packed with omega-3, lycopene, and vitamins
  • You can get cans of sardines in tomato sauce for 70 cents or less
It's not as fishy tasting as you might expect (it actually tastes less fishy than canned tuna, believe it or not).  If you're on a low budget, but you still want to eat healthy, give this recipe a try and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stop breaking habits and stick to your commitments

(photograph courtesy of kevindooley)

One of the best ways to form a habit is to repeat over and over again. I'm sure you've heard the statistic before, but if you do something for at least 2 weeks, you are much more likely to stick to a habit. This includes running in the morning, eating healthy meals, or reading a book that you have always wanted to finish.

More important than forming habits, the key to keeping habits is to make it a habit of not breaking them. As someone once said, 'Quitting is a hard habit to break.' This is such a deep quote, but rings true for everyone.

In short, keep to your commitments. Make it a habit to stick to what you've set out to do. This even includes things such as meeting up with friends/colleagues, keeping promises, and sticking to goals you've set out to do (whether you've been vocal about them or not!). A nice side benefit is that others may notice your commitment and integrity ('Wow, you always do what you say you're going to do!'). And trust me, people notice this sense of commitment, especially in younger people. If you can set a lunch meeting with someone a week ahead and not need to do a 'check-up call to make sure you're still on,' then you've found someone with great commitment. It's noticeable and appreciated by many.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Travel with just your carry-on.

I came across a great website that follows the same philosophies we talk about in this blog-- minimizing waste and maximizing your enjoyment of life.
I urge you to check out this website, Their SlimPacker tool and the building community look like a great asset in the recent days of travel.
A lof of their themes such as being ecologically aware, minimalist, and resourceful, all look like great philosophies to follow. If you know of any other similar websites, let us know!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How to do what you don't want to do

No cat wants to get wet, but in the end, when you got to get something done, then you get it done.
But how about doing things that you have to do but don't want to do?
For these types of tasks, I use a mental trick that has helped many, many times.
The trick is this: Put something on your to-do list that you prefer to do even less than what you need to get done. In other words, find a task you do want to do, but perhaps it takes even more work, effort, and/or time than the task that you truly want to accomplish.
The classic example of this that rings a bell for all students is the exam studying/clean room scenario. Many students can attest to the fact that when it comes down to studying for an upcoming exam, rather than studying, they end up procrastinating by doing something like cleaning up their room. Spotlessly.
What's going on here? Well, the person does not want to clean their room (I mean really, who does?), but, they prefer even more to NOT study for their exam. In other words, the student would rather clean up their room than study for their exam, because now the exam studying has taken precedence as the least favorable task to do. Often in this case, cleaning a room suddenly becomes a highly preferred task to do and it seems to take much less effort with the idea of studying for an exam lurking nearby.
This is also the same reason why people often 'create errands' to do in order to procrastinate the start of a more important project. If you want to get around this, simply make an even more daunting task appear on your task list, and soon something like training for a marathon, reading a long book, or cleaning your house may appear to be the more favorable thing to do than a task that's even harder to do. Try it out!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

On the search for happiness...

CNN recently posted an interesting article about a journalist's trip around the world in the search for happiness. Many of you wishing to streamline your life may be looking to ultimately find happiness in your journey or bring more happiness to your life. I plan on picking up Eric Weiner's book, "Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World," but in the meanwhile, see what CNN's review has to say. There are a number of key points I found fascinating in this article:
  1. Happiness is not necessarily related to money. That's probably nothing new to most of you. 2 of the places Eric Weiner found to be the happiest in the world included Bhutan, an almost pre-modern society in the Himalayas, and Iceland, a country with a lot of darkness and cold. Also interesting is Iceland and Bhutan's GDP (nominal), the benchmark often used to describe a country's production of goods: 95th and 159th, respectively. This is out of 180 countries (source).

  2. Happiness is not even related to a warm, pleasant climate. This was a personal shocker to me. One thing that I thought always separated US citizens on the east coast (Miami, NYC, Boston, etc.) from those on the west coast (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, etc.) was that nicer weather on the west coast was a large reason why west coasters are usually more pleasant and relaxed. In a way, many would say they appear happier. Ironically, one of Mr. Weiner's observations was that the cold weather actually brings people together in Iceland, much as humans must have done long ago.

  3. Happiness often comes with content and satisfaction. As mentioned in the article regarding Qatar, having wealth does not equal being content. Content can often come in the form of having few material possessions to have to worry about maintaining. Content can even come in the form of seeing your tax dollars being used appropriately. It's just amazing that a country such as Qatar doesn't have the most happiness. Qatari's are even paid by the government, as opposed to being taxed, just for being a resident, and yet happiness does not come from such benefits.

  4. Happiness doesn't come from actively searching for happiness. Perhaps a bit of an irony, but countries and people that are happiest often do not seek it. Maybe it's because they just live a certain way and do not contemplate the happiness, as you may not seek what you already have. Alternatively, being active and socially interacting on a daily basis may bring you the happiness you seek, even though that is not your goal in mind at the time.

If anything, the take home message seems to be that having a simple, streamlined life where your time is freed up to spend with your loved ones may bring you the happiness for which many are searching. Check out the book next time you're at the book store... I know I will be.