My iPhone doesn’t work in the United States. Or, more succinctly, the roaming charges would cost more than a flight at high season. So, along with my desktop, my automobile, and my TV work, I have laid my iPhone to rest for the next five weeks.

In a phrase, I am entering the No iPhone Zone.

It makes me light-headed at the thought, really. Fiddling with my various apps as we waited for the travel agent to nail down the actual flight times that had changed since we booked the trip seven months ago, I realized how wonderful my iPhone feels, resting with such trust in my hands. When some of my friends warned me about how fragile an iPhone can be, I quickly ran out to get a protective cover for it. And I’ve dropped mine twice; each time it was cushioned by an ultra-shock absorbing cover, a ‘thick skin’ if you will, to ensure a soft landing on any hard-tiled floor. I take great care to always have it with me. Not very slow of me, I know. But there are some things a girl just can’t do without.

Or can she?

As the travel agent clicked and tsked at his desk, my children and I each pulled out our various gadgets to make the wait more bearable. He went on and on with the airline until I finally got up, confident that my children were adequately distracted, and ran an errand before plopping myself down again. Just as I entered his office again, he put down the phone.

“I really don’t have time for this,” he sighed, as he folded the final travel documents into an envelope. His desk was clear, he had no to-dos bursting from his appointment book, and I wondered, as I discreetly tucked my iPhone into my bag, what he did have time for. Booking travel arrangements for people is his job, after all. Maybe it was all in his iPhone hidden in a drawer somewhere.

As we gathered our things, I spoke loudly enough so the agent could hear me. “We’re travelling without our gadgets,” I explained to the children who looked at me quizzically. But then, through some magical spell, they agreed.

“No iPod, no iPhone, no nothing. Nada. Nichts! We’re going to take in our surroundings when we reach the States. Basta!”

We all laughed at the thought of a real-live unplugged vacation. Go West, young lassy. And leave those devices behind. I can do it. I know I can.

It may not be as quiet in the car now, but I’m actually glad. That No iPhone Zone is sounding pretty good after all!

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The sultry slow days of summer have caught up with Singapore. Relying on anecdotal evidence alone, I am told that some companies are shutting down for an entire week due to the record temps. As I gaze out the window at the summer that hasn’t really been here in Germany, it is hard to fathom that it is warm somewhere else.

As one of the four so-called tiger nations with a staggeringly low unemployment rate of 1.9% (March 2011), Singapore is as efficient, productive and immensely focused as they come (Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan are the other three tiger nations ~ all of which have copies of The Power of Slow in their respective languages). In fact, Singapore was rated as having the fastest pace of life according to a 2007 pace of life study by UK Professor Richard Wiseman.

That Singaporean companies are shuttering their doors for a week is a power of slow message. If you can’t stand the heat, slow it down. And if you really, really can’t stand the heat, come to Germany where the country shuts down for the entire month of August with, or in this case without, the heat!

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“Take life by the scruff of the neck and shake it for all it’s worth!” That’s what my mama likes to say. But how can you grab life and give it a nudge if you don’t have any strength?

Play is the best way to access your scruff-of-the-neck vision.

This October author Linda Ravin Lodding and illustrator Suzanne Beaky will release a most delightful tale of Ernestine Buckmeister, the most overbooked child on the planet. Her well-meaning parents assign her to daily afternoon lessons ranging from yoga to yodelling to knitting to karate. She longingly watches her neighbor Hugo bounce around his yard while she dashes from one appointment to the next (with the help of her nanny, aptly named Nanny O’Dear). One day she strikes all her time commitments to watch the clouds and discovers a whole new world of creativity in the park.

Once again Nature plays a central role in capturing our amazing imaginations. When the parents learn Ernestine has gone missing from one of her lessons, they attempt to track her down at each of them. By the time they end up in the park, they are frazzled. It’s a beautiful moment of realization that life can be lived to the fullest by simply being who you are.

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister is a  great power of slow read for kids ages 4 to 8 and the parents who love them.

 

The earliest surviving depiction of the Korean...

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Of all the OECD countries, Korea has by far the longest working hours of any other nation. Logging an average of 2256 hours in 2008, Korea also has the third highest suicide rate behind Hungary and Japan.

In a recent Financial Times article (German edition), the head of the state-run tourist agency, whose name is none other than Lee Charm, is actually lobbying for workers to take their mandated two weeks off per year. Some companies are even blocking their computer access so they can’t work even if they wanted to.

Looks like Korea could use some slow. What they may not know yet is that slow really is faster. The good news? It looks like The Power of Slow is being translated into Korean next.

When you compare productivity to the number of hours worked, you will see that less is more. Holland reached nearly the same productivity rate (as measured by GDP per hours worked) as the United States, but logged 390 fewer hours than their American pals. That’s nearly ten weeks fewer than US workers.

Cultural pressure plays a large role in Korean’s work ethic. They value face time and even if they are literally bidding their time until the boss goes home, they are fearful of taking time off because it might deem them as a disposable worker. It sounds familiar. American workaholism is based on the same premise. Time is money, but we all know that is no longer true.

Time is time. It equals your existence. Time-off can save it, too.

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Meditation is typically something you think of as a strategy for quieting the mind. But apparently, it can quiet your appetite, too.

According to recent research reported by the Harvard Health Letter, mindful eating can lead to weight loss and an increase in food enjoyment.

No kidding. Slurping in front of the tube isn’t the most mindful way to ingest your food (and I’m guilty of it sometimes, too). Apparently, there is indeed a mind-gut connection. It takes about twenty minutes for the gut to tell the mind it is full. So people who slow down their food ingestion actually eat less.

Like the fork method that I laid out in The Power of Slow (in which you actually use utensils to eat, placing your fork down between bites), the Harvard Health Letter suggests the following tips:

  •     Set your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a normal-sized meal.

 

  •     Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you’re a righty, hold your fork in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.

 

  •     Use chopsticks if you don’t normally use them.

 

  •     Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.

 

  •     Take small bites and chew well.

 

  •     Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk.

 

I would add thanking the Earth for producing the food before you even begin eating. It heightens your awareness about the food itself and places you in a space of gratitude, thereby heightening the experience and underscoring the truth that less truly is more!

 

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Happy Friday, All!

In this TED talk, Matt Cutts says it best. You can do anything for thirty days. Small changes equal sustainable transformation.

Happy Viewing!

Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is power. Does being powerful make you well? Not always.

According to a new global survey whose US-based findings were released by GfK Custom Research North America, U.S. employees with PhDs were both most engaged (38 percent highly engaged) with the highest levels of stress about job security (30 percent), work-related stress (29 percent) and the teeter-tottering-est crowd when it comes to work-life balance (33 percent). The more you know, the more people come to rely on you to know it….and more.

Perhaps not surprisingly, those with master’s degrees worry more frequently about stress (39 percent) while their work-life balance seems less of a concern (25 percent) than their PhD buddies.

It appears respondents with less than a high school education were least likely to be engaged in their work, which comes as no surprise. Only one in four claimed they were highly engaged. Interestingly, age and industry played a large part in engagement levels as well. As I have written elsewhere about older workers, they tend to the most engaged crowd (35 percent were ‘highly engaged’).

The top four most engaged employees came from the following industries:

  • construction (41 percent)
  • professional & business services (34 percent)
  • information technology (33 percent)
  • public utilities (32 percent)

The least engaged came from the following industries:

  • retail (40 percent)
  • real estate (38 percent)
  • public administration (38 percent)
  • education (32 percent)
  • manufacturing (31 percent).

Managers (35 percent) showed more engagement than the managed (21 percent) while those who manage managers showed the greatest level of engagement (60 percent).

I guess we really do like telling people what to do!

Knowledge workers and the ‘creative class’ are succumbing to the pressures of today’s world. We need to rescue ourselves by injecting slow and by setting an example for everyone else. Engagement is good. So is disengaging every now and then.

Sometimes it isn’t what or who you know, but how you do things that makes all the difference in the world.

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