When We Go for the Gold

April 25, 2012

Living on purpose is a big topic here on the Power of Slow blog. What better way to exhibit your enthusiasm for life than by going for the gold? Literally. As in the Olympics. Or figuratively, as in blogging about the same?

The folks promoting the Samsung Global Blogger competition approached me as they liked this blog and thought maybe others would be equally interested in reports from the trenches during the London Summer Games. So I put together a 30-second audition video as a candidate in the blogger competition.

If you want to actually view it, vote for it, pin it, like it or tweet it, you can do so here.

To vote, you can either:

1) Register at Zoopa.com (follow the steps)

2) Log-in using your Facebook details (follow the steps to ad the zoopa app).

Once logged in (either way), note the sliding bar on the right. 5 is the best; 1 is the worst, then click ‘vote’.

Either way, please view the video as every pair of eyes counts! Imagine taking the Power of Slow to the Summer Games? It would be my honor!

The Rise of the Data Dragon

January 13, 2012

Suffering from too much information (T.M.I.)? According to a recent Basex research study on information overload, you’re not alone. It’s becoming more and more apparent that my prediction of the Top 5 Time Wasters in the 21st century is indeed coming true.

As a recap, they are:

  1. Multitasking
  2. Poor Data Management
  3. Lack of Tools & Techniques
  4. Unclear Prioritization
  5. Miscommunication

One could wrap all these in a neat bow under the rubric “information management”. Knowledge workers are particularly afflicted.

Take recovery time as an example. When we are interrupted, whether it be a phone call, instant message or child crying in the next room, it takes up to twenty times the duration of the actual interruption to regain concentration on the task at hand.

It is estimated that 28 billion hours are lost in the United States each year due to information overload. That’s a whopping 1.68 trillion minutes.

That’s a lot of minutes. That’s a lot of time.

Baseline magazine featured an article by Basex CEO Jonathan Spira, who also authored Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous to Your Organization. While I have not read the book itself, I must say his article is quite enlightening.

To summarize the report’s most astounding statistics:

•          Digital barrage: 100 emails can chomp half of a work day.

•          The “cc” beast: Eight hours are lost for every 100 people who are unnecessarily copied on an email.

•          Bloated government processes: 58 percent of government workers spend half the workday filing, deleting or sorting information, which costs the U.S. taxpayer almost $31 billion dollars annually.

•         Chronic time starvation: 66 percent of knowledge workers say they don’t have enough time every day to get everything done.

•          Overwhelm! 94 percent of those surveyed have experienced information overload to the point of paralysis at some point.

Yowza.

So it’s not just you, sitting there glaze-eyed on the couch at night. Many of us are fighting the data dragon every day.

Given this blog offers solutions (and, luckily, so does Jonathan’s article), I offer you some tips and tricks to slay the data dragon.

1. Set limits. We all have them. Snap off your phone well before bedtime. You will sleep better if you do.

2. Read a good book before you go to bed. Research shows that even six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68%.

3. Don’t “cc” the world. Chances are they don’t need to know every granular detail.

4. Unsubscribe. Do you delete emails out of habit instead of handling them at the source? If you delete, refuse a repeat. Unsubscribe. Ruthlessly.

5. Spend time “on the ground”. Denise Stewart taught me that phrase in a powerful speech about going for your dreams that she gave at a blogger conference last year. That means to go offline and live truly, not just virtually.

You can slay the data dragon by giving it short leash to your life. What other ways do you battle T.M.I?

 

Life can be a Piece of Cake!

December 10, 2011


With Husband gone for a week to the States, I’ve had ample opportunity to occupy the kitchen in his absence. Thanks to Robert Rose, the Canadian publisher of, can we  say, Capital A-mazing recipe books, I have once again astounded myself.

I am a culinary warrior now, thanks to Camilla V. Saulsbury’s Piece of Cake!  One-Bowl, No-Fuss, From-Scratch Cakes.  But before you shriek and hug your hips, she’s got healthy recipes in there too.

I opted for the hedonist Hot Fudge Brownie Cake first. My daughter had mentioned something in her all-too-quick-adolescent-speech-cadence that she needed brownies for English class. She bat her eyes at me and said: “So. I volunteered you.”

The very same day Piece of Cake! arrived in my mailbox and I knew we were destined to become fast friends. In a jiffy, I whipped out six brownie muffin creations that would have made Jesus genuflect. I’m not trying to be blasphemous here, people. But the amazing part was it was so easy I couldn’t believe what got created with my very own hands.

My daughter promptly criticized it, challenging that she could do better.

Okay, Missy. I whipped out the recipe book again today, and she tried her hand at the Chocolate Wacky Cake. Believe it or not, it’s under “Health-Conscious”. I think it’s because it calls for non-Dutch process cocoa powder. You know, the real kind. Daughter quickly handed the scepter spatula back to me when she realized she’d actually have to follow instructions to make the thing work. We team-tagged it thereafter and I must say, hers did turn out better.

There is room at the top, indeed.

Oh how I love this recipe book! It makes me feel smart. And, unlike many recipe books that I’ve received in the past, it actually uses both the English and metric systems. For an American expat as myself, I am grateful for that small gesture. It makes baking so much easier.

Another great aspect of the book is the great background information such as why baking soda is four times stronger than baking power and how baking is really a science (that pulled Daughter in. Like Husband, she’s into it), which was why we had to make three separate holes in the dry ingredient mix when adding the vinegar, vanilla extract and oil.

As I nudged today’s cake out of its mini-pans (I still need to get the size pans that the book often calls for), I felt my self-confidence bloom to the level of  kitchen goddess.

Thanks, Camilla. I owe you one for making baking a true piece of cake!

According to a new Michigan State University study headed by sociology professor Barbara Schneider, women are still considered more adept at multitasking than men, yet are also more stressed as a result. Compared to the 38.9 hours per week that men multitask, women shoulder more responsibility at home with a whopping 48.3 hours spent on getting multiple things done. While men experienced multitasking as more ‘pleasurable’, it had the opposite effect on women.

Why?

First, consider the  cultural norm. It’s expected that women get more done. So as we plow through our day (literally), we perceive things as not going fast enough. It is my guess that women suffer far greater stress due to the expectation of multitasking. Women are time-crunching warriors. To their detriment.

Second, research has shown women spend more time taking care of everyone else but themselves. A recent Forbes article reported on a study by the Captivate Network that states men are 25% more likely to take personal time throughout the work day, 35% more likely to take mini timeouts (yeah, you power of slowers!) and 7% more likely to take a walk than women.

The study also shows an imbalance in household chores. Women do more laundry, cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning than men.

So how can we introduce more slow? Women: listen up.

  • It’s time to ratchet down the expectation on yourselves that it has to get all done. Who said so?
  •  The sky will not fall if you leave some chores undone. If it really bothers you, delegate. Chances are there are other highly capable people in the house who can do it instead.
  • Take more timeouts. Please. A burned out worker is a useless one.
  • Take care of yourselves. That means taking a lunch away from your desk, saying ‘no’ and being smart about your resources, which is YOU! In fact, you are your best resource.

What slow moment will you allow yourself today?

According to the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Marketing, creativity is best enhanced through a combination of training and reward. Despite popular belief that creativity is innate, studies have shown that taking just one course to boost your creativity by learning new skills can have a profound impact on your ability to think outside the box.

But course instruction alone is not enough. According to University of Virginia professor James E. Burroughs and his colleagues, those study participants that combined both training and an incentive produced the best results.

When reporting on the study’s findings, Strategy + Business says: “In tandem, rewards and training can enhance, rather than diminish, employees’ intrinsic motivation, which in turn helps them produce more creative ideas.”

I have to agree.

Real-life case study

Yesterday I was commissioned to play a desperate housewife (again – are we seeing a theme here?!) for a TV show. Whenever I get nervous, I guess my American accent is enhanced. Getting put under pressure by the TV crew wouldn’t have helped. They smiled, said “Try it again,” then let me breathe. While I’m not sure I nailed it perfectly (what is perfection anyway but the guaranteed route to a life of hell?), I used what I have learned in meditation practice and concentration. It showed me that training, combined with an incentive (being paid at the end of it and recognized for my language talent), led to stronger results than if the director had crushed me front and center.

Tony Schwartz, author of  Be Excellent at Anything,  pointed out four desctructive myths that most companies follow in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post.

Myth #1: Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.

Anyone who follows this blog knows what I think about that. But in case you just landed here, multitasking is a myth. It’s counterproductive and a waste of time. Period.

Myth #2: A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.

If the director had screamed at me (which one did in my very first speaking role on TV), we would probably still be sitting there trying to nail the scene. We finished within the hour.

Myth #3: Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.

As the above study proves, creativity can be learned. Really!

Myth #4: The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

We all know that a well-rested worker is a productive one. If we had sat in that TV studio yet another hour, the result wouldn’t have been any better.

So how can you be creative today? In what ways can you foster that inner artist? We all have one. Sometimes it takes a gentle hand…or in this case voice, to bring out our best.

Okay, so the mid-week holiday through me for a loop, landing my Wednesday post on a Thursday. You will forgive, I hope. Time. It’s my friend. And sometimes we get carried away.

And now, ladies and gentleman. The moment you’ve all been waiting for. Your Wednesday Wait a Minute video about the myth of multitasking. Take it away!

For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you may recall my post on Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book that recounts the author’s year-long foray into the Slow Food movement with helpful recipes and daunting tales of raising heritage turkeys, making her own pasta and eating only food born, raised and slaughtered within a 50-mile radius of her house.

It promptly made me want to plant my own veggies, raise my own chickens and never, ever buy another loaf of bread again.

I lasted about a week, then reverted to most of my former buying habits: organic, store-bought with an occasional jaunt to the farmer’s market if I happened to be in the area.

Feeling like a complete failure, I was certain I could never measure up to the Kingsolver clan and was about to abandon all hope of ever feeding my children something that didn’t come from a box when Jennifer Reese came along.

Jennifer is my culinary hero.

Her cookbook, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, made me laugh so hard I nearly fell out of bed the first night I picked it up.  A cookbook that is funny? Let’s just say Jennifer is Barbara Kingsolver meets Erma Bombeck. She is seriously funny. Or funnily serious about food and what you can do to make your lives a little easier…and tastier!

For a delicious week, I savored every page as she unhooked me from my own First World guilt about Industrial Food and the harmful things we’re doing to the planet.

The book arose out of Jennifer’s own desperation. A victim of the 2008 recession, she suddenly found herself a formerly employed book critic for Entertainment Weekly. Watching the apple tree cast off its final fruit onto her Northern California lawn, Jennifer wondered if making apple sauce and living off the suburban land could save her. She set out to experiment with homemade food, starting her own silent from-scratch revolution.

But she is no proselytizer like some of her foodie contemporaries. Her side-splitting humor and distinct honesty about what is easier to make and what is easier to buy is extremely empowering and liberating.  For Jennifer, food is not political. Food is food.

Her expression about buying ducks, then selling them because of their gang-ish, bullying treatment of the other suburban-yard foul, reveals a truly authentic voice. Just listen to her description of the turkey farm where she bought what she called a Frankenbird with a bad boob job whom she didn’t have the heart to kill for her Thanksgiving meal:

“[The] farm was strewn with rusted car parts, overturned boxes of trash, empty,2-liter soda bottles, crushed cans, and downed trees, and through this WALL-E wasteland wandered dozens of chickens, cats, dogs, and three bloated, broad-breasted white turkeys – the standard factory-breed…the turkey may well have ingested STP,  Mountain Dew, and crystal meth, but I remained confident that she was never polluted by an antibiotic. We loved her instantly…”

She tried it. It failed. Onward!

Unlike Martha Stewart’s exotic list of ingredients for virtually every recipe she provides, Jennifer’s book is chock full of easy-to-make items whose components are in everyone’s kitchen. Flour, eggs, milk, salt, sugar. She brings food back to the basics. I will say, however, that some of the appliances may not be of your average variety. I, for one, don’t have, or plan on having, an ice cream maker. I did go out and buy a food processor/blender hybrid for the Nutella recipe. Yes! You can make Nutella from scratch. I still have to refine the amount of cocoa my kids can handle, but my daughter, the Nutella connoisseur, highly approved of the healthier version. No transfats. No aromas. Just plain and simple ingredients that came from the Earth.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is a doable look at how we can embrace slow food with humor, grace and a pinch of kosher salt. I bet even Barbara Kingsolver would approve.

What is Slow?

April 27, 2008

Welcome to the Power of Slow, the blog that accompanies a new book being released by St. Martin’s Press in the fall of 2009. The book is entitled The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World.

Slow down to speed up. It’s not as paradoxical as it seems.

Slow isn’t the opposite of fast. You can be efficient in your activities, as long as you are mindful. So often we react to things without thinking. Or we act quickly to get things over with without really enjoying them.

The power of slow reminds us we can do things differently, mindfully, and memorably without delving into a hectic, joyless lifestyle.

Come join the journey. You’ll be glad you did.

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