Why We’re So Fat

January 30, 2012

Fat. Now there’s an ugly word. The truth is one in three Americans is considered obese by the Centers for Disease Control. 17% of all U.S. children are too. It’s an astounding number. How has it come to this?

According to FastCompany, our brains aren’t prepared to handle the all-you-can-eat variety of food intake. Based on the primordial need to stuff our faces while we can, we often do. Our brains, apparently, are designed to prepare for rough winters and starvation. So we gorge ourselves, thinking it’s normal.

It’s not. We just don’t realize when to stop because our brains say it’s somehow okay.

Portion control is a term I learned while working on a campaign for Yum Yum Dishes, a fabulous company that creates ceramic dishes to provide acceptable food portions for weight control. We are not only what we eat; but how we eat it too.

So if you’re tempted to belly up to the next buffet and scarf a bit more than you should, think again. Eat a little less than you normally do and see how it feels. Eat slowly. Enjoy your food. If you do, you might notice that less is actually more. Let’s bring down that national statistic with a little more mindfulness.

Courtesy of FastCoExist.com

As you think about planting seeds in the yet-frosty earth, you may want to consider the changes in the USDA climate map that was last updated in 1990.

Ecological food production is typically viewed as a local family run-type enterprise, nothing matching the grand scale of a multinational corporation. So it seemed dubious when I received an invitation to a February 2nd event sponsored by the Columbia Business School Alumni Club of New York on slow food and big business. Were they for real?

Apparently, yes. The location of the event is PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 300 Madison Avenue, PwC Auditorium, SW Corner of42nd Street.

That got my attention for sure.

Their flyer states: “In an era of destructive agribusiness, a growing number of committed sustainable food leaders are defying the odds. Join us as our panel explores the challenges and future trends in ecological food production and shares their stories from small beginnings to achieving scale.”

Now since I won’t be in New York for the event itself, I am curious as to what they have to say. The mere fact that these food leaders are getting together says a lot about the public dialogue today. They are listening. My hope is that it’s not just lip service to a very severe problem: climate change and dwindling ecological resources because we just have to have that exotic fruit that was shipped from one hemisphere to the next. Sustainability, folks. Now there’s a concept!

The event will be moderated by David Barber, Co-Owner Blue Hill, Board Member, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. The panelists themselves include:

  • Gary Hirshberg, Chairman, President and CE-Yo, Stonyfield Farm
  • Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA
  • Mark Crumpacker, Chief Marketing Officer, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

Don’t you just love Gary’s description. He’s not an acronym. He’s the CE-YO!  If Josh Viertel is there, it feels more credible. Like we really do want to eat according to the seasons, not according to what’s en vogue.

Other Exclusive Extras

  • Experienced executive coaches for valuable ideas and advice, featuring Win Sheffield
  • Gary Hirshberg will sign his book Stirring it Up: How to Make Money and Save the World

You can register here

If you go, will you let me know what it was like? I’m curious.

Time-Saving Household Tips

January 25, 2012

HGTV sent me some cool tips I just had to share. Because even though we have a lot of time-saving devices in our home, we often feel we can’t bother cleaning, as if it’s taking us away from something more important.

I don’t know about you, but I find a messy house to be a stressful place to be. So take these tips and run with them. Courtesy of HGTV whose latest issue (February/March) already hit the stands January 17th. Grab your copy while you can!

Dirty Little Laundry Secrets from the Pros

It’s the chore that never ends! Get it done easier and faster with tips from our crew of washing and folding experts.

–          A sink for hand-washing: A two minute soak in the sink isn’t enough. You need to soak stains for at least 10-30 minutes to really make a difference.

–          Bins for sorting: Don’t just separate by color but also by material. You don’t want to wash fuzzy fabrics like chenille and flannel with corduroy or permanent-press items, which can be magnets for lint.

–          Countertops for folding: Don’t fold clothes hot right out of the dryer (we know – we all do it!). You can wind up with creases that are hard to get rid of.

–          A rod for hanging: A rod is hey for keeping shirts smooth and crease-free. Take collared shirts out of the dryer a few minutes before they’re dry to prevent the neck from stretching and the collar from getting floppy.

–          Did you know: You should clean the inside of your washing machine to keep it and your clothes smelling fresh? You can put the lint screen from the dryer in the dishwasher? Hot pink, bring green, and electric blue can bleed more than other colors in the washing machine? Using too much detergent can actually make your clothes dirtier.

–          3 stain busters to have on hand: Rubbing alcohol for ink. Raise armpit stain remover for getting out touch sweat stains. Blue dawn dish soap for grease.


When was the last time you cleaned…

HGTV’s experts reveal common household items that might be getting neglected in the cleanliness department. Here are some tips on how and when to clean your hair brushes, pillows, coffee makers, produce bins in your fridge, etc. – and the answers may surprise you!

–          Your hairbrush: Beauty experts recommend washing your hair brush every two months. First pull out all stray hairs with a comb. Fill a sink with warm water and a squirt of soap or mild shampoo, and soak your brush for 15 minutes. (If your brush has padding, boar bristles, or a wooden handle, swish it back and forth in the sink and then rinse to prevent the brush getting waterlogged.

–          The inside of your coffee machine: Clean your machine after every dozen brews. Insert a coffee filter and fill the reservoir with two parts white vinegar and one part water, and run the machine through one full cycle. Then, repeat the process twice with cold water and filters.

–          The produce bins in your fridge: Scrub your bins every few months to keep produce flavors fresh. Empty the drawers and remove them from the fridge. Dip a cloth in a mixture of 4 tablespoons baking soda and 1 quart warm water, then wipe down the inside and outside of each bin. Avoid household cleaners, which can make food taste like chemicals. Be sure to rinse the bins in warm water before returning to the fridge.

Have any other time-saving tips to make your surroundings squeaky clean? Write in and let me know!

Many thanks to Psychology Today reader Kallin, who pointed me to this mind map, courtesy of LearningFundamentals.com.au. It beautifully illustrates how we can regain control of the things we do in the time that we have.

Happy Monday Morning, All!

Simple Ways to Slow - Courtesy of LearningFundamentals.com.au

Burnout syndrome*, once considered a ‘manager’s disease’, affects people across all industries. A slow-creeping form of exhaustion accumulated over years of perfectionismstress and overwhelm, burnout is not just reserved for the highest-ranking professionals. It can happen to anyone.

Health care workers are cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as particularly prone to job burnout. Using an Iranian psychiatric hospital as an example, the WHO found that 96% of all mental health care workers experienced some level of burnout while a full half of the study respondents experienced a high-level of job burnout. 

What is job burnout?

Herbert Freudenberger, a German-American clinical psychologist, is said to have coined the phrase “job burnout,” defined as “a state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.” (African Journal of Agricultural Research  Vol. 5(17), pp. 2321-2325, 4 September, 2010) What was once high job motivation sinks to the depths of despair and apathy.

What causes burnout?

The causes can be varied, depending on a person’s situation. Not only work-related stress, but also lifestyle issues can lead to a high rate of burnout. Working consistent long hours, having little familial or social support, sleeping and exercising less can hinder the rejuvenation process all human beings require to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

Are some personalities more prone to burnout than others?

It is said that perfectionists and pessimists are more susceptible to burnout as it is in their very nature to push harder and harder to reach their goals. Workers that lack the necessary skills to complete their tasks, coupled with a lack of confidence, the inability to relax and so-called Type A personalities, are also at risk.

What are some of the signs?

The Mayo Clinic Web site suggests answering the following questions, quoted below:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

If you have answered yes to several of these questions, you may be on your way to burnout. The important thing is to seek medical advice from your doctor to determine whether the cause of your symptoms are burnout-related or have some other origin such as a malfunctioning thyroid or clinical depression.

How can you prevent burnout?

If you answered ‘no’ to most of the above questions, but are still concerned that it could happen to you, consider the following strategies:

1.    Just say ‘no’. Setting boundaries early with others should not be considered walls, but paths to your sanity.

2.    Slow down on purpose. Set your own speed limit. Walk slower than normal. Breathe.

3.    Recognize your inner perfectionist. If you give 115% every day, you will use up more of yourself than you have. Allow for 80% every once in a while. Use the other 20% you saved for self-renewal.

4.    Exercise. According to the German Society of Neurology, even fifteen minutes of movement every day can extend your lifespan by three years.

5.    Note your stress points. If you start to feel that cortisol (the stress hormone) tingle move up your spine, identify the situation and write it down for later analysis. The more self-aware you become in stress situations, the more control you can get over them.

6.    Make a date with yourself every day. Close the door to your office and just be. Pacing yourself will ensure sustained energy throughout the entire day.

What other strategies have you found useful to embrace the power of slow?


*This post should not be considered medical advice so if you are considered about your mental health, please seek medical consultation immediately.

The Power of Collaboration

January 15, 2012

In a compelling article about the power of collaboration, Forbes’ Ty Kiisel underscores the new era in which we now live, work and breathe: it is an era of collaboration and distinctive gestures of listening, following, leading and thinking through a broader collective. Thanks to social media, we are interacting in ways we never thought possible before. And the speed of our lives has been strongly influenced by the speed of communciation.

Clay Shirky, a Web 2.0 thinker who recently penned Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, would agree. Shirky argues that we have a lot more time on our hands and what we are doing with that time is surprising. While alcohol abuse (namely gin) used to be the element of choice for people dealing with their societal transitions from the pre-industrial to full-blown industrial age, he argues that today it’s the sitcom that chomps at the lion’s share of our free time. We aren’t hanging out at illegal bars and pubs anymore. Instead, we’re hanging out in front of our TVs.

But is that really true? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey, we spend about 2.7 hours a day watching TV. But how much of  our behavior has changed due to the gadgets we use? Does watching a YouTube video constitute “watching TV”? The lines are blurring even more as we see generational differences. The Pew Internet & American Life Project illustrates how gadget usage differs among various age groups.


Where do you fall on the spectrum of gadgetry use? How much time do you spend collaborating with others, whether it’s through a Facebook share, a retweet or a “like”?

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.


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?


Top Five Time Wasters

January 10, 2012

If you’re like me, you like to start out the New Year with a great sense of purpose, vision and commitment. But somewhere along the way, we become, well, wayward, in our thinking and actions.

If you missed the 2012 Productivity Revolution Telesummit talk I gave on the Top Five Time Wasters, I’ll offer you them in a super tight nutshell.

#1 Multitasking

I’ve blogged about this ad naseum, but the truth is slow is faster and fast is merely exhausting.

#2 Bad data management

Information overload is a myth, according to Clay Shirky. What’s really going on is our lack of filters. Get them. Use them. Live by them!

#3 Lack of Tools & Techniques

By now you might be saying “Are you crazy? We’re more plugged in that ever. I need fewer tools, not more!” I’m not talking about dashing out to the nearest Apple Store for yet another gadget. Tabula rasa, baby. Not tablet. What we need is to use our tools more smartly. That includes turning them off. Or on less. It’s about gadget control, people.

#4 Unclear Prioritization

Ene, mene, mine, mo…ever started your Monday out like that? How far did you get? Use a chalkboard or whiteboard with magnetized cards that allow you to shift your priorities as they do. It’s empowering. And it works!

#5 Miscommunication

A biggie, especially around the holidays. Be clear in your communication. And remember to listen. Relationships are a give and take.

Have any others? I’m all ears!

PS You can still download the recordings to all the fabulous talks here!

The sound of silence is not only a musical rendition by Simon and Garfunkel; it’s also balm for our weary soul after a hectic day. According to a recent New York Times article, it is also as rare as a sunny day in England.  Author Pico Iyer talks of Internet rescue camps in Asia, so-called black-hole or unplugged vacation resorts and the Joy of Quiet. Have we really gone from disconnected to overconnected in merely a generation? It appears so.

We have drowned ourselves in data, bathed ourselves in blog posts (mine included) and saturated our brains with the sounds of everything but silence. And when it creeps in in the predawn light, we barely hear it skitter under the bedskirts as we reach for our smartphones to fill the void.

So where does it live, that stillness within us? Certainly not in the forefront of our minds. It, like the Eastern US bat that hangs out in caves, is on the verge of extinction.

How can we save the endangered species that is our inner voice?

Leave your smartphone at home when you take a Sunday walk in the woods.

Turn off the tube and tune into yourself.

Spend time alone. All alone without sound.

Stare into a fire.

What other ways can you tap into your silence?