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CTV news wrote a piece about Harvard Business School blogger Peter Bregman who embarked on a single-tasking experiment after a series of multitasking blunders. He tried to craft an email while on a conference call with a board member, who asked him a question. When the board member received no response, the situation got awkward.

Peter swore off multitasking for a week.

Here’s what he found.

  • Delight.
  • Enhanced productivity.
  • More patience for the ‘useful things’ in life.
  • Reduced stress levels.
  • More protective of the time he spends.
  • He looked into his personal bank account of time and smiled.
  • No downside.
  • More energy.
  • More focus.
  • He literally saw the leaves on the trees and felt a rush of gratitude.

Slow works.

Time to celebrate!

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Waiting sucks. Or at least we think it to be a minor annoyance. While waiting can offer us the opportunity to savor, you task-minded folks may appreciate these tips for those places when hanging around feels more like a time drain than a dance!

Doctor’s office

Bring along thank-you and birthday cards. Write them while you are waiting.

DMV

Download a few job-related podcasts. Listen to them onto your iPod while you’re waiting in line. Take notes until your number is called.

Movie theater

Fandango.com allows you to purchase tickets for participating theaters in advance.

While you wait, bring along that magazine you never seem to find time to read. Flip through it before the lights go down. If you’re with children, play a word association game. Bring your own candy. It saves time and money!

Grocery store

Make a list. Even if you forget it, try to recreate it before entering the store. Be strategic. Most fattening foods are in the middle aisles so steer clear of them. Circle the store once, going down only those aisles that warehouse the goods you need.

Bank & post office

Practice deep breathing. As you wait in line, take in a long, five-count breath. Breathe out for six. Repeat several times.

Outlet stores

Go on an off-day (middle of the week is often good). Avoid long holiday weekend visits. Grab as much as you can without exceeding the allowed limit of items to make the dressing room wait worth it. Tag team with a girlfriend so she can bring you the appropriate garment size and color. Besides, what’s better than girl time at the mall?

Theme parks

Google it before you go. Make a list of the must-do rides and be flexible on all the rest. Bring a few snacks in your bag so you’re not spending half your day at the concession stand line. Be mindful of holidays and peak times. Avoid them if at all possible.

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TV Diet Part II

June 1, 2010

Tracey Frost, founder of the New York-based community center, Citibabes, provides great guidelines to move your kids away from the screen and into the green this summer.

Ignore the Whining: It’s important for parents to understand that for children, TV may always seem like the more fun alternative. There will probably be a lot of whining when you turn the TV off and plan a “real world” activity, but I promise: once the kids are engaged, they forget all about what they are “missing” on TV.

Think like a TV Producer: Examine your child’s favorite TV shows from a television producer’s eye and pick out exciting elements of that show you might be able to turn into a real world activity. Do your children love action and superheroes? Find a comic book shop in your neighborhood and make a trip. Is it fantasy they enjoy? Go to your closet and play dress up or, better yet, bring some dress- up clothes to the park for an afternoon of make-believe. For instance, if your child is obsessed with Dora, pack a backpack for the day, draw a map, and go on your own “exploration” of your neighborhood or city. Sure, children love watching their favorite characters on TV, but they love playing their favorite characters even more.

Live Performance: One of the joys of living in New York City is the sheer amount of live performance available to families, from puppet theater to Broadway shows, there’s something for every child out there. I strongly encourage families to seek out local community theater, dance or music and exposing children to the energy of live performance. It’s a wonderful counterpoint to watching something on TV and you can discuss the differences between the two when the curtain falls.

What are the best TV shows for kids? While Tracey didn’t want to name names, she says she selects shows by their level of participation such as those shows that invite kids to get up, dance and sing along. I can’t see my eleven-year-old getting jazzed to do that, but she gets a lot of exercise just going to school and back every day. A little vegging out in front of the tube on vacation and weekends is okay as long as it’s not the only way they enjoy the slow.

Here are some of Tracey’s favorite alternatives to TV viewing:

Make your own TV show or Movie: Create your own characters, costumes, plot and scenery for a class movie. Let the kids hold the camera, yell “Action” and direct their friends for hours of excitement.

Make your own Storybook: Whether it’s a story about a television character your child likes or something they’ve made up completely, have your child narrate while you document their words verbatim. Help them if they’re stuck by asking questions about the character and plot, but try to let the child create the bulk of the tale’s action. When they’re done, divide up the words on several pages for the child to illustrate like a real storybook.

Scavenger Hunts: Scavenger hunts are great warm weather activities that get kids out of the house. We actually use them a lot in the club in our preschool class, whether we’re learning about Australian animals or going on an African safari – we hide stuffed animals around the club for children to find. You can take this game outside very easily, either in teams or one-on-one with your child. Variations include doing a photo scavenger hunt where you take pictures of things on your list or the more traditional version where children have to retrieve items or information from various neighbors or local businesses.

American Idol Sing-off: Turn on the CD player, if you don’t have a karaoke machine, and let your kids belt it out. It’s fun to play dress up before the big “show”, maybe choreograph a few moves and, at the end, you can even record it and play back the video for all to watch before it’s time to go.

Art imitates life. It’s fun to have a blend of both as Tracey suggests. With her tips it truly is possible to embrace the power of slow without drooling in front of the tube for hours on end.

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A recent joint study on the effects of TV viewing on young children by the Universities of Montreal and Michigan found that by fourth grade the children who had watched several hours of television a day at age 29 months experienced a 7% decrease in classroom engagement, a 6% decrease in math achievement and a13% decrease in time spent doing physical activity. In addition, it was found that those same children had a 9% increase in soft drink consumption, a 10% increase in consumption of snacks, a 5% increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) and a whopping 10% increase in classmate victimization by the fourth grade.

As a TV actor, I’m certainly not saying television is the root of all evil. I’m saying we need to bring more mindfulness and discretion into how much of it our children consume.

Citibabes founder Tracey Frost took these stats to heart. Her New York-based community center is not only for kids, but also for parents. The purpose is to educate them while creating a safe place for kids to play.

“As a mom whose priority has been to educate and enrich my children’s world as much as possible,” she admits,”my first reaction [to this study was] completely one of guilt. While I am neither a child psychologist nor researcher, I am a mom, and it’s difficult to hear studies like these and not feel defeated in some way. Most parents I know educate themselves on the dos and don’ts of parenting, but we’re all human. Perfect parenting is an unfair goal.”

Offering enrichment classes such as the ones available at Citibabes is one way to get kids moving. “When it comes to TV,” Tracey says, “we reserve judgment and, instead, try to create a vibrant world of real-life experiences. Everyone can agree that real quality time spent face to face with other people is more fulfilling than virtual experiences.”

When I asked Tracey what we could do to create healthy viewing habits in our kids, she suggested the following:

Role Model: The best thing you can role model for healthy TV viewing is, ironically, turning the TV off. Showing kids there’s more to life than a video screen is key which is why getting outside to the park, the beach, or just running some errands models the fun of physical activity over being a couch potato.

Conversation starters: One thing that comes naturally to grown-ups that may not be easy for kids is the importance of discussing what’s happening on TV. When my husband and I watch TV, there’s always a conversation to be had whether it’s debating a point that’s been made or sharing complimentary information about the topic we’re watching. We try and modify that in an age-appropriate way whenever we watch TV with the kids. Asking questions about what we just watched is the best way to get kids thinking actively about what can turn into passive viewership.

Reward: Sometimes the power of television is too seductive for kids, not unlike sugar and sweets. So, just like we’ve made dessert a “treat” after a healthy dinner, you can extend that lesson to watching TV. Make a chart for the fridge – and include the whole family – indicating what physical or “real world” activities were done for the day in order to “buy” TV time. An hour at the park might mean an hour of your child’s favorite show. A half-hour of reading a book might mean 30 minutes of playing games on the internet. Instituting a system of checks and balances may seem too rigid, but for young children who like structure and reward, the strategy works and you can always ease up as they get older.

So what do we do when they wing about wanting to watch just one more show? Tune in next time when Tracey offers up ways to draw the line and provide TV viewing alternatives.

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You’ve all heard me say it. Limit screen time for yourselves and your kids. One person even said I believe TV is the source of all evil. Not so. I wouldn’t work in TV if I thought that. Toddlers, however, have other things on their minds than watching images pass through the screen: such as learning how to navigate the furniture without falling down and potty training.

According to a recent study,  children age two and under should not watch any TV at all. The ramifications shows up later (by fourth grade), according to the report. Believe me. It’s not worth it. My then-eighteen-month-old took in the story of the three little pigs while playing blocks. He never watched the screen (my three-year-old did), but the sound of the Big Bad Wolf haunted him for years. I mean years!

So, cutting down on screen time is a super duper power of slow idea. How? If you’re in Manhattan or Scarsdale, New York, consider this community, Citibabes (their blog, launched today, literally rules!). I sat down for a cyberchat with Citibabes founder Tracey Frost to discuss the importance of community. The power of slow says the meeting of the minds uplifts. Have a listen to Tracey Frost!

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Betsy Brown Braun, author of You’re Not the Boss of Me, is on the Today Show.

What a great video ~a must-see about how to instill gratitude, respect and self-reliance in your child. And, of course, get the book as a reference guide as you navigate your journey. Whether you are a parent or know one, it’s a good book to have for all ages!

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The Power of Why

May 12, 2010

 During a recent acting workshop with the gracious and gorgeous Gabrielle Scharnitzky, I learned the importance of asking ‘Why’ above all else. The motivation of the character informs everything that follows. Ask yourself what the character believes (the ‘why’) and the actions (the ‘what’) and the movements and words (the ‘how’) will automatically fall into place.

Simon Sinek also speaks of the power of why in leadership. When we are clear about our beliefs, we attract others who believe as we do. And that is the beginning of a movement.

I believe in the right to determine our own pace of life. Why do you believe in the power of slow?

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