Tag Archives: work

Secrets of Adulthood: Nothing Is More Exhausting Than the Task That’s Never Started.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

 

Agree, disagree?

For the research for my forthcoming book about habit change, Better Than Before, I asked people about the habits they most wanted to change. I found that most habits fall into the “Essential Seven“:

1. Eat and drink more healthfully (give up sugar, eat more vegetables, drink less alcohol)
2. Exercise regularly
3. Save, spend, and earn wisely (save regularly, pay down debt, donate to worthy causes, stick to a budget)
4. Rest, relax, and enjoy (stop watching TV in bed, turn off a cell phone, spend time in nature, cultivate silence, get enough sleep, spend less time in the car)
5. Accomplish more, stop procrastinating (practice an instrument, work without interruption, learn a language, maintain a blog)
6. Simplify, clear, clean, and organize (make the bed, file regularly, put keys away in the same place, recycle)
7. Engage more deeply in relationships—with other people, with God, with the world (call friends, volunteer, spend more time with family, attend religious services)

Note #5. Finding habits that help fight procrastination can be very, very helpful. Because as exhausting as it may be to start that key project, it’s even more exhausting to keep putting off starting that key project.

Do you agree with the Essential Seven? Did I overlook anything important?

Better Than Before is now ready for pre-order. If you’re inclined to buy the book, pre-ordering is a big help to me. Pre-orders create real buzz among booksellers, librarians, the media, and publishers. Buy early, buy often!

Secret of Adulthood: Working Is One of the Most Dangerous Forms of Procrastination.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

 

Agree, disagree? I know some people practice “constructive procrastination,” but in my experience, it’s usually not very constructive.

I write a bit more about this Secret of Adulthood, here, and I discuss it at some length in Better Than Before, my forthcoming book about how we make and break habits. (To hear when the book goes on sale, sign up here.)

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10 Pieces of Unsolicited Advice, From Me, About Fostering Healthier Eating Habits at Work

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Quiz Day, or Tip Day.

This Wednesday: My 10 pieces of unsolicited advice for how to foster healthier eating habits in the workplace

In law school, we took “issue-spotter” exams, which were actually kind of fun (as law-school exams go). An issue-spotter exam presents a long tale of legal woes, and students must spot every issue that arises—the law-school version of a child’s “find the hidden pictures” puzzle.

A while back, I was speaking at a big company, and as I was shown around the corporate campus, I did a mental issue-spotter.

What steps would make it easier for employees to eat more healthfully without even thinking about it? I amused myself by writing an imaginary ten-point memo.

1. At the reception desk, put all the candy in an opaque container with a lid, with a small sign that says “Candy.”

2. Don’t provide “health bars” or “energy bars” that are really candy bars in disguise. (Just because the label says it’s “healthy” doesn’t mean it is healthy.)

3. Put doors on the office kitchens. The slightest big of inconvenience shapes our habits; plus, if we don’t see food cues, we’re less likely to eat.

4. Set up a partition to divide each kitchen in two. Dedicate the section closer to the door to healthy selections; put less-healthy food in the back section, further from the door, so people would have to make a special effort to get there. Ideally, they’d have to pass another partition or cross an actual red line painted on the floor—and they wouldn’t be able to see those tempting foods unless they were in that area.

5. On the posters that promote healthy foods, stop conflating “fruits” and “vegetables.”

6. Don’t put candies and nuts in bins that pour out their contents in a stream. Instead, provide containers that dispense one small serving at a time. Or better, serve those items in small, pre-packaged bags. That helps people monitor how much they’re eating.

7. Hang mirrors near food stations.

8. Offer fewer varieties of unhealthy foods.

9. Provide a tracking system to allow people to note their daily snack intake (voluntary).

10. Don’t provide trays in the cafeteria. Many colleges have eliminated cafeteria trays; when students can’t easily load up on food and must make multiple trips, they take less. One study found that going trayless cut food waste by as much as 25-30 %, and I bet people eat less, too.

If you could offer some unsolicited advice about your workplace — about how to make it healther — what would you say?

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The Most Unconventional Writing Advice I’ve Ever Read.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is one of my favorite novels, so I’ve been working my way through everything that Muriel Spark wrote. As I was reading A Far Cry From Kensington, I came across some highly unusual advice for writing which actually sounds like it might be pretty effective, for the right person.

The narrator of the novel, Mrs. Hawkins, works at a publishing house, and a retired Brigadier General tells her that he wants to write a book but he “can’t concentrate.” (A common problem, right?)

Mrs. Hawkins recounts:

I passed him some very good advice, that if you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, I explained, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk-lamp.  The light from a lamp, I explained, gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.

I can’t test this proposition, because I’m allergic to cats and don’t want any pets, but it really struck my imagination. Oddly, I’ve found, a burning candle helps me to concentrate. Or snow or rain falling outside the window. There’s something about the presence of  spark of life and movement that gives a sense of focus. I imagine that a living creature would provide that much more powerfully.

In my forthcoming book about habits, I write about the strategies we can use to shape our habits, and one of the most powerful strategies is the Strategy of Other People. But in fact, animals, like people, can have a profound effect on our habits — as anyone who regularly walks a dog can attest. And so a cat can help with writing! (If you want to know when my habits book goes on sale,  sign up here.)

Another unorthodox writing strategy was used by novelist Victor Hugo. According to legend, Hugo forced himself to work by ordering his servant to take away all his clothing for the day. Left naked in his study, with only paper and pen, he had nothing to do but write.

Have your habits been affected by a pet? Or have you found an unconventional way to help yourself concentrate?

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Questions for You: What Habits Most Affect Your Spiritual Life and Work Life?

Have I mentioned that I’m writing a book about how we make and break habits? Oh right, I think I have. Before and After will hit the shelves in 2015 (sign up here to be notified when it’s available).

Most of us — well, perhaps not the Rebels — have habits that we’d like to add or drop, and I’d like to ask you readers:

1. What habits would you like to make or break that affect your spiritual life? Maybe you’d like to read holy books for thirty minutes every morning; or meditate; or observe the Sabbath; or give up alcohol; or fast or abstain during Lent, Yom Kippur, or Ramadan; or attend services regularly.

Also, how do other people’s habits affect your spiritual life–for good or for ill? We’re very influenced by other people’s habits; for instance, if one family member begins attending services, others are more likely to go. Has someone’s spiritual habit rubbed off on you?

Do you have any habits that interfere with your spiritual life? Any habits that consistently make it hard to have the spiritual life you want?

2. What habits would you like to make or break that affect your work life? Maybe you’d like to file expense reports every day, or do a better job tracking billable hours, or talk more to your co-workers, or stay on top of your emails, or stop putting off work until the last minute. Or maybe you’d like to do a better job of maintaining certain general habits while you’re at work. For most people, habits such as exercise or eating healthfully are issues for work life as well as for private life. My sister the sage is much stricter about her eating habits at work than she is at home, because work contains so many more crazy temptations (you wouldn’t believe what was in the office kitchen!), and she spends so much time at work, she figures that if her work-eating habits are very good, her home-eating habits can be looser.

How do other people’s habits affect your work life–for good or for ill?  Has someone’s habit at work rubbed off on you? Someone started going to the weekly programming seminar, so you started going, too. Or a co-worker is constantly behind, so you’re persistently behind in your own work, because you have to help him finish. (Speaking of my sister the sage, one of my favorite words of wisdom from her is “Your lack of planning is not my emergency.” But that can be hard to enforce, in practice.)

People’s habits can cause conflict, when they’re incompatible. For instance, Marathoners like to work steadily, well in advance, while Sprinters like to put in a burst of work at the end. Both strategies are effective, but it can be hard when teams include people of different styles. And Upholders, Questioners, Rebels, and Obligers have very different work habits.

Do you have any habits that interfere with your work life? Any habits that consistently make it hard to have the work life you want? You stay up late watching TV, so you oversleep and are consistently late for work.You check your emails while you’re spending time with your kids.

I’m very curious to see people’s answers. Feel free to take a very loose view of the definition of a “habit.” I do! Anything that you’re “in the habit of” doing.

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