Here’s a great time saver

Here’s a great time saver for those of us that are still tempted to text and drive, filling out those insurance forms, getting sued and those visits to the ER take a lot of time and money. Fling the phone out of reach as you sit in the drivers seat and enjoy your safer drive. See the video below of some one who wasn’t as well informed.


Clutter Control : The Four Rules Of Disengagement

Recirculating "stuff"Image by juliejordanscott via Flickr

I just read Gail Blanke’s book ‘ Throw Out Fifty Things‘. It’s a nice motiviting book encouraging us to throw out .. well … fifty things.

Here are some tried and true guidelines for clutter busting. Blanke identifies four key rules of disengagement (how to decide what to get rid of):

One. If it – the thing, the belief or conviction, the memory, the job, even the person – weighs you down, clogs you up, or just plain makes you feel bad about yourself, throw it out, give it away, sell it, let it go, move on.

Two. If it (see above!) just sits there, taking up room and contributing nothing positive to your life, throw it out, give it away, sell it, let it go, move on. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. Throwing out what’s negative helps you rediscover what’s positive.

Three. Don’t make the decision – whether to toss it or keep it – a hard one. If you have to weigh the pros and cons for too long or agonize about the right thing to do, throw it out.

Four. Don’t be afraid. This is your life we’re talking about. The only one you’ve got for sure. You don’t have the time, energy, or room for physical or psychic waste.
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Tal Ben Shahar’s 6 Tips For A Happier Life

Here are some concrete ways to reduce the stress and increase the feeling of well-being. Try and absorb one into your weekend.

1. Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions — such as fear, sadness, or anxiety — as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.
2. Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.
3. Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?
4. Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.
5. Remember the mind-body connection. What we do — or don’t do — with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.
6. Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

Keeping Those Plates Spinning

Here is an excellent article written by one of my favourite tweeters Refocuser.

Find flow, fight fear, and create focus!
Keep the Plates Spinning
Refocuser on Twitter or read about this blog.

For those who haven’t heard the phrase “keep the plates spinning”, it refers to a circus trick involving about a dozen spinning plates on the end of poles (see photo to the right). The performer has to keep all the plates spinning because if any one of the plates slows down too much, it’s going to fall off the pole and smash into pieces on the floor. It’s fun to watch. The performer is constantly evaluating which plates are OK and which are trending towards disaster, and they’re making second-to-second judgments about how best to keep all the plates spinning together.
Sound familiar? Replace “performer” with your name and replace “plates” with responsibilities like work, family, or personal health. We’re just like those circus performers, running between our various responsibilities and commitments to keep them spinning just enough so they don’t fall off the sticks. Focus too long on one plate, no matter how important it seems, and you’ll find that the others will crash to the floor. Try and keep them all spinning at the same high velocity and you’ll almost certainly collapse out of exhaustion – it’s not sustainable.
While focus is about choosing a few things and doing them well, it’s rarely about choosing just one thing and doing that one thing well. That’s impossible to do – I can be a good father, but if I fail miserably to earn a paycheck, my daughter doesn’t eat. I can be great in the office, but if i don’t take care of myself physically and emotionally, I won’t have the energy to keep it up for very long (and while my daughter will eat, she wouldn’t know me from Stanley). We have to be multifaceted to some degree in our day-to-day approach.
So what do you do if you want to keep the plates spinning at various speeds consistently?
For me, keeping the plates spinning isn’t limited to my uber focus areas (family, career, self-development). It’s more “micro” and nuanced than that and can involve daily activities I just want to be consistent in (flossing, stretching in the morning, getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, keeping the house clean, and so on).
What I’ve noticed is that each of my micro-focus areas is in one of these five stages (below) at any given time.

To describe this in a little more detail:
ON. When something is in this stage, I’m charging full steam ahead with it. I don’t have much control over it – I don’t know why or how I get to this stage – something just clicks and for a period of time the majority of my attention is focused on this thing. I’m reaching the flow state often. Any downtime I get, I’m itching to get back to it – the feeling of both inspiration and accomplishment is more enticing than any drug. I very rarely have more than one thing in this phase at any time and it’s not uncommon for me to go days or weeks with nothing at all reaching this level of attention. When it does, watch out! Because I can’t be pried away.
Motivated Maintenance. In many ways, this is the “healthiest” place to be with most things for adequate balance between them. When I’m motivated and energized to keep something moving forward but I’m not borderline obsessed with it, it really sets a tone for the other plates I’m spinning at the same time. The catch with this stage when compared to the one before it is that it rarely results in huge accomplishment in a short period of time since it’s more about maintaining something that was significantly advanced in the ON stage.
Unmotivated Maintenance. When something is in this stage, I’m reluctantly moving it forward. This is the hardest stage to be in for me because I feel the laziest with respect to this thing OR something in a higher stage is taking precedence. This is where I need to just keep the plate spinning so it doesn’t fall off the pole entirely, knowing that my motivation will eventually return.
Break to Recharge. Sometimes I just need a day or two (up to a week) to find my footing again. It’s a vacation from work, some time outside the gym, a week of not focusing on what I’m eating, or just some time spent doing “nothing”. If it lasts more than 5-7 days though, a big red flag gets raised as I’m now trending towards Inactivity.
Inactive / FAIL. When 16 days have passed and I haven’t hit the gym, there’s a problem. When things are in this stage in general, there’s a problem!
At any given time, I could have 1 thing in the highest most state of attentiveness (“ON”), 4 things in motivated maintenance, and 2 things in unmotivated maintenance. In some cases I may be taking a break from something in order to recharge my batteries, and that’s fine. It’s when I’m completely inactive that I’ve failed miserably.
So the real key is to make sure I’m cycling through ON, Motivated Maintenance, Unmotivated Maintenance, and occasionally a Break to Recharge without ever reverting to the Inactive state.
So how do you keep the plates spinning when you feel yourself slipping towards the Inactive state? Here are some of the tricks I’ve used:
Trigger an emotion (using a scent or body movement) to motivate yourself. Can’t get motivated to go to dance class? Commit to spending 2 minutes practicing your steps and then decide. I’ve also found that scents can really trigger positive memories and I try to “bottle them up” or recreate them when I can to reproduce the feeling.
Be OK with a 50% effort at times… because consistency matters! When you’re in the state of Unmotivated Maintenance, it can be hard to really motivate yourself. But for a lot of things, consistency is more important than giving 100%. I’d rather run a mile than fail to run five. Just start doing it and see what happens – sometimes you can switch from Unmotivated Maintenance to ON just by giving something 50% effort at first and letting it transform.
Don’t get down on yourself for not having the same motivation. When things transition from ON to Motivated Maintenance to Unmotivated Maintenance, don’t worry too much about it. It’ll eventually turn around for you. You can’t be ON or even motivated with everything at once so just accept it and know it’s temporary.
Visualize success in that area – or use this time to reaffirm your goals. Sometimes re-reading your goals can help, and sometimes just using pre-sleep visualization of success in that area can trigger something in your brain to help refocus you.
Take a short break from the activity to recharge and clear your mind. You don’t always need to take a week off of something to reboot your brain, sometimes you can do it with just a single day or even 20 minutes. Use this time to get out in nature if you can. A recent study by the University of Michigan found that a stroll in a wooded park gives the prefontal cortex a recharge (which leads to increased focus) while a walk out in a busy city does not.
Make as much progress as you can in an area when you’re full speed ahead so when you slip into maintenance mode, you can do that knowing you got ahead. In other words, if you find yourself ON with something, leverage that increased energy to make a ton of progress. As an example, when I was starting this blog I knew that my desire to hand-edit XHTML or CSS wouldn’t last – it was a means to an end – so while I was in that zone, I got as far along as I could so I wouldn’t use it as an excuse later once my motivation (or in this case, tolerance) wore off.
Bottom line: You can’t be 100% on 100% of everything 100% of the time. Just be Zen about that. But consistency matters more than almost anything else. So it’s important that you find a way to keep the plates spinning to prevent yourself from falling into the dreaded Inactive state with anything that’s important to you.

One Item Never To ‘Rollover’

Finishing your ‘to-do’ list is like finishing the laundry … you might check the majority of items off your list but there’s always going to be a small pile left. That’s called normal living. However, the one item you must never ‘rollover’ is doing something for you. Skipping the option for self care or the opportunity to laugh, smell the roses or eat healthily is not a viable option. So when you ask yourself what items on your ‘to-do’ list absolutely MUST get done today, go ahead and include something for you. Your mind will thank you later.

What Are Friends For ? A Longer Life

What Are Friends For? A Longer Life

Published: April 20, 2009
In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life: their friends.

Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age.
“In general, the role of friendship in our lives isn’t terribly well appreciated,” said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. “There is just scads of stuff on families and marriage, but very little on friendship. It baffles me. Friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.”
In a new book, “The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship” (Gotham), Jeffrey Zaslow tells the story of 11 childhood friends who scattered from Iowa to eight different states. Despite the distance, their friendships endured through college and marriage, divorce and other crises, including the death of one of the women in her 20s.
Using scrapbooks, photo albums and the women’s own memories, Mr. Zaslow chronicles how their close friendships have shaped their lives and continue to sustain them. The role of friendship in their health and well-being is evident in almost every chapter.
Two of the friends have recently learned they have breast cancer. Kelly Zwagerman, now a high school teacher who lives in Northfield, Minn., said that when she got her diagnosis in September 2007, her doctor told her to surround herself with loved ones. Instead, she reached out to her childhood friends, even though they lived far away.
“The first people I told were the women from Ames,” she said in an interview. “I e-mailed them. I immediately had e-mails and phone calls and messages of support. It was instant that the love poured in from all of them.”
When she complained that her treatment led to painful sores in her throat, an Ames girl sent a smoothie maker and recipes. Another, who had lost a daughter to leukemia, sent Ms. Zwagerman a hand-knitted hat, knowing her head would be cold without hair; still another sent pajamas made of special fabric to help cope with night sweats.
Ms. Zwagerman said she was often more comfortable discussing her illness with her girlfriends than with her doctor. “We go so far back that these women will talk about anything,” she said.
Ms. Zwagerman says her friends from Ames have been an essential factor in her treatment and recovery, and research bears her out. In 2006, a study of nearly 3,000 nurses with breast cancer found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. And notably, proximity and the amount of contact with a friend wasn’t associated with survival. Just having friends was protective.
Bella DePaulo, a visiting psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, whose work focuses on single people and friendships, notes that in many studies, friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member. In the study of nurses with breast cancer, having a spouse wasn’t associated with survival.
While many friendship studies focus on the intense relationships of women, some research shows that men can benefit, too. In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, attachment to a single person didn’t appear to affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendships did. Only smoking was as important a risk factor as lack of social support.
Exactly why friendship has such a big effect isn’t entirely clear. While friends can run errands and pick up medicine for a sick person, the benefits go well beyond physical assistance; indeed, proximity does not seem to be a factor.
It may be that people with strong social ties also have better access to health services and care. Beyond that, however, friendship clearly has a profound psychological effect. People with strong friendships are less likely than others to get colds, perhaps because they have lower stress levels.
Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.
The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.
“People with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to,” said Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.”

Voice Mail : Friend or Foe ?

I have stopped leaving pleasantries on my cell phone voice mail message and have unplugged my home answering machine. Returning phone calls is a multi step process that I am finding increasingly inefficient . (Unless my caller is over 75 and does not text or email) What do you think ?

Here’s an opinion from the New York Times