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Manage your energy

Manage energyAlthough managing your time is important, if you have no energy, all the time in the world will not get you the results that you want.
Your brain needs large amounts of energy just to carry out its normal functions. It is only about 2% of your body weight but consumes about 25% of the oxygenated glucose and other nutrients carried by the circulatory system.

In addition to its normal job, the brain is asked to concentrate for long periods of time, make decisions, and switch from one task to another while still focusing on what’s important – all of which consume energy. And for the majority of people, it has to do this under stress and with inadequate sleep and nutrition.

Even when you sleep your brain is active, processing information, consolidating memories, and working on problems that have stymied you during the day.

Lack of energy reduces the strength of our executive skills – those brain-based skills required to execute tasks efficiently and effectively. When our brain as tired we tend to procrastinate, become easily distracted, lack focus, show poor judgment, make rash decisions, have little self-control, and are more susceptible to anxiety and stress.

Managing energy presumes you are building enough energy in the first place – through adequate sleep, exercise and proper nutrition. Probably the biggest reason for an inadequate supply of energy is due to a lack of sleep. Sleep has taken the brunt of our need for additional time to do all the things we want to do – to the point where the average recommended sleep time of 7 to 8 hours a night is being short-changed by at least an hour.

People have difficulty believing that spending more time sleeping provides more energy – both physical and mental – to get more things done. But look at the fastest creature on the planet – the cheetah. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 3 seconds. But it spends 18 hours a day sleeping!

Assuming you have a sufficient amount of energy in the first place, you can manage it by avoiding marathon work sessions, taking frequent breaks, reducing interruptions, ceasing any attempts to multitask, and eliminating as many sources of stress in your life as possible.

With time, energy, and the habit of planning and proper prioritizing, you will increase your bottom line results.

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A new strategy for success is emerging.

Success 2In this age of stress where 96% of leaders interviewed say they feel burned out, and sleep, exercise and proper diet take a backseat to 24/7 connectivity and busyness, a new concept of success is emerging.

The new success still includes the acquisition of wealth and power, but not at the expense of health and well-being. In fact scientists have proven that both efficiency and effectiveness decreases as we attempt to achieve more through ill-conceived strategies such as multitasking and expanded work hours.

The new strategy for success in all areas of life include mindfulness and meditation, empathy and compassion, rest and recreation, purpose and balance, health and well-being, and the constant care and feeding of body mind and spirit.

Everyone does not subscribe to all of these strategies, but as more and more successful individuals attest to their experiences in climbing the ladder of success, the more people are moved or motivated to make life-enhancing changes to their own careers and lifestyles. I’m referring to such books as Thrive: the third metric to be defining success in creating a life of well-being, wisdom and wonder, by Arianne Huffington, cofounder and President of the Huffington Post Media Group, and My stroke of insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist. Both authors went through life-changing experiences.

As we age, we seem to be more open to concepts such as living our eulogy rather than our resume, the power of our mind to heal as well as innovate, and the productivity and health advantages of working with nature and not against it.
Unfortunately many of us die before the reality of holistic living hits home. We die with our boots on – or more accurately, with our iPhones activated.

But we can learn from others and our own experiences if we can pause long enough to let their lessons sink in. This requires awareness on our part – mindfulness, if you will.

This is my purpose in writing these blog articles – to help people become aware of the vastness of the resources available to us all, not only from within our body, mind and spirit, but from our environment, other inhabitants of this earth, and beyond.

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Brain drain: multitasking is counterproductive

Brain DrainDr. Amir AllenTowfigh, a neurologist with Weill Cornell Medical Center claims that multitasking can jam up your brain processing. He says our frontal lobes are the main engines directing our attention, and they have a limited amount of processing power. Multitasking puts a strain on working memory since it requires you to bring back important pieces of information for each task as you switch back and forth between them.

Energy management is required in order to maximize your performance, retain your health and protect your brain. This involves both gaining the energy in the first place – through such things as proper sleep, diet and exercise – and managing the energy through judicial use of your time.
As explained by Wray Herbert, in his book, On second thought, if we are overtired and mentally depleted, our brain switches automatically to its less effortful mode; it’s just too difficult to crunch a lot of information and sort it intelligently if we lack the fuel for thinking. If you’re in the habit of composing email and carrying on a conversation with a coworker while eating lunch, you could be creating a brain drain.

David Rock, in his book Your brain at work, claims that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for thinking things through and making decisions, uses up metabolic fuel faster than people realize, and that we have a limited amount of energy resources for activities such as decision-making and impulse control, Making one difficult decision makes the next one more difficult.

Brain research does indicate that you can have several motor programs running simultaneously, whether it’s steering your car, talking on your cell phone, texting a message or whatever; but you can only focus your conscious attention on one thing at a time. Your body may react through habit; but your brain thinks sequentially. So relying on muscle memory when thinking is required can be a dangerous practice.

By using functional MRI, researchers discovered that when people juggle two assignments, their prefrontal cortex appeared to deal with the tasks one at a time, creating a mental bottleneck.

The ability to focus is one of the most critical functions of the brain, and it depends on the strength of our executive skills, which reside mainly in the prefrontal cortex. They are not fully developed until we are about 25 years old, and our brains shrink at about 2% per decade as we age – so it is even more imperative that we do not multitask when we are either young or aging. It is during these stages of our lives that we are most easily distracted.

Multitasking can also be stressful, and during stress our weakest executive skills become more pronounced. Too much exertion without a break taxes the executive skills as well. The cards are stacked against you when you multitask.

An article appearing in the New York Times described the results of this energy drain on a parole board’s decisions. After examining more than 1100 decisions over the course of a year, it was found that prisoners who appeared before the board early in the morning received parole 70% of the time; but those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10% of the time. In at least one incidence two prisoners were serving the same sentence for identical crimes and yet the one appearing at 8:50 a.m. was paroled while the one appearing at 3:30 p.m. was denied.

Ruling on case after case throughout the day caused decision fatigue and warped their judgment. And it can have a similar effect on all of us if we do not manage our energy as well as our time.

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Are smartphones interfering with your relationships?

images (2)According to an article in the March/April, 2015 issue of Psychology Today, smartphones are interfering with relationships. When one person in the relationship is frequently checking email or text messages it is sending a signal that what he or she is doing on their cell phone is more important than interacting with the other person.

Being shunned, ignored or rejected is painful, and functional MRIs actually reveal that both physical pain and rebuff or rejection share the same pathways in the brain. One study from Brigham Young University found that of 143 women in relationships, the majority reported that cell phones, computers, and other devices were significantly interrupting their relationships and family lives. It is even believed that these seemingly minor hurts through inattention or rejection are cumulative. Over time, they can fester to the point of compromising physical and mental health.

A Wall Street Journal article titled BlackBerry Orphans discussed how these gadgets were intruding on families and how children were feeling neglected. Psychologists reported that electronic devices were becoming a topic of conversation in family therapy sessions. When I was young, wives used to complain about husbands reading the paper at the kitchen table during meal time. Now it seems that Smartphones have replaced the newspaper. And women seem to multitask as much as men.

A Canadian Health report (mentioned in the book, Sleep to be Sexy, Smart & Slim by Ellen Michaud with Julie Bain) claims that more than a half of all employees take work home, 69% check their email from home, 59% check voice mail after hours, 30% get work-related faxes, and 29% keep their cell phones on day and night. As a result, 46% feel that this work-related intrusion is a stressor and 44% report negative spillover onto their families. And the families are supposed to be the most effective buffer to workplace stress. Work is no longer a place, but a state of mind. And with smartphones and other PDAs, it’s easier to be a workaholic these days.

If both parties in the relationship are guilty of using their smart phones while together – such as in restaurants, at family gatherings or in the bedroom – communications will suffer, and communications is usually considered essential to a happy relationship.

Relationships is a major topic discussed in our holistic time management seminars as well, since it impacts time, health and well-being. Couples owe it to themselves to at least examine whether technology is creating interference in their personal relationships and take action if necessary.
Such actions could include setting some boundaries and guidelines that are acceptable to both parties. We all need time for technology – both for business and personal reasons – but it should not overlap with time being spent together. Perhaps there could be specific times when both partners work independently for an hour or so. There could be a policy of no cell phones during specific activities such as mealtimes, dates, and at bedtime. You could decide to turn off cell phones and laptops at a specific time in the evening or have technology-free hours during the day.

The important thing is to assess the impact, if any, that cell phones and other devices are having on your relationships, health and use of time, and take any necessary action. Any actions taken should be agreed upon by both parties, and not set arbitrarily.

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Live longer – without outliving your mind.

longevity3According to the World Health Organization, as reported in the March 22, 2015 issue of the Toronto Star, it is estimated that 1.4 million Canadians will be living with dementia in 20 years. Worldwide, there are about 7.7 million new dementia cases every year – about one case every four seconds. One in nine Americans age 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease according to a 2015 special edition of Scientific American, and ultimately Alzheimer’s disease kills about 40% of those aged 85 and over.

These are shocking statistics that are already painful realities for some of us. The author of The Brain Training Revolution claims that two thirds of Americans older than 50 complain of memory problems and that aging Americans fear memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease more than they fear cancer, heart disease and even death.

Although medication can slow down the progression of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, it is better to avoid or delay its onset through relatively simple strategies such as exercise. By caring for your body and brain – from the food you consume and the sleep that you get to the way you respond to stress, you can influence the vitality of your brain, and greatly reduce the chances of ever being affected by the disease.
Here are a few suggestions.

Stimulate the brain. Good old-fashioned reading, writing and arithmetic stimulate the brain and make it grow in every conceivable way. Don’t outsource all your mental chores to computers. Use it or lose it. Keep mentally active, whether it is by doing crossword puzzles, discussing the weather, writing poetry or working on your income tax.

Keep on learning. Our chance of developing Alzheimer’s drops 17% for every year of education beyond high school, according to John Ratey, co-author of the book, Go wild: free yourself from the afflictions of civilization. It’s not the education, it’s the forced thinking – so commit yourself to lifelong learning. According to a Mayo Clinic researcher lifelong learning could delay the onset of cognitive impairment by 3 to 8 years.
Build and maintain relationships. Staying socially engaged affects your cognitive functioning as well. Research by Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University indicates that the more social connections you have, the greater your ability to fight infection. Associate with younger people. According to the November/December, 2012 issue of Scientific American Mind, research now suggests that caring for the young produces higher levels of antioxidants – proteins that protects against neurodegenerative diseases. So if you’re up to it, you might babysit.

Reduce stress. Do everything you can to reduce excessive stress in your life since stress serves to exacerbate dementia. Stress can induce the release of cortisol and excess cortisol impairs function in the prefrontal cortex. The overproduction of cortisol was found in seniors who were experiencing memory loss. Relieve stress through such things as socializing, volunteering, walking, meditation, listening to music and laughter.
Exercise regularly. Exercise not only increases circulation of nutrient carrying blood to the brain, it also reduces the risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, diabetes – and improves mood, muscles, bones and lung capacity. Dr. Laura D Baker and her colleagues at University of Washington School of Medicine completed a study indicating that six months of aerobic exercise improved cognitive functioning. John Ratey expressed it simply in his book when he said “sedentary behaviour causes brain impairment.”

Get enough sleep. You may sleep less as you get older but your need for sleep does not decrease. Research indicates that sleep deprivation causes weight gain and obesity. A CBS documentary aired on March 18, 2008 reported that four nights without sufficient deep sleep affects more than just performance, judgment and memory, it also presents a risk factor for diabetes in addition to affecting learning and cognitive skills. Try to get from 7 to 8 hours sleep a night.

Move around. Although 150 minutes of brisk walking each week may be the minimum exercise recommended, researchers are now finding that even getting up from your chair is a lot better than sitting down most of the day. One study indicated that sitters had a 50% greater likelihood of dying from any cause during the eight and a half year study. Stand up at regular intervals while watching TV, reading or working on your computer. Walk up the stairs. Park farther from the stores. Simply move around more.

Watch what you eat. A cup or two of coffee a day it has been shown to improve memory; but everything in moderation. This particularly applies to sweets. Having too much sugar in your diet reduces production of a brain chemical that helps us learn, store memories and process insulin. Consuming too much sugar also dulls the brain’s mechanism for telling you to stop eating. Both chronically high blood sugar and diabetes increase the risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. A separate blog discusses brain boosting foods.

According to the January, 2015 issue of Reader’s Digest, longevity is about 30% DNA and 70% other factors such as lifestyle choices. By caring for both your body and your brain, you increase the likelihood that both will survive to a ripe old age.

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Holistic Time management increases longevity.

downloadLife expectancy in America has increased by about 30 years in the last century – primarily through medical advances, senior care improvements and decreased infant mortality. Any further increases in life expectancy will be mostly up to the individual and will require self-discipline, self-control and the development of a healthy lifestyle.

We can no longer depend on science and technology to keep us living longer and healthier. We must form the habits of daily exercise, healthy eating and adequate sleep among other lifestyle changes such as stress reduction, and moderation in the use of alcohol, coffee and other stimulants.

According to an article in the March/April, 2015 issue of Psychology Today, titled “Tinkering with mortality,” even if cancer, heart disease and stroke were eliminated, life expectancy would only increase by about 10 years. We would still have to wrestle with the diseases which are at least partially caused by lifestyles that we are either unwilling or unable to change.

Holistic time management, which encompasses lifestyle issues that affect body, mind and spirit, is essential if we are to be the benefactors of any further major increases in longevity. Holistic time management’s purpose is to help you live a longer, healthier, happier and more productive life.
Traditional time management strategies such as goal setting, planning and scheduling will remain the same; but the focus, priorities and activities to which these strategies are directed will have to be modified.

Our top priority must become health. We must focus on health-generating activities on an on-going, daily basis, and our schedules should include such things as exercise, meditation, naps or rest periods, adequate time for breakfasts, vacations and other healthy activities that might otherwise be crowded out of our day.

We must replace self-destructive habits, such as excessive TV watching, 24/7 conductivity, eating on the run, multitasking and munching fast foods with habits more conducive to a healthy, balanced life.