The two pillars of a good day

August 20th, 2015

CRANIUM Point: Action not overload
Purposefully balance work and life. Cheaper, better, and faster isn’t always best for the human brain.

Balancing work and life is something we all strive for.  We all know that it’s not that easy to do.  Everyone has made those pronouncements: I’ll be home every night for dinner, I’ll stick to my diet this year, I’ll hit the gym every day.  I don’t have to say how those sorts of big, dramatic changes go.

The point is that balancing work and life is difficult.  It’s not as simple as spending 8 hours working, 8 hours doing stuff for ourselves and 8 hours sleeping.  Life demands more fluidity than that.  Trying to measure something like that isn’t going to work. The trick is to find achievement and enjoyment everyday.

Achievement doesn’t have to be something big.  Any goal that takes work and is realistically achievable in a day will do: finish a report, plan a presentation, get through a meeting without rolling your eyes.  Enjoyment doesn’t have to be dramatic either.  It’s just something you like: a book, a TV show, a nice meal.  Know what your achievement and enjoyment are going to be at the beginning of the day and it’ll be a great one.

One small adjustment that will change everything

July 30th, 2015

CRANIUM Point: Action not overload
Purposefully balance work and life. Cheaper, better, and faster isn’t always best for the human brain.

A study was conducted several years ago to determine what could have prevented the increase of obesity among Americans. The results were shocking. The deadly growth of obesity would have been dramatically deterred if we had eaten only 100 calories less a day (about half the small fries at McDonalds) and walked 1000 steps more a day (about 10 minutes of walking). Minor changes. Major results.

There are other phenomenon that are equally applicable. People invariably overestimate how much money they can save in a year but drastically underestimate how much they could save in ten years. Changing your thermostat by a degree can save hundreds of dollars.

Think about some of the larger challenges you face in your life. It could be health, finances, relationships. Apply the wisdom of small changes and then stick to it.

Take a tech vacation

July 2nd, 2015

Happy couple relaxing on deck chair at the beach

The ever-present technology in our lives can be very bad for the brain. The constant flow of email, text, social streams and cat videos prevents us from engaging on a more potent, meaningful level. It also elevates our cortisol and adrenaline levels in an unhealthy way. It starts a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, training our brain to be unfocused.

In today’s world most of us won’t be able to permanently ditch our phones and laptops. But we can take a vacation. For a full vacation, go at least one day without technology. For a mini-vacation, go a half-day or an hour without technology.

Notice how many times you have the urge to check on email, text or any other app. Also notice how much easier it is to accomplish non-tech related projects. It’s not the technology itself that hurts us. It’s the number of information streams we keep open at once. You can take a mini-tech holiday while drafting an important email just by turning off alerts on all of your devices. Use this new perspective to remember to take tech vacations all the time and unlock a new level of focus.

Move a little, change a lot

June 23rd, 2015

Move

All too often we forget how important it is to move.  Movement activates all kinds of important systems in our bodies and minds that make us feel better and more productive.  It’s almost like cheating.  Tired, stuck, bored, unproductive? Move! Go for a walk instead of meeting at a desk.  Park farther away in the morning and do breathing exercises that oxygenate your brain during the extra time.  Small changes can produce big results.

Movement causes our body to release endorphins, our feel-good hormones. Moving boosts our metabolism which gives us more energy and help us power through long tasks or the afternoon doldrums.  Moving during other tasks, like doing air squats during a phone call, improves neural connectivity since it multiple parts of our brain are engaged and cooperating.

Don’t try and do all of this at once though.  It takes 21 days to form a new habit.  So pick ONE and put it on a sticky note.  Go a step farther and draw a little 21-day calendar on your sticky and check off each time day you are successful.  Watch those checks turn into a chain.