Monday, February 29, 2016

Research-Backed Ways to Build Great Work Habits

Want to build better work habits? Most people do, especially since studies have shown that more than 40% of the “decisions” we make every day aren’t really decisions—they’re habits. That means we tend to simply do what we’ve done before, which makes us less productive, less effective, less healthy and fit—less everything—than we could be.

The solution? Build new, positive habits. Here are four easy ways—backed by research—to build new habits -

1. Start Small

BJ Fogg is the king of starting small with new habits, and his program Tiny Habits focuses on this approach. The idea is to focus on building the habit itself, rather than worrying about how big the impact is. Here’s a good example: Say you want to start a habit of flossing your teeth every night. To build a successful habit, start with something tiny: flossing just one tooth. I know it sounds crazy, but it works. If you’re building the habit of flossing just a single tooth each night, three things will happen:
• You’ll feel silly about not doing it. Flossing a single tooth is so easy it’s hard to feel OK about skipping it.
• You’ll probably floss more than one tooth. Getting started on anything is the biggest hurdle. Once we’ve started, it’s easy to just keep going.
• You’ll build the habit. Although flossing just one tooth each night probably won’t make your dentist happy, after a few weeks have passed the action will start to become a habit—something you do automatically, without thinking.

Once you’ve built up the habit then you can incrementally add to it. In our example, you’d start flossing two teeth per night, and then three, and soon you’ll be flossing all of your teeth without having to think about it.

Now let’s look at some examples of how you could apply this method to building healthy work habits.

Single Task: If you’re struggling to stay focused and beat distractions, focus on building the habit of working on a single task at a time. Start by doing that for five minutes at a time. After five minutes, relax and allow distractions. Later, try another five minutes of pure focus. When five minutes becomes easy, work on doing 10 minutes at a time, and then 15. Soon you’ll find you can spend half an hour on a task without struggling to stay focused.

Drink More Water. What if you wanted to drink more water during your workday? Start small with just one extra glass of water. You can even make it a really small glass. Just drink one extra glass a day for a month. If you’re still struggling after a month, keep practicing (and check the other strategies I’ve mentioned here for more help). Once you have the habit down you can upgrade to a larger glass and later add a second one.

Get Organized: Trying to be more organized and stay on top of your calendar? Start with a weekly reminder to look over your calendar for the coming week. Each Sunday night when your reminder sounds, take a minute to look the events you have scheduled for the week. When you find that’s easy and can do it without thinking, try setting an alarm every night to review the next day’s calendar.

2. Stack Habits

One of the most powerful methods for building new habits is to stack them on existing habits.

We all have plenty of existing habits: getting your morning coffee, logging on to your computer, walking to the train station after work, eating a midmorning snack. You do those things without thinking about them. They’re habits.

So use those habits as triggers for new habits. Here are some examples.

Increase exercise: To exercise more, stack a new habit on your morning coffee. Every time you get your coffee, take a walk around the block. Or start getting your morning coffee at a café a little farther from work so you naturally have a longer walk.

Strengthen Work Relationships: To get to know your colleagues better, stack a new habit on your midmorning snack or bathroom breaks. Every time you get your snack, stop for five minutes to chat with people in the break room. Or when you go for a bathroom break, stop and chat with someone on the way back to your work area.

Read More: To read more, stack a new habit on your commute. Grab an audio book to listen to, or download Umano. Or every day when you have lunch—which is surely an existing habit—take a book with you.

There are plenty of ways to stack habits together. Start with something you do every day and use that as a trigger to remind you to do your new habit.

Just pick a habit so small and easy that it’s not difficult to perform, and attach it to a trigger that happens every day around the same time—that’s an awesome way to build new work habits.

3. Make it Obvious

Another of the favorite tricks for building habits is to put the tools you need right in front of you. Having whatever equipment you need easily available removes the barrier of getting started and acts as a reminder.

Drink Less Soda: Say you want to drink less soda and more water while you’re at work. Keeping a water bottle on your desk means you don’t have to get up; you can just reach out and take a sip while you’re working. Plus, seeing the water bottle all day serves as a reminder to keep up your habit.

Exercise at Lunch: If you want to go for a jog or hit the gym during your lunch break, put your equipment in easy reach. Set your running shoes or gym bag beside your desk so you can quickly grab them as you head out the door at lunchtime.

Leave Work on Time: When your habit isn’t based on something physical, you can still use this technique. The trick is to make any barriers to acting on your habit easy to overcome. Say you’re trying to build a habit of leaving work on time every day. If you make plans with your family or friends after work each night you’ll have a good excuse that pulls you away from your desk. Your plans don’t have to be complicated; they could be as simple as setting a specific time your family has dinner every night. Take it a step further and make it an appointment in your calendar.

4. Reward Yourself

Now for the fun part: Every time you perform your new habit, celebrate it. Reward yourself for putting in the effort.

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, is a big proponent of rewarding yourself after completing a habit. Duhigg’s approach to habits is based around a simple three-part cycle: the cue or trigger, the habit itself, and then the reward.

After building up enough of these, Duhigg says, “when your brain is exposed to a certain cue, it’ll kind of go on autopilot, because it craves the reward it expects to come at the end.”

Building up habits over time means focusing on doing something small every day (or very often, if not every day).

Celebrating each time you complete a habit reinforces the value of doing that small thing over and over, rather than reaching for a far-off goal.

If you’re trying to lose weight, weighing yourself every day can be demotivating if you don’t see much progress. Rewarding yourself every time you go to the gym, on the other hand, helps you to build up a lasting habit of regular exercise—regardless of the long-term consequences.

Rewards can come in any form that makes you feel good about sticking with your habit. It might be stopping for a break, having a snack, or simply patting yourself on the back.

A good way to make sure you’re staying on track and rewarding yourself for your progress is to use an app like Lift or Balanced to check off your habit each time you perform it.

If you struggle to stay on track or you need a bigger reward to stay motivated, try grabbing an accountability partner. Find a colleague or friend who will keep you accountable and cheer you on when you succeed. (I always tell my co-founder when I go for a run, and his support makes me feel even better about sticking with my habit.)

Most important, just pick one habit to build up at a time. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by trying to make several changes at once. Plus, once you’ve successfully built one new habit, you have another starting point for stacking on a new habit!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Now use just your voice to create Google documents

Google has finally released full voice recognition capabilities for creating and editing your Google documents. So instead of hammering away at a keyboard in order to get that last-minute report created, you can now use natural language voice commands to build out your document as well as navigate inside it.

Besides being able to transcribe voice into text, this new feature is also able to recognize commands such as “copy”, “go to the end of the line”, “highlight word” and can even insert punctuation.
Access this functionality in your Google documents by simply clicking Tools, then selecting Voice typing. Note that this feature is available in the Chrome browser.
Besides being a really cool feature for users that tend to dictate plenty of notes (lawyers and doctors rejoice,) this functionality will be a boon to visually impaired users and those with motor impairments.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Embrace Mistakes by 'Failing Right'

Failure is an ever-present risk in any new business venture. The indomitable entrepreneurial spirit of many startup founders drives them to keep going when they crash and burn, but if they don't heed the lessons they've learned from those experiences, they're doomed to keep failing.

Management consultant Kara Penn argues that there's a "right" way to fail, and that entrepreneurs can find greater, faster success if they simply embrace failure as a teacher rather than an obstacle to overcome. In a dynamically complex world where many factors are outside the control of a manager or business, each of us must accept that failure is inevitable. Instead of waiting for a fall-from-the-sky, highly public failure that threatens individual and firm-wide reputations, why not craft a better, less-threatening, much more useful kind of failure?"
Based on interviews with executive leaders and insights drawn from research in fields like psychology and organizational theory, it is defined as one that is small scale, reversible, informative, linked to broader goals and designed to illuminate key issues. These failures are "affordable" in terms of risk, resources and reputation, and allow the team to put the lessons learned in service of the company's larger goals.
Failure ultimately is only useful if it teaches us something, ideally while there is still time to take action. Failures that illuminate key issues allow teams to better identify a fatal flaw or misstep in a plan early on so a new solution can be formulated before it is too late.
The three-step method to help entrepreneurs and business leaders harness the benefits of failure, and put their companies on the path to success through their mistakes are -
Launch your project. Most projects can be designed with a better launch in mind. The goal of the launch phase is to help teams weed out failure modes early on. During launch, Penn said teams need to hone in on the right problem to solve, link the actions they propose to take to the outcomes they desire, account for available resources and shore up any gaps.
Build and refine. Focus on information-rich activities early on in the project so you can test critical assumptions and get important data in ways that allow you to shift directions as needed before it's too late, Penn said. By doing this, you can improve upon a particular approach or idea throughout the course of the project instead of committing to a monolithic, one-off execution attempt. It also enables a learning environment that allows creative ideas to be explored with a safety net in place. That safety net comes from intention, planning, collecting and using data, and managing time frames.
Identify and apply what you've learned. Your efforts from steps one and two can do more than just generate a better outcome for your business. Those steps also teach you how to do things better the next time around. So how do you apply the learning so that it brings value for you, your team and your organization?
Value emerges for your team when you [identify] new habits [to] preserve and ineffective ones that should be dropped. In startup and small-business settings, this is especially important because resources are often so limited. Having the discipline and making just a little bit extra time to pull out some of the critical insights can really help drive greater success in the long run in these types of environments."

Most importantly, leaders should not react poorly to their own "good" failures, or those of their teams, and to always remain confident in their organization's ability to bounce back. Failure becomes particularly costly when great employees and managers lose confidence and when organizational leaders respond to failures in a particularly punitive manner creating a culture that cannot accept risk and mistakes. Failure is a master teacher if an appropriate balance of tolerance, insight and changed behavior can be achieved.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Here's how to lose weight without starving...

Want to lose weight? Are you depriving yourself from eating what you love? Here is a catch, read on to know how you can lose weight by eating not starving. Starving yourself in the hope that few kilos S might reduce in the weighing machines, might seem a good idea to many. But, according to experts, the worst thing you can do to your metabolism is starve yourself. Although crash diets may help you lose weight, but you will lose muscle mass as well. The lower your muscle mass, the slower your metabolism. Losing weight is no rocket science. It is simple. One just needs to create a calorie deficit every day.

A caloric deficit is the number one requirement to lose weight. One needs to make sure that the amount of calories you burn should be more than the amount of calories you take on the same day. Explains Sapna Vyas Patel, a fitness professional, "If you want to lose 1 kg of your weight, you need to create calorie deficit of 770. So if you want to lose 1 kg per week, you need to create approximately 1000 calorie deficit every day. If you create 1000 calorie deficit every day, you will lose 1kg of your weight in 7-8 days." To create this balance it is important to have right meal which would raise BMR. "One must eat at regular intervals to let the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) raise. When one eats at regular intervals the BMR improves which in turn elevates the metabolism.

A 6-8 meal a day plan helps to manage hunger and maintain energy levels," says Preeti Seth, a wellness expert and nutritionist. So what should one do? Have a balanced diet. And what is a balanced diet? Explains Seth, "A well-balanced diet is a diet which has a good balance of all the components of food which would be great for weight loss. It should have all the required stuff in desired quantities. It should have all the required stuff in desired quantities. It should have an optimum balance in form of fruits, fibres, cereals, fluids, vitamins and minerals, etc. One must have 3-4 liters of fluids per day and a minimum of 2-3 portions of fruits and adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats, etc."

Alongside eating, one should add some physical activity. Like subtract the use of elevators and lifts, use stairs instead. If one has to travel to a nearby place, then prefer walking. This way one can keep his or her muscles active and maintain the energy levels. Patel says, "Have metabolism boosters like ginger, lemon, chilli, pepper and green tea. You can have a tablespoon of chilli and pepper in your food to increase your metabolism. Add ginger in food to speed up the body's digestion process."

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ways to Create a Remarkably High-Energy Workforce

As a leader, you work hard. Very hard. But make no mistake about it--you can't be the only one. To succeed in the long run, you need the active and engaged participation of your employees. This means unleashing the energy that is within each one of them. Here's how.

1. Catch them doing something right
Outstanding organizations share success with their employees. When your employees are doing something right, let people know about it. Encourage outstanding, sustained performance by showing them how much their efforts are appreciated.

2. Set the bar high
Set high standards for communication, productivity and professionalism throughout your organization. If at times these standards are not met, work closely with your employees to find ways to get back on track. Don't lower your standards. Instead, partner with your employees and take on challenges as a team. Enlist your their input to identify blocking issues, focus attention on possible solutions and strive to meet and exceed expectations.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communicate professionally, clearly and often. Employees expect management's honest assessment of their performance. When things are running smoothly, highlight what is working and communicate success throughout the organization. When problems challenge progress, consider the potential impact you can have by constructively discussing your concerns. Use communication as a tool to inspire and motivate, as well as to direct and resolve problems.

4. Trust your employees
Great leaders understand that organizational success is directly tied to the success of their people, and they work to build bridges of trust. Establish trust by creating a safe, positive working environment with open and honest two-way communication. Give your people the benefit of the doubt, then help them up if they sometimes stumble.

5. Help employees grow
Set your employees up for success, not failure. Provide them with the tools and training to meet and exceed high standards. Encourage them to identify their strengths and motivations. Show them how your organization has benefited from their efforts, and how this in turn benefits them. Determine what drives your people, then incorporate that into their daily tasks.

6. Create and maintain a productive environment
Create and maintain a positive, industrious and pleasant working environment. Productive, motivated people drive outstanding organizations. Ensure employees feel challenged with their jobs, but not overwhelmed. Delegate tasks and encourage people into positions of greater complexity and responsibility whenever possible so employees are always in motion and have a stake in the organization's success.

7. Build a community
Make sure your people feel like they are a part of something special and that their efforts are truly appreciated. Partner with them by involving them directly in the success of the organization. Create and cultivate a sense of camaraderie, where people look forward to coming to work because they want to be a part of your company's success story.

By unleashing the energy of your employees and getting out of the way, you can create a high-energy workforce. Once this energy is fully unleashed, your business will grow by leaps and bounds.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Even diet sodas can bloat your waistline

If you drink diet soda thinking it will help you shed unwanted belly fat, nothing could be further from the truth, says a new study. For the study, researchers gathered data on health status and lifestyles of 749 men and women aged 65 and older, and then tracked the health outcomes in 466 survivors for more than nine years. 

The number of sodas they consumed — and whether they were diet or regular — was recorded at the beginning of the study and at each of three follow-up visits. “Among participants, who reported that they did not consume any diet sodas, waist circumference increased less than one inch on average over the total follow-up period,” said lead author Sharon Fowler from University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Among participants who reported occasional use — drinking less than one diet soda a day — waist circumference increased almost two inches. And among those who consumed diet sodas every day, or more often than once a day, waist circumference increased over three inches.
These findings raise a red flag for seniors because fat around the waist — the proverbial tire around the middle —  has been linked with increased inflammation and risk of metabolic disease, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer and mortality. When waistlines expand in older age, visceral fat increases disproportionately, and risk rises, the researchers noted

Monday, February 15, 2016

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but you are better off walking to the market to buy it. Doctors now say walking half an hour daily can lower the risk of heart attack, besides helping reduce levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar.

"We recommend walking daily to all patients. It is a costless prescription and the most effective one to deal with non-communicable diseases, from the point of both prevention and healing," said Dr Rommel Tickoo, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, at Max Hospital, Saket.

He added that walking is even more important for urban Indians who spend most of their time sitting in office or at home. "The level of physical activity among all age groups, from school children to the elderly, has gone down significantly, either out of choice or compulsions such as lack of open space," said Dr K K Aggarwal, WALK FOR national general secretary of Indian Medical Association (IMA).

In countries like the US, community walks have caught on as a popular and effective way to break the couch habit. American Heart Association (AHA) has also framed guidelines on the best ways to walk, prevent injuries related to walking, and choosing between walking and running for better health.

For adults, AHA recommends 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, in a week. Brisk walking qualifies as moderate activity while HEALTH jogging is considered vigorous. For lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, it recommends aiming for "40-minute sessions of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times a week".

Experts say people starting exercising after a long time should begin with short distances and increase the time and distance gradually. How you walk is also important. To avoid injury, do not droop your head, keep the tummy tucked in and shoulders relaxed.

10 Actions to help you motivate others

Greater things can happen when people are motivated. Think of three accomplishments you’re proud of, then ask yourself how motivated you were to accomplish them. Similarly, if you can figure out what motivates others, their accomplishments and yours will be greater. Some managers believe others should be automatically motivated, thinking motivation comes as standard with the person. Some managers believe everyone should be as motivated as they are about the job and the organization. That’s seldom the case. Fact is, people are different. Each person is different in the way he/she becomes and sustains being motivated. Being good in this area includes believing it’s a manager’s job to motivate – that all people are different, and that motivating each of them takes a different approach. Here are the ten actions to help you motivate others.

1. Follow the basic rules of inspiring others. Communicate to people that what they do is important. Say thanks. Offer help and ask for it. Provide autonomy in how people do their work. Provide a variety of tasks. Surprise people by enriching, challenging assignments. Show an interest in their careers. Adopt a learning attitude toward mistakes. Celebrate successes, have visible accepted measures of achievement and so on.

2. Know and play the motivation odds. Research by TEN has revealed the top motivators at work to be: automomy, mastery, and purpose. Salary, friendliness, praise, or chance of promotion are not insignificant but are superficial compared with the more powerful motivators.

3. Use goals to motivate. Most people are turned on by reasonable goals. They like to measure themselves against a standard. The like to see who can run the fastest, score the most, and work the best. They like goals to be realistic but stretching. People try hardest when they have some chance of success and some control over how they go about it.

4. Figure out what drives people. What do they do first? What do they emphasize in their speech? What do they display emotion around? What values play out for them?

5. Turn off your judgment program. In trying to reach someone, work on not judging him. You don’t have to agree, you just have to understand in order to motivate. The fact that you wouldn’t be motivation that way isn’t relevant.

6. Be able to speak their language at their level. It shows respect for their way of thinking. Speaking their language makes it easier for them to talk with you and give you the information you need to motivate.

7. Bring him into your world. Tell them your conceptual categories. To deal with you he/she needs to know how you think and why. Tell him your perspective – the questions you ask, the factors you’re interested in. If you can’t explain your thinking, he/she won’t know how to deal with you effectively. It’s easier to follow someone and something you understand.

8. Motivating is personal. Know three non-work things about everybody – their interests and hobbies or their children or something you can chat about. Life is a small world. If you ask people a few personal questions, you’ll find you have something in common with virtually anyone. Having something in common will help bond the relationship and allow you individualize how you motivate.

9. Turn a negative into a motivator. If a person is touchy about something, he/she will respond to targeted help. If the person responds by being clannish, he/she may need your support to get more in the mainstream. If he/she is demotivated, look for both personal and work causes. This person may respond to a job challenge. If the person is naïve, help him see how things work.

10. The easiest way to motivate someone is to get him involved deeply in the work he is doing. Delegate and empower as much as you can. Get him involved in setting goals and determining the work process to get there. Ask his/her opinion about decisions that have to be made. Have him help appraise the work of the business unit. Share the successes and de-brief the failures together.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

How to Handle Customer Complaints

As a business owner, you will at some point be at the receiving end of a customer complaint. The question isn’t whether you’ll get them (you will!) – the question is, how do you choose to handle the complaint, and yourself, in response. This flip side take on what NOT to do highlights some of the most common things that we might be tempted to do when in the position of receiving a complaint. One or more (or even all!) of these might tempt you!

Let’s have a look at what NOT to do:

1. Get defensive. Protect your point of view at all costs. Don’t even try to see the customer’s point of view. Just stay entrenched in your position, and defend it to the hilt.

2. Get someone else to respond for you. When the complaint is directed to you, the best way to deflect it is to get one of your staff to respond for you. That way, you not only manage to convey the message that you’ve spread the word far and wide that the customer is a pain in the neck, it also gets you off the hook in taking responsibility for the reply. This approach also has the added benefit of making the customer feel unimportant.

3. Be demeaning or patronizing to the customer: make them feel small by proving them wrong, or even better, come at them from the lofty heights, where you are beyond reproach because only you see the bigger picture. Putting a spiritual slant on this (as in, you’re not being spiritual enough) is particularly effective if you know the customer is so inclined.

4. Refuse to provide a refund for services not delivered. If you’ve managed to erode the customer’s trust in you to the point where they don’t even want the services you’ve been contracted for, then by all means, keep the money! Don’t let ethical considerations get in the way of the additional income.

5. Justify your position with detailed explanations of why the customer is wrong. Get as detailed as possible, even mentioning times and dates, and particular correspondence if necessary, to make your point clear: you are right, the customer is wrong, and here’s the evidence to prove it!

6. Accuse the customer of taking things personally. This will really help to put them in their place: let them know that they are being irrational and therefore not appropriate. It’s their behavior that’s at fault!

7. Bend or be selective about the truth, or both. When you talk about what happened, be sure to pick out only the elements that serve you best. Or adjust the truth to suit your current needs in the situation.

Of course, there is the rare situation when a complaint is unjustified, and it is best dealt with in other ways.

Most of the time, though, the truth is that a customer complaint is a gift! You are getting insight about your business practices from your customer that they are not obligated to share with you. They’re giving you a view that you don’t usually get.

It’s a huge opportunity to see your business in a new way.

And even better, it’s an opportunity to do a little personal and work alchemy: to step fully into being the person you are meant to be, and by doing that, to create a big fan for you and your business!

Seize the opportunity – here’s what to do when you get a customer complaint:

1. Do all you can to see things from the customer’s point of view. Be curious – ask questions. Dig deep to find out where they are coming from.

2. Resist the temptation to defend yourself. You are not under attack – you are simply the receiver of information, information you would never have had about your business if your customer hadn’t spoken up. Value it, and yourself, and there will be no need to get defensive.

3. Treat your customer with respect, and honor their priorities and concerns. Most people just want to be heard. Do a good job of that, and most complaints end right there.

4. Respond directly, yourself, and without shame. Be a leader in your own company, and respond to complaints yourself, if they are addressed to you. Come from a place of valuing yourself, and what you do.

5. Be fair and even generous in refunding money, if the customer still wants that after you’ve responded respectfully. No amount of money kept will make up for the ill will generated by keeping money you did not earn. Money is only earned from happy, satisfied customers.

6. Take it all personally – You have a chance to show your customer who you really are, a person of integrity, honor, and forthrightness. Every day in your business, you have an opportunity to show your character, to lead. These situations can be challenging, and they are also opportunities to grow, to step into your true Self, and to create alchemy in your business.

7. Be scrupulous with the truth. Get clear about what actually happened. Then, stand in the truth. That way, there is no need to make ‘truth adjustments’ to build your strength.

That’s the way to keep your customers not just happy – it turns them into your best advocates!

Sure, there’s vulnerability in being that up front with your customer, but you will reap the rewards many-fold by being clear about who you are in the world. It’s totally worth it, for your business and yourself!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lounge in sun to have a healthy heart

Relaxing in sun might be next on your to-do list. Lack of vitamin D is linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks and stroke.

Researchers found that patients are protected against heart trouble if their vitamin D level is anywhere above 15 nano grams per milliliter. Even if any level above 15 is safe, one out of 10 people still has lower levels of vitamin D, which amounts to a large part of the population. Some studies suggest that there's an increase in heart related issues during winters due to lack of sunlight. Due to a transitional shift in the way people workout (as opposed to running, jogging or stretching out in the open) and stay mostly indoors for work and play, it is very common to find people suffering from heart diseases nowadays. While many stay away from sun in order to avoid increased risk of skin cancer, it has been credited with other benefits like combating cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma and type 2 diabetes.

Here's how you can get your dose of Vitamin D:

- Make sure on having fatty fish like salmon, canned trout and tuna, sardines, tuna steak at least once a week.

- For vegetarians, dairy products like butter, buttermilk, fortified skimmed milk, fortified low fat fruit yogurt and cheese serves the purpose.

- Fortified cereal, egg yolks, Portobello mushroom and tofu are other everyday items you can include in your diet.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Happiness is the secret to success

Success, most of us have heard, is hard. We've read about Bill Gates's insane hours when starting Microsoft, gossiped about Elon Musk's divorces (and plenty of other founders' rocky personal lives), and discussed the psychological cost of entrepreneurship. Listen to enough of these tales of exhaustion and trouble and it's easy to assume that getting to the top professionally is bruising and stressful.

But that's the very belief that could be holding you back from achieving great things, according to Stanford researcher Emma Sepala, a Stanford researcher and author of the new book The Happiness Track .

"After working in many high-achieving environments ... I noticed too many people pursuing 'success' at a cost to themselves," Sepala has written. "They were postponing their happiness now in pursuit of success ... with the idea that, when they attain success, they will be happy. Yet they were burning themselves (and others) out in the process."

The trouble is that science shows this exactly the wrong way to approach success. "When I looked at the research," writes Sepala, "I saw that--overwhelmingly--happiness is actually the secret to success. If you prioritize your happiness, you will actually be more productive, more creative, more resilient, more energized, more charismatic and influential. You will have more willpower and be more focused, with less effort." Sepala is not the only scientist to make the point that happiness generally precedes achievement, not the other way around.

Be nice ... to yourself

Which is fascinating, but also a bit general. Great, now I know I should be happy to give myself the best shot at accomplishing impressive things, what can I do with that information besides add another stress to my already overworked brain?

Sepala, thankfully, doesn't just admonish the ambitious to be happy. She also offers concrete, research-derived tips on exactly how you can modify your psychology to both improve your mental well-being and increase your odds of getting ahead. In short, this advice boils down to a simple dictum--be nicer to yourself.

In fact, you can even encapsulate Sepala's advice in a handy rule of thumb--treat yourself with as much kindness as you'd treat a friend.

Research has "shown the immense power of self-compassion and compassion not only for our personal well-being but for our work life," she writes. "Self-criticism is basically self-sabotage whereas self-compassion--treating yourself with the understanding, mindfulness, and kindness with which you would treat a friend--leads to far greater resilience, productivity, and well-being.

 Specific strategies for self-compassion

Sepala offers those looking to tweak their mindset for both greater success and greater happiness a handful of specific strategies that can help them increase their self-compassion.
• Notice your self-talk. So you screwed up. Don't tell yourself, "I'm an idiot!" Instead, be more gentle with yourself and acknowledge, "I had a moment of absentmindedness. That's OK."
• Write yourself a letter. If your emotions are overwhelming, write yourself a letter as you would write to a friend, advises Sepala. This might feel strange the first time you do it, but it will help you keep the situation in perspective.
• Develop a self-compassion phrase. Dr. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher, uses this one: "This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment; may I give myself the compassion I need."
• Make a daily gratitude list. Every day, write down five things you're thankful for. Studies show gratitude physically changes your brain, making it easier for you to see the bright side of your life going forward.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Action for improving team efficiency

Working with teams, whether as leader of a single team or manager of several, is an essential part of a manager’s remit. Team working is rapidly becoming the preferred practice in many organizations as traditional corporate hierarchies give way to flat, multi skilled working methods. 

Here are 10 actions for improving team efficiency:

Analyze team dynamics. Good team leaders make the most of the human assets at their disposal. To do this, you need to understand each group member, how their behavior changes within the team, and how individual responses vary at different stages in the team’s development.

Communicate effectively. Strong communication links are vital to the well being of a team. The most effective links occur naturally – for example, the casual conversation – but these will need supplementing by new technology. Choose the most appropriate method to suit your team.

Run team meetings. Making team meetings effective is a major test of leadership skills. The key to holding a productive meeting is to involve everybody actively in the proceedings. Ensure that team members understand the purpose of each meeting and what is expected of them.

Network a team. All teams, no matter what their purpose, depend to a considerable extent on good networking skills. Make full use of the formal and informal connections both inside and outside your organization to provide valuable support for your team.

Share information. No person and no team is an island. Two-way information links between a team and the rest of an organization, and its external support are vital for efficiency. Remember that collaboration and co-operation are hindered by the absence of open communication.

Think creatively. Without new ideas, teams are unlikely to achieve the breakthroughs that generate real success. Creative thinking is a team responsibility in which all members should participate. Develop it in teams through plenty of training and practice.

Deal with problems. Team members not only solve problems – they also create them. It is vital to build up loyalty between team members so that all difficulties, whether personal, work-related, or procedural, are tackled before they undermine the collective team spirit.

Improve standards. Any systematic approach to improving performance needs to challenge existing ways of working. Teams looking to improve must learn to generate their own tasks, tackle problems, agree on solutions, and implement their decisions with confidence.

Measure performance. If something cannot be measured, it cannot be improved upon. This basic principle applies to any job. Define individual and team standards – that they always meet deadlines, for instance – to give a targeted objective by which performance can be judged.

Track team progress. A good team is aware of the need to remain dynamic. Review progress regularly to maintain momentum, provide an overview, and ask team members, singly or in groups, to define specific aspects of the project that could be improved in the future.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

BMI a wrong measure of health: Study

Using body mass index (BMI) to gauge health is a wrong practice as it is a deeply flawed measure, reveals a study while adding that BMI should not be the primary goal for maintaining good health. BMI incorrectly labelled more than 30 percent of those with in the "normal" range -- about 20.7 million people -- as healthy whereas they were actually unhealthy based on their other health data, the study said.

Also, more than two million people who are considered "very obese" by virtue of having a BMI of 35 or higher are actually healthy. That's about 15 percent who are classified as very obese.

"The data shows there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy," said A. Janet Tomiyama, assistant professor at University Of California, Los Angeles.

There are people who are healthy and are penalized based on a faulty health measure, while the unhealthy ones of normal weight are flying under the radar of BMI, she added.

The study recommends that people should focus on eating a healthy diet and exercise regularly, rather than obsess about their weight, and strongly opposes stigmatizing people who are overweight, the researchers elucidated, in the study published online in the International Journal of Obesity.

The scientists analysed the link between BMI -- which is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of the person's height in meters -- and several health markers, including blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, using data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Every hour spent sitting may increase diabetes risk

Even with exercise, every extra hour you spend sitting at a computer or in front of the television is linked with a 22 percent increased risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, says a study. "Our findings could have important implications for public health as they suggest that sedentary behavior may play a significant role in the development and prevention of Type-2 diabetes, independent of high-intensity physical activity," said the study.

The findings were published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. This study by Julianne van der Berg from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and colleagues investigated cross-sectional associations of total duration and patterns of sedentary behavior with glucose metabolism status and the metabolic syndrome.

Data were taken from the Maastricht Study, an observational, prospective, population-based cohort study in the Netherlands. The authors included 2,497 participants (mean age 60 years) from this study who were asked to wear their accelerometer 24 hours per day for eight consecutive days.

The authors calculated the daily amount of sedentary time, daily number of sedentary breaks, number of prolonged sedentary periods (of 30 minutes or more), and the average duration of these sedentary periods.

To determine diabetes status, participants underwent an oral glucose tolerance test. Overall, 1,395 (56 percent) participants had a normal glucose metabolism, 388 (15 percent) had an impaired glucose metabolism and 714 (29 percent) had Type-2 diabetes. Participants with Type-2 diabetes spent the most time sedentary, up to 26 more minutes per day in comparison with participants with an impaired or normal glucose metabolism. The researchers determined that the increased risk of diabetes per additional hour of sedentary time was 22 percent.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Five great apps to learn a foreign language

In addition to being useful when travelling, learning a foreign language has been associated in several studies with helping boost cognitive function and delay the onset of dementia. Mobile apps can be a great solution for mastering a new tongue or brushing up on school-day skills because they’re portable, convenient and relatively low cost. Here’s a look at five of the best mobile apps for learning a foreign language.
With 13 foreign languages available, the Babbel app offers a comprehensive learning system. It has functions to help learners improve their pronunciation and build vocabulary quickly through fun lessons. The app is free to download but language courses are paid for by subscription for one to 12 months, priced from €9.99 (or $9.99) to €59.99 (or $59.99).
This entirely free app can help total beginners (including schoolchildren) and more advanced learners get to grips with 26 languages, including classic options like French and German, as well as more unusual choices such as Norwegian, Swahili and Klingon. Over time, users can progress to higher levels or choose to specialize in a specific field (business, medical, etc.). It’s even possible to compete with friends also signed up to the platform.
Memrise helps users learn a maximum number of words in a short space of time using visual learning techniques and memory games. A Premium subscription offers access to a wide choice of extra games, with prices ranging from €8.99 (or $8.99) for one month to €59.99 (or $59.99) for the year.
MosaLingua offers a choice of five languages (German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) with different levels available. The app focuses on long-lasting memorization, using techniques based on cognitive and psychological concepts to tap into the learner’s audio and visual memory. Most of the apps are priced at €4.99 (or $4.99) with add-on vocab packs available for in-app purchase.
Busuu (which takes its name from a Cameroonian dialect) offers an original way to brush up on 12 languages. The platform is like a social network for language learners, where users can follow interactive lessons and connect with native speakers all over the world to practice their skills. Access is subscription-based, with prices ranging from €9.99 (or $9.99) for one month to €64.99 (or $64.99) for 12 months. Busuu has over 50 million users worldwide.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sitting All Day? Easy Ways to Get Healthy at Work

For most office employees, working at a desk for eight or more hours a day is unavoidable. But as many people now know, spending all that time glued to your seat can really take a toll on your physical and mental health.

In an office environment, you spend most of your working hours sitting in meetings or in front of a computer screen. Aside from the physical hazards of sitting — such as the increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer — there's a productivity benefit to giving yourself a mental break. It's so important to unchain yourself from your desk and give your body and mind a chance to recover.
Encouraging a culture of wellness in the office begins with its leaders. "Walking the walk" at work each day (figuratively and literally) can inspire your employees to do the same.
Diversify your posture throughout the day. There are plenty of ways to stay active during the workday and offset some of the damage done by sitting all day. Swap out your regular chair for an active seat like a yoga ball for a few hours, or spend a portion of the day working at a height-adjusted standing desk. You can also walk while you're taking your next conference call, to give you a physical and mental change of pace.
Get up and talk to co-workers. Every few hours, walk around and talk to a different person for 10 to 15 minutes.Not only will these short breaks improve circulation and reduce eyestrain and buildup of muscle tension, but they'll also help you foster better relationships with employees, and might spark fresh ideas.
Purposely leave your brown bag at home. A packed lunch is often healthier and less expensive than take-out alternatives, but once in a while, force yourself to go out and pick up lunch to get away from your desk.
Run errands during your workday. If your schedule allows for it, save quick errands — like depositing a check at the bank — for work hours. You'll get some fresh air and a mental break from the task at hand, and you can cross off the task from your after-work to-do list.

Close your eyes and breathe. Meditation is becoming a more popular way to stay focused and reduce stress at work. Sneak in 10 deep breaths while you're getting your morning coffee or even at your desk when you put the phone down after a call.

Friday, February 5, 2016

How to deliver your message

To make it in any job, you need to be able to convey ideas clearly and effectively. There are three things the best communicators employ to deliver their message:
1. Credibility. Prove your authority by demonstrating technical expertise in a specific area, which helps convince people that you know what you're talking about. If you can't do that, display integrity and character, which convinces them that you're not going to lie to them.
2. Emotional connection.People need to believe that what you're saying will matter to them. Connect by giving them your undivided attention and linking your message to something they care about.
3. Logic. All the authority and empathy in the world won't help you if people don't understand your basic idea or how you came to your conclusions. Make a clear argument that people can follow and use data and analysis to back up your points.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Social bonding crucial for long-term health

A new study suggests that social ties are just as important to your long-term health as exercise and healthy eating. Researchers at the University of North Carolina in the US are calling on doctors, clinicians, and other health workers to redouble their efforts to help the public understand how important strong social bonds are throughout life.
Analyzing data from adolescents to seniors, the study team looked at social integration, social support and social strain to evaluate four indicators of health — blood pressure, waist circumference, body mass index and systemic inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, cancer and other diseases.
The study found that the more social ties people had at a young age, the better their health early and late in life. Previous research has shown that older adults live longer if they have a larger social network. This study suggests social links reduce health risks in each stage of life, the study authors explained.
In teens, social isolation is as great a risk for inflammation as physical inactivity, while having a strong social network appears to protect against abdominal obesity, the researchers found. In seniors, social isolation is more of a threat than diabetes in the development and control of high blood pressure, the study authors said. In middle adulthood, it is not the number of social links that matter, but rather the quality.