Monday, July 29, 2013

Stop Working Long Hours: 10 Simple Ways to Maximize Your Productivity

Many of us live in a culture, where working long hours has become an expectation.  We are made to believe that if we’re not working long enough, then we’re not working hard enough.

In this tough economic climate, a lot of us feel under pressure to work long hours just to keep our jobs.  And even worse, there are some people, who are actually proud that they work 60 hours or more every week.

But whether you work long hours out of pressure or out of choice, you should consider some of potential negative effects on your life.

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who work more than 11 hours a day, have a 67 percent higher risk of heart disease. Another study of about 2000 British civil servants found that working more than 11 hours a day doubled your chances of developing depression. Aside from your health, working long hours can also have a negative effect on our relationships and personal life.

And does working longer hours actually improve our productivity?

According to The Economist, the most productive country is France where the average person works less than 40 hours per week. And yet, the typical worker in France creates almost as much wealth per hour, as the leading economies in other countries.

Business leaders are also acknowledging that working long hours doesn’t necessarily make us more productive.  Steven Sinofsky, a former president of the Windows division at Microsoft, once wrote in a blog post that “to be blunt, there is no way you can do quality work if you do not give your brain a break. If a company is driving you to work crazy hours like this, either because you want to or they want you to, it is just uncool”.

So is it possible to work less and still be productive?  The short answer is yes.  And it’s not about having an intricate ‘productivity system’ that lets you manage your to-do lists and get more done.

The key to being more productive to do less and focus on what really matters.  It’s also about finding a better balance between your work and personal life.

Here are some of my favorite tips to help you get started:

1. Focus On Your Top 3 Daily Priorities

Having a to-do list can be great for remembering that you need to buy milk, but it doesn’t help much when it comes to being more productive. Start each day, by taking a few minutes to think about and write down your top 3 priorities for the day.  Then focus your efforts on getting those 3 things done before anything else.  This simple, but powerful habit will significantly boost your productivity.

2. Exercise for 30 Minutes Every Day

We all know that exercise is good for our health.  But did you know that exercise is also good for our brain?  According to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, John Ratey MD and author of the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain”, exercise will not only make you healthier, but it will also help to reduce stress, improve your learning and think more clearly.

3. Start Work Early & Leave On Time

Ask any ‘successful’ person and the chances are that they start work early. You are less likely to have distractions earlier in the morning and can focus better on your top 3 daily priorities.  But in order to be productive, you also need to give your brain a rest, so strive to leave the office on time every day.  You’ll not only feel better, but will be more energized and productive the next day.

4. Stop Checking Your Email

We all know that constantly checking our email is a bad idea, but many of us still continue to do it.  According to a study conducted by the University of California Irvine and the U.S. Army, taking a break from email can reduce your stress levels and help you to concentrate more.  So schedule 2 or 3 times in the day when you will deal with your email.  And the rest of the time, turn it off and forget about it.

5. Set Limits for Everything

According to Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.  Give yourself too much time to complete a given task and there is a good chance you’ll find a way to use up all that time.  So try giving yourself less time to complete tasks e.g. give yourself an hour to write that report instead of 2 hours or give yourself 15 minutes to check your mail instead of 30 minutes.

6. Apply the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule simply states that in many situations, about 20% of the effort will drive 80% of the results e.g. 20% of your customers drive 80% of your business.  We can apply this rule to improve our productivity by focusing on the 20% of tasks, projects, emails, meetings etc. that drive 80% of the results.  So focus on the activities that really matter and spend less time on everything else.

7. Stop Multitasking

Multitasking does not make us more productive.  In fact, splitting our attention has an impact on our productivity, concentration and energy.  “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes”, says David Meyer, a cognitive scientist that the University of Michigan.  So if you want to be more productive, then focus on doing one thing at a time.

8. Attend Fewer Meetings

Most of us would agree that business meetings are one the biggest time wasters.  So if you want to more productive, attend fewer meetings.  Firstly, check to see if the meeting is actually needed.  Could you resolve the matter over email or with a quick 5-minute chat?  If you do need to attend, ensure that there is a clear goal and agenda for the meeting e.g. make a decision, brainstorm a problem etc.  And then ensure the meeting starts on time and finishes on time (or ideally earlier).

9. Start An Information Diet

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with information these days.  Tim Ferris, the author of “The 4 Hour Work Week” recommends going on a ‘low information diet’.  Do you really need to read all those emails, blogs, newspapers, magazines etc.?  And do you really need to spend all that time on Facebook or watching TV?  So spend the next week on your own low information diet.  Cut out as much unnecessary information as you can and watch your productivity skyrocket.

10. Create Thinking Time

Getting out of work and into different environments also helps to improve our productivity.  Some people think best going for long walks; others think best in the shower; others like to go to art galleries or museums etc.  According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, the moderate sound levels in coffee shops actually promote more cognitive creativity than the quiet of a library.  Everyone needs a place to think.  And if you don’t already know your place, then you should seek it out and spend time their regularly.

So what’s the best way to get started?  Well, I wouldn’t recommend trying to apply all these 10 tips at once.  Just pick one tip at a time and put it into practice each week.  And most importantly, make use of the extra time that you create to do more of what you love.

Omer Khan is a husband, father and creator of the Relax Focus Enjoy blog. He’s passionate about personal productivity and helping people to create more time to do what they love. He lives with his family in the ‘sunny’ Seattle area.  Pick up your free e-book “Recharge Your Life” when you visit Relax Focus Enjoy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

30 Tips to unclutter your life


from Katherine Gibson, www.clutterbook.com
  1. Keep just those things that have a purpose, inspire you, or that you consider beautiful.
  2. Establish a set time for a daily “Ten Minute Toss”. (That’s five hours a month!)
  3. Start with the most visible clutter and then move into the cupboards and closets.
  4. Tackle one drawer or shelf at a time until you have completely uncluttered a room.
  5. Take everything out of the space you are uncluttering and replace just the things you use.
  6. Give everything a logical place.  Tools in the tool box, kids stuff in the kids room.
  7. Adopt an attitude of generosity by giving things you don’t use to others.  A suit you don’t wear could be worth a year’s salary to someone who uses it in a job interview.
  8. Toss everything you don’t like and have never used.
  9. Set an uncluttered example by giving gifts that are consumable (memberships, flowers, specialty foods).
  10. Remove your clutter immediately from your house or it will creep back in.
  11. Keep just the current issues of newspapers and magazines.  Clip and file articles you may want to reference and file them in a binder dedicated to that topic.
  12. Put a basket for each family member by the door for mitts, gloves and scarves.
  13. Designate another basket for the library, video rental shop, etc.
  14. Cull your photo collection by keeping just the best of each occasion.
  15. Pay bills and respond to invitations immediately if possible.
  16. Spread the joy and recycle books when you have read them.  Keep just those ones you know you will reference again.
  17. Review all files and storage boxes annually.  Remove all things that are no longer needed.
  18. When you buy new pillows, bed linens, towels, donate the used ones to a shelter.
  19. To unclutter clothes closets, take everything out and replace just what you actually wear.
  20. If you put it down, pick it up; if you take it off, hang it up; if you open it, close it; if you use it, put it back.
  21. Underschedule.  Do more of what matters most and less of what doesn’t.
  22. Multi-tasking fractures effectiveness and creates stress.  Take on task and complete it before taking on another.
  23. Reclaim after-work hours for yourself.
  24. Designate "uncluttered family time" daily.  Children live in the present.  Slow down and enjoy them.
  25. Turn off the TV and read.
  26. Create quiet zones in your home, and quiet times in your day.
  27. Don’t clutter your life with unkind gossip.
  28. Do less on holidays.  Give yourself a break.
  29. Keep meaningful traditions and let the others go.
  30. Appreciating what you have will diminish the need to have more.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dr. Carmella's guide to understanding the Introverts!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Obama and Snowden: 'Zero' Effect

Here is an interesting article on the recent Snowden incident, and I totally agree with the opinions of the  writer of the article that "deterrence is a more responsible bet than dreams of "zero." 

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Both Obama and Snowden naively believe that if the U.S. abandons key defense tools, rival nations will soon follow its lead.

It is tempting not to take Edward Snowden very seriously. The young National Security Agency leaker is a supposed defender of the U.S. Constitution who violates his oaths and subverts the democratic process; a self-proclaimed civil libertarian who seeks hospitality from the jailers of Beijing, Moscow and maybe Havana. But it is worth considering Snowden's fanciful strategy for curbing global cyber espionage—if only because it so closely resembles Barack Obama's strategy for curbing nuclear weapons.
Snowden's approach might be called "cyber zero," as distinct from President Obama's pursuit of "nuclear zero," or the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Both offer a troubling mix of grand dreams and faulty national-security logic.
What is Snowden after? Contrary to initial claims by some of his defenders, he isn't a "whistle-blower" protecting fellow Americans from perceived violations of their constitutional rights. Rather, by revealing secrets that have nothing to do with Americans' privacy rights (such as how Washington monitors computer networks in China and diplomats meeting in Britain), Snowden conveys that his intent is far broader.
As the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, who has published most of the Snowden leaks, told CNN last week: "From the first time that I spoke with him, he was very worried that, essentially, what the NSA was doing was destroying privacy globally. That by working with other governments, that by targeting citizens around the world, they were destroying the concept of privacy and anonymity and Internet freedom and creating this world-wide, global surveillance net from which nobody on the planet was free." So Snowden, self-appointed, fights for privacy and Internet freedom world-wide.
His method so far is to leak information that compromises U.S. data-gathering efforts and causes headaches for the officials behind them, thereby weakening existing programs and creating political pressure, at home and abroad, to dial them back. This has worked to a degree: NSA chief Keith Alexander has complained of "irreversible and significant damage," and Washington is now facing questions from angry voters and foreign capitals.
But imagine that Snowden's leaks had accomplished dramatically more, bringing hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets and causing Washington to close the NSA and convene a new Church Commission to take America out of the cyber espionage business. Then what? The world would still be full of other governments (and private groups) pursuing cyber espionage for all sorts of reasons, not least China, Russia and Iran. Does Snowden think that America's retirement from the cyber game would get such countries to end their extensive foreign and domestic digital surveillance efforts in the name of privacy and Internet freedom?
The prospect is absurd. Yet a similar calculation is right now driving the Obama administration's nuclear-weapons policy.
"Nuclear zero" has been an Obama priority since day one. Central to the president's relationships with Russia, NATO and Europe, it has been the subject of countless diplomatic endorsements, summit meetings and high-profile speeches, including last week in Berlin. It led to America's New Start arms-reduction treaty with Moscow in 2010, and it is driving Mr. Obama's latest push to cut U.S. nuclear forces, this time by a third.
All along, the realization of nuclear zero has depended on other countries (all other countries) following the U.S. into disarmament. They're not doing so. Not the North Koreans, not the Iranians, not the Chinese and not even the Russians, who are now pushing back against further cuts. "Moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon," said Mr. Obama upon announcing his vision in Prague in 2009—empty rhetoric then and now.
Yet the president presses on, promising not to develop new nuclear warheads and ignoring needed modernizations of existing nuclear infrastructure. When other countries spurn America's lead—undermining the whole nuclear-zero premise—the president largely ignores them. In Berlin last week, he mentioned North Korea and Iran only once, as countries that "may be seeking" nuclear weapons.
This denial of nuclear reality is akin to Edward Snowden's silence on the state of privacy rights in those countries coming to his aid. While giving interviews from Hong Kong, Snowden chose not to highlight how China denies free speech to 1.3 billion people, or how Beijing cut off the Internet to Xinjiang (a region about five times the size of Germany) for almost a year starting in July 2009. One doubts that Snowden's sojourn in Russia will inspire him to speak up for Anna Politkovskaya or the many other journalists killed for shining light on Vladimir Putin's system of brutality and information control.
There is obviously no moral equivalence between the criminal conduct of Snowden and the policymaking of Mr. Obama, twice elected president and commander in chief partly on the popularity of ideas such as nuclear zero. Snowden had no right to act on his wishful thinking by ignoring all channels of political accountability and going to the press to try to bring about a world without Internet snooping. By contrast, Mr. Obama's case of wishful thinking is just conventional politics.
But nuclear zero and its illogic of unilateral disarmament are serious business. America's promises to degrade its nuclear forces will more likely encourage Iran, North Korea and China to seek nuclear strength than to shun it. In the nuclear and cyber realms alike, American withdrawal would be provocative. Until all men are angels, deterrence is a more responsible bet than dreams of "zero."
Mr. Feith is an editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal Asia.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I finally bought it... My M.ZUIKO® DIGITAL 17mm f1.8

After 2 weeks of considerations, I finally decided to get the 17mm f1.8 to replace my faulty kit lens, 14-42mm II. I really need a good lens to take indoor photos soon, as my dad's and son's birthday party are coming real soon. Not much time to think actually. Still, I think this would be a good choice for my shooting style.  :)

I got it today at Parisilk for $627nett, and the price is for cash payment only.

To find out more about the lens, read the press release:
http://les-revues.blogspot.sg/2012/11/olympus-introduce-new-mzuiko-digital.html