Digital Distraction: The Constant Pinging of Devices is Driving People Crazy

A recent article in The Economist explores the surging interest in Mindfulness among people in business.

The first reason: The constant pinging of electronic devices is driving many people to the end of their tether. Electronic devices not only overload the senses and invade leisure time. They feed on themselves: the more people tweet the more they are rewarded with followers and retweets. Mindfulness provides a good excuse to unplug and chill out—or “disconnect to connect,” as some Mindfulness advocates put it. A second reason is the rat race. The single-minded pursuit of material success has produced an epidemic of corporate scandals and a widespread feeling of angst. Mindfulness emphasizes that there is more to success than material prosperity.
Read More


Mainstream Media Becoming Mindful of Mindfulness

Woman meditatingA superb, quite long and discerning article about Mindfulness in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper.

Here are some edited highlights:

…This meditation isn’t about relaxing, emptying the mind or filling the head with peaceful thoughts… The intention is to be aware of physical sensations of the body and also simply to notice what the mind does.”

…”The mind wanders and it entertains itself with all sorts of things. All we are required to do is notice these thoughts. We are not suppressing them or ’emptying the mind,’ or making the thoughts go away.”

“It’s a preventative treatment – that’s what makes it different,” says Professor Mark Williams. “People usually seek treatment when they’re depressed or anxious, and cognitive therapy is one of the major success stories in treatment. But cognitive therapy is used when people are ill. What we wanted to do was extend this to teach people skills to stay well that they could use before depression threatens.”

Mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn calls Mindfulness “paying attention on purpose, moment-by-moment, without judging”. Practitioners argue that the brain’s habit of reliving past stresses and worrying about potential problems can become an obstacle to mental health.

“A good example of how it can work is when you’re kept awake at night thinking,” says Williams. “You toss and turn and you get angry because you can’t sleep. The anger doesn’t help, but you can’t seem to stop it. Mindfulness isn’t about suppressing those thoughts, but about enabling you to stand back and observe them as if they were clouds going past in the sky. You see them and you cultivate a sense of (acceptance of) them.”
Read More


Leaving a Little Earlier Could Buy You a 1/2-Hour of Free Mindfulness

Mindful_driving_2Many people would like a bit more Mindfulness in their lives. The reason they don’t is because let’s face it, there is a cost. That cost is usually time, although sometimes the cost is energy as well as time. A lot of us have time to spend an hour or two “vegging” out on the couch, watching vapid entertainment on the television or flitting about from one gossipy piece of news on the internet to the other. In this case, what we lack is the *energy* to sit up straight, concentrate and focus on our breathing.

And yet there are times of the day when most of us are energetic enough to immerse ourselves fully in the present moment and gain the clarifying, head-clearing benefits that totally concentrated awareness often brings. But how often do we unnecessarily leave things to the last minute so that the result of our actions is needing to proceed at the greatest possible speed from one place to another?

Driving is a great example. Typically ahead of any excursion, I try to determine how long it takes to get from Place A to Place B. Sometimes I’m even meticulous about it and use Google maps to calculate the travel time. Let’s say Google tells me it takes 23 minutes, under “normal” traffic conditions. I then round the time down to 20 minutes, ignore the fact that I’ll be driving in the middle of rush hour and hey presto! I’m now running late, well before I even set out. Add to this a tendency I have to answer “one more” e-mail in my inbox and clear out “one more” task on my list before leaving, and before you know it I have 15 minutes to accomplish a trip that actually requires about 25 minutes.

Now here’s the “Mindless” part: Because I now realize I’m running seriously late, I jump in the car and am in full-on “flight” mode, with adrenaline and other stress chemicals starting to pump. Eyes bulging now, muscles twitching. Instead of driving calmly, safely and fully obeying the traffic laws, I am now searching frantically for shortcuts, intensely worried about making a wrong turn, annoyed at traffic lights, tempted to run them, and, of course, annoyed at every minor error and unskillful maneuver made by the drivers around me.

But did it really have to be this way? The benefits of driving calmly are considerable. I could have floated over the road, listening to some beautiful music, or basked in perfect quietude. I could have glanced around the countryside, I could have marveled at the wonders of a finely tuned car that drives so smoothly. At each red light, I could have done a mini breathing exercise. The cost? Stopping all my usual “busyness” about five minutes earlier than usual. In a 16-hour waking day, that’s not actually a big investment.

Mindfulness practice and time management



Tiredness Causes Depression Which Causes Pessimism and Vice Versa

happy-sleeping-baby-anti-depressionPeople who are depressed do, in fact, have good memories, but alas for negative information rather than positive information.

Brian Johnson highlights a study in which researchers showed subjects images and then tested people who were sleep-deprived and those who weren’t on recall of the images. The images had obvious emotional content, for example a cuddly puppy or a photo of a battleground. Sleep-deprived people had difficulty recalling the positive images but not the negative images.

Folks struggling with depression typically can remember only the negative aspects of their lives. And they are are often sleep deficient.

Everyone needs eight and half hours of sleep out of every twenty-four, Brian asserts, citing research. Everybody. If you need an alarm clock to wake up every day, if you can’t get rolling until a shot or two of espresso, and you find that you sleep long and hard on weekends, then you are probably not getting enough sleep.

The body is wonderfully homeostatic; that is, it has mechanisms to enforce its need for sleep. It’s almost as simple as this: if you are sleepy, sleep. Note: You and I would fall into that “everybody” category. If you’re committed to feeling depressed, definitely make sure you get inadequate sleep,” Brian says sarcastically.
Read More


12 Foods That Can Help You Sleep

woman-eating-nuts foods that help you sleepKeep evening snacks light and eat no later than a half-hour before bed. This allows sufficient time for your body to digest the food and absorb the nutrients before you go to sleep.

Almonds contain magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that plays a key role in regulating sleep. A handful of almonds or a tablespoon of almond butter before bed may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

These nutritional powerhouses contain tryptophan, an amino acid that has been linked to sleep quality. They also contain potassium, which may prevent muscles cramps in the middle of the night.

(Breakfast) Cereal and Milk
Milk contains the sleep-promoting tryptophan, which the brain uses to make serotonin and melatonin, hormones that promote relaxation and control sleep and wake cycles. The carbohydrates in cereal make tryptophan more available to the brain. For the best results, choose a small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal.

Cherries, especially the tart varieties (e.g. Montmorency), are one of the few food sources of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates your internal clock. Recent studies have found that volunteers who drank tart cherry juice daily fell asleep sooner and slept better and longer.
Read More


How Just One Breath Can Help

meditating stream just one breath photoSome evocative writing from Gary Snyder:

In this world of onrushing events the act of meditation – even just a “one-breath” meditation – straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment – is a refreshing island in the stream.

Although the term meditation has mystical and religious connotations for many people, it is a simple and plain activity. Attention, deliberate stillness and silence. As anyone who has practiced sitting knows, the quieted mind has many paths, most of them tedious and ordinary. Then, right in the midst of meditation, totally unexpected images or feelings may sometimes emerge, and suddenly there is a way into a vivid clarity.
Read More


Busy Leader? How to be Left in Peace for a Week: Email Management

Email management, work-life balance

leadership-work-life-balance-email-managementWho is your key administrator and/or operations officer? Have a brief chat with him or her about three business days before you are due to go away on vacation. That gives them the time to get urgent issues and documentation that require your attention in front of you in the days before your break.

Explain to your key administrator that you want to be left in peace for a week. No further explanation required. Yes, it’s that simple! The vast majority of human beings understand the need for rest and relaxation.

Then send your own version of this email template (below) to the two or three key day-to-day administrator/operations people in your working life:

Hi Guys,

During my holiday from Monday the 11th to Friday the 15th inclusive, I’m aiming for as little disruption as possible.

Generally “Elena” (my lead administration/operations person), in consultation with Richard and Sophie (two senior leaders who aren’t on vacation that week), if necessary – should be able to handle any on-going issues during the week.

Please note that I will *not* be checking any e-mail addresses during the week.

There is an “out of office” message on my e-mail addresses telling senders that I will respond to their message on the 18th of August and if the matter is urgent, to contact Elena by e-mail.

Thanks and best regards,


What do you think? How would this work for you? Drop me a line at:

Key topics: Email management, stress reduction, workplace communications, work-life balance, vacation planning


Change Your Life in Less Than One Minute

59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change A Lot, by Richard Wiseman

It’s based orichard_wisemann the premise that quick techniques can sometimes be surprisingly effective at helping us to change.

Highlights include that:

–       Spending money on experiences is a far more effective way to make yourself happy than spending it on things

–       Punching a pillow to relieve anger actually increases your anger, while sitting quietly and thinking about how you might have benefited from an negative experience has a positive effect

Top 10 Tips from 59 Seconds

1. Develop the gratitude attitude
2. Be a giver
3. Have a mirror in your kitchen
4. Buy a potted plant for the office
5. Touch people lightly on the upper arm
6. Write about your relationship
7. Deal with potential liars by closing your eyes and asking for email
8. Praise children’s effort over their ability
9. Visualize yourself doing, not achieving
10. Consider your legacy


Have More Sex and Two Other Rewilding Tips

Mindfulness sex & happiness

Using the full breadth and depth of your personal knowledge, what three concise tips would you offer to someone wanting to live a highly successful life?

It’s a question that often yields very illuminating and practical answers on Dave Asprey’s Bullet Proof Radio Show.

The little package of advice given by recent guest Daniel Vitalis, a “rewilding” expert, is particularly inspiring and practical.

In its most concise form Daniel suggests that most people need to:
1- Spend more time outdoors
2- Move in more varied and challenging ways
3- Have better sex, more frequently
Read More


How Was Your Holiday? Did You Have a Good Break? High-Performance Vacation Planning

Taking Control of Your Life
How was your holiday? Did you have a good break?

Whether your answer to these questions is “great” or “so-so” or somewhere in between, now — right now — is the time to start planning for next year. You can improve on the year-end break, maintain a status quo level of satisfaction, or leave it to chance, the choice is yours.

Many people don’t get around to specifically planning for the December 20th to January 5th period until late September, when they are settled back in after a summer break. In the U.S., some planning refuseniks, don’t really focus on the year-end holidays until after Thanksgiving, meaning they have a mere three weeks to get ready.

Obviously it’s as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that the world will slow down a bit at the end of December 2015. You’ll be tired from a hectic and hopefully high productivity October, November and the first two weeks of December. It will be hard after December 10th or so to make progress because colleagues and clients will feel similarly. And there are all the distractions of parties to contend with. So don’t fight it. Go with the flow, and the flow at that time of year is toward rest and renewal.

How much time do you dare take off around year-end? My suggestion is that you be bold but subtle. The French have a nice expression that means “To live well, live hidden.”

Would it be so crazy and reckless to have your last day of work be Thursday the 17th of December and your first day back Tuesday the 5th of January? That’s a total of 18 non-work days. Six of those are weekend days. Depending on which country you are based, around four of those are national holidays. That leaves you taking off eight work days, i.e. Not that much.

The key is advance planning and providing your key colleagues advance warning. Slide those dates into the team’s holiday diary as soon as you can but in a way that doesn’t attract notice. Of course put them in your own calendar right away, and with a reminder that goes off every week or so. The anticipation is a key part of the cure; knowing that something desirable and important is coming up can make this period truly transformational, a process of inspiration that gathers momentum as the weeks go by.

Can you organisation live without you between December 18th and January 5th? Of course it can. Many wouldn’t even notice you’re away.

The same isn’t always true with relative, but if you calmly, politely inform them around Sept 10th that you won’t be around for the holidays, they will eventually adjust and come to accept it as bearable.

In my 15 plus years of coaching people at senior levels, I have seen dozens of executives who were thought completely indispensable leave at short notice for weeks at a time. Often it’s because of a serious medical problem but regardless of the reason, most organisations prove themselves surprisingly resilient.

Obviously it’s a lot less disruptive if you plan for your absence, finish up projects, write contingency plans etc.

To be sure, sometimes people are reluctant to plan themselves out of the work flow for a significant period of time precisely because they realize they are readily replaceable or otherwise won’t be particularly missed. Some of that is an irrational anxiety. However part of it, is down to a paradox: People can often grind away at a job not adding much innovation or special value precisely because they are uninspired, even burned out from too much time doing the same things, not enough rest, rejuvenation and exposure to new stimuli that would create new ideas and renewed energy. The solution is to be rigorously “planfull” in taking reinvigorating and inspiring breaks.

Here are some ideas:
– Travel somewhere interesting but not-too busy at year-end, like Ecuador, Romania or Burma
– How about a tropical “semi” paradise; e.g. Puerto Rico is surprisingly low-key despite reliably good weather
– Pick a slightly unusual travel window to save money, like Dec. 17 to Dec. 29
– Try a Buddhist retreat; many centers are fully operational over the Dec./Jan. time period
– Take up a winter sport big-time in a key center, i.e. Cross country skiing in Canada
(Pro-tip – start preparing in the gym for intense sports at least three months in advance)
– Stay at home but work on something new; e.g. schedule 3 hours a day of pottery; hire a local tutor well in advance
– Resolve to do all your holiday shopping and correspondence over one intense 48-hour stint in early December (e.g. The weekend of Dec. 5-6; put it in the diary now)
– Plan to read 6 to 10 great books over the period; set aside 6 to 10 hours a day for reading (including audio books that can be listened to while exercising)
– Hire a fitness coach for intense workouts every other day for two weeks

What ideas do you have? Let me know via
Key terms: vacation planning, holidays, planfull behavior, diary management, time and task management, work stress management, healthy leaves of absences