Play a Game of Chess Each Day

At first, I thought a blog post about playing chess might be a tad far-fetched, but with all of the articles we’ve read about maintaining our cognition as we age, what with Alzheimer’s disease affecting so many of us, chess needs some promotion! Chess is also rather nostalgic for me as my high school team in Two Rivers, Wisconsin won the national, yes you read that right NATIONAL championship when I was a high school junior in the 1970s!  For more, read on from guest blogger Vincent Carlos….

When I was a kid, I used to love playing chess. But, for whatever reason, I fell out of it.

Recently, however, I’ve started playing a lot more of it. And I’m obsessed with it again. So much so that I’m convinced that everyone should play at least one game of chess daily.

And I’m not just saying that either. According to many studies, playing chess provides a long list of much-needed benefits:

– It helps prevent Alzheimer’s.

– It exercises both sides of your brain.

– It increases creativity.

– It improves memory.

– It improves problem-solving skills.

– It increases IQ.

– It improves reading skills.

– It improves concentration.

– It improves planning and foresight,

– It improves cognitive skills.

– And it’s fun.

These are the reasons I play at least one game of chess every day. I recommend you play a daily game of chess too.

If chess is something you think you want to get into, then I highly recommend the book “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess” by former chess world champion Bobby Fischer. It’s a great book for beginners.

Get More Done with ‘The Rule of 3’

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What is “The Rule of 3” and why is it important in today’s fast-paced work culture?

If you want to be more productive, then you should adopt The Rule of 3. This is what productivity expert Chris Bailey recommends in his book “The Productivity Project.”

The Rule of 3 says that at the beginning of each day, you should mentally fast-forward to the end of the day, and ask yourself: When the day is over, what 3 things will I want to have accomplished?

I like Bailey’s idea of “3” because, let’s face it, taking on too much in a given day will simply set yourself up for failure!  I used to make the mistake of insisting on accomplishing A, B, C, D…maybe even E, in a previous job as an associate editor at a large publishing company.  Naturally, like most of us, I focused too much on what I DIDN’T get done in the workday, when this plan wasn’t realistic to begin with! Let’s face facts: Things WILL come up in a given day, and when they do, and you have to shift gears, it will be very difficult, and even impossible, to get back to task “C”, let alone “D” or “E”!

Bailey suggests… The Rule of 3 says that at the beginning of each day, you should mentally fast-forward to the end of the day, and ask yourself: When the day is over, what 3 things will I want to have accomplished?

Whatever those 3 things are, write them down. Just make sure you don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unattainable goals. [Italics mine.]

In other words, what can you REALISTICALLY get done in a given day? Not what you’d LIKE TO get done, but what CAN you, in all likelihood, accomplish? Here is but one idea:

1) It’s Tuesday, so priority one is completing the report that is due Thursday. Getting that off my desk will help a lot with stress!

2) At least start on the next task that I’m supposed to have done by Friday if possible, otherwise Monday. At least starting on it will mean less to do on it tomorrow.

3) Recognize that unexpected things might arise, but do NOT add to distractions by overdoing checking email and voice messages! Unless I am expecting a VERY important call or email, check them on the hour, and on the hour ONLY.

Can you see how being able to check off 3 main tasks in a workday will give you a feeling of accomplishment – as opposed to feeling like a failure because the 5, unrealistic tasks you wanted to do, that didn’t get done?

As fellow blogger Vincent Carlos concludes, “The Rule of 3 may seem simple, but I promise you, no app, tool or resource will make you more productive in your life than using this rule.”

Also from Vincent… I read a lot and people often ask me how do I remember everything I read? So I wrote an article where I give 4 strategies I use to retain everything I read. However, this article is for site members only. So if you’re a member, you can read it by clicking here!

Building Better Habits

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Remember how compartmentalized our gadgets (and lives) used to be? A camera was used to take pictures. Period. It did not do 100 other things. Email was something we checked at home, on our laptops or PCs, not on the road. And that’s just for starters!

The point is, as our electronic gadgets evolve to do more and more things, the line between work and play, business and pleasure, has become increasingly blurred. And that leads to stress – in many cases a LOT of it. But it doesn’t have to be this way, as guest blogger Vincent Carlos explains.

Three years ago, when I first started building my daily reading habit, I would often read in my bed. Unfortunately, however, I would always find reading in my bed without feeling sleepy to be very difficult.

Why? Because there was no clear division between reading and sleep.

“Was my bed where I read or where I slept?”

I wasn’t sure because they both happened in the same place. As a result, I struggled in the beginning to build a daily reading habit.

This is a common habit building problem that habit building expert James Clear talks about in his best-selling book “Atomic Habits.”

In this book, Clear explains that as humans, our brains tend to have a really tough time separating work from rest.

If you’re doing work in your bed, for example, you might find it’s hard to focus and start feeling sleepy. This is because your brain has learned to associate your bed with sleep and not work.

It could also work the other way around. If you tend to work in your bed, you might find it difficult to fall asleep at night because your brain has learned to associate your bed with work and not sleep.

This is why if you want to build better habits, then you need to have separate environments for different tasks.

As James Clear says,

“Create a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment, and cooking. The mantra I find useful is “One space, one use.”

Go to the coffee shop instead of your bedroom if you want to focus.

Go to your local gym instead of your living room if you want to exercise.

Go to your bedroom instead of your office if you want to relax.

This is important because when you have separate environments for separate behaviors, habits become a lot easier to build.

P.S. If you want to learn how to build better habits, I just put together a Building Habits Action Plan eBook which provides a list of very actionable ideas you can use to build better habits. However, this Building Habits Action Plan eBook is for members only. So if you’d like access to the Building Habits Action Plan eBook, then click here! You’ll also get access to my other member-only Action Plan eBooks and a lot of other exclusive content!

The New Dynamic: No Fun for Older Workers

Generations ago it was unusual to bounce around from employer to employer, as the working world was very different and people had a strong sense of loyalty. In 2019, all of that has been turned on its head, and sticking with the same organization for several decades is practically unheard of. Even if someone doesn’t want to leave their place of employment, the desire to bring in younger and cheaper help is something that employers have to evaluate regularly.

Unfortunately, this new dynamic means that people in the latter parts of their career journey end up getting the short end of the stick. A study conducted by ProPublica and the Urban Institute found shocking results that support this claim: of the people they evaluated over the age of 50, a whopping 56% of them were laid off before retirement.

Major Changes

Being forced to find new employment is never fun or easy no matter what age you are, but for individuals who are nearing 65, it can be particularly challenging – especially if they rely on a certain level of income to make ends meet. Far too often, those who were laid off after 50 had a difficult time obtaining employment that gave them the same level of financial security. In fact, only 10% of those in the study were able to make just as much at their new job as they did at their previous one.

What’s more, getting a college degree today is practically a prerequisite for most decent paying jobs, and as people in their 20s graduate with a completely fresh and updated set of skills, they become major competition for older folks. While you’d think that nothing beats 30 years of experience, employers also have to look at their bottom line and determine which candidates offer the most overall value.

Stopping The Bleeding

Unless you can predict the future, you never really know when you might be in the position of finding a new job later in life. Aside from careful financial planning to ensure you have backup funds in the event your new job doesn’t pay as well, it’s important to take other actions to set yourself up for success. Above all else, networking will be one of your most important tools to rely on when looking for other opportunities.

Source: “Assessing Job Security For Those Over 50,” https://completed.com/

 

Mental Health by the Numbers

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Mental Health Awareness Month is winding into its last week. Have YOU done something to raise awareness about the importance of mental health? If not, why not? There is still time! Check out the links below www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may and/or https://nami.org

* One in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime.

* Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 63% received mental health services in the past year.

* Every day, an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.

* Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10–34.

* Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.

* Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.

* Know an individual in crisis? Call the NAMI helpline, 800-950-6264.

This post was among the mental health articles featured in the May “Employee Assistance Report.” To learn more or subscribe, visit http://www.writeitrightllc.com

Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); National Institute of Mental Health; SAMHSA; American Journal of Psychiatry; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Department of Health & Human Services.

Making the Case for Pets at Work

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It seems like all I have to do to get a big response to a Facebook post is to say something about a current or past pet, and before you know it… poof!….. Twenty or more likes (and often counting) as well as a handful of flattering comments.

It would appear that a LOT of us are pet lovers! I’ve written before on this blog about how great pets are for us. Among other benefits, they’ve been shown to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. To say nothing of their companionship!  It’s no wonder we miss them so when they are gone!

SO, why aren’t pets more common in the workplace? Yes, I know they “can” make a mess, and some dogs “do” bark a lot, but there are lot of dogs that are house-trained and many that DON’T bark a great deal. Of course, if you work in a restaurant or another place where food is served, a pet probably isn’t a good idea!

But I think there are a lot of workplaces where it could work quite well to have a pet on the premises on a pretty regular basis. A bank. (Take out a loan, pet the puppy!) …. Dealership. (Buy a car, pet the puppy.) Credit union. Library. Tax office. Dental clinic. (Might even make you look forward to having that molar filled!)

You get the idea.

Consider: When I bring our cute, 8-pound mix Pepper Ann (see picture above), to a local assisted living facility, the eyes of seniors and staff alike light up. People are always so glad to see her!

The same holds true when I frequent the local post office and a few other businesses.

Baxter, our beloved white Maltese we had before Pepper Ann, was even welcome at a car dealership when we bought a different vehicle a few years ago. People smiled, looked at him, smiled some more, petted him. You’d think he had a license to drive and mucho bucks in his wallet!

Your workplace might even consider having a “doggy day care” so your pooch can run around some with some playmates while you’re attending to work tasks. You can check in on him on your lunch hour, and not have to wait until you get home to see that smiling face!

What a perk!! In a day and age in which it’s getting harder all the time to attract new talent, and the way people love their pets, it’s a marriage made in heaven don’t you think?

Reading in the Age of Constant Distraction

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There is no doubt that books, and reading, have changed dramatically in the 21st century. Is that a good thing? Bad? Or perhaps both are true?

In some ways, modern technology has negatively affected the industry, as author Sven Birkerts predicted in his 1994 book, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. Birkerts worried that the turned page “would be lost in a world of increasing speed and relentless connectivity.” Few would challenge that there is truth in that statement.

Twenty-five years later, Birkerts’ predictions have proven a contradiction in terms. Fewer people read for pleasure than they once did. And yet more independent bookstores are opening their doors than closing them. (There are presently 2,321 “indies” in the US, according to the American Booksellers Association.) Sales of books are up, but authors’ earnings are down. In fact, algorithms have made it possible to publish books without an editor.

Technology has been both boon and bane. The online publishing giant Amazon has made affordable prices and easy access more desirable than ever for the consumer. As we take our smartphones everywhere, this ease – whether it involves ordering a book online or buying something else – has become more and more difficult to resist. We can even ask a voice-activated assistant which books are the newest bestsellers.

And yet, as the popularity of “indies” shows, the death of the printed word has been premature. Browsing through an actual store engages consumers in a way that Amazon can only dream of. The online world offers the advantages of speed and a cheap price, but there is more to it than that. Reading for information is one thing, and that can be done quite well online.

But real reading is more engaging, it tugs at our emotions and engulfs our thinking. As it turns out, reading is more than words on a page or a computer screen, reading involves imagination, losing ourselves in another world. Can we do that on a Kindle? For those who prefer that platform, probably. But we can also immerse ourselves, body and soul, through the printed page.

Even in the 21st century, there is room for both.

Triple Your Productivity!

By Vincent Carlos, Guest Blogger

You’re probably already familiar with circadian rhythms. These are your body’s biological rhythms that form the broad structure of your individual days over 24 hours, such as your sleep/wake cycle and your body-temperature cycle.

But you also have biological cycles that are shorter than 24 hours. These are called ultradian rhythms.

In relation to productivity, the most important ultradian rhythm is known as the “basic rest-activity cycle,” which was discovered by the groundbreaking sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman.

When we sleep, Kleitman found, we average 90 minutes of rest (non-REM sleep) and 20 minutes of activity (REM sleep) – creating one full cycle totaling 110 minutes.

This cycle happens over and over again throughout the night. But Kleitman also discovered that our bodies operate by the same 90 minute ultradian rhythm during the day, too.

Throughout the day, our bodies generally go through alternating periods of high frequency brain activity (about 90 minutes) followed by lower frequency brain activity (about 20 minutes).

Because of this, your brain can only really focus for about 90 minutes before it needs a break.

In the book “Manage Your Day-To-Day,” Jocelyn Glei and 99U say,

“It’s possible to push yourself past 90 minutes by relying on caffeine, foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, and your body’s own stress hormones – adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, but eventually, there’s a price to pay.”

If you try to push through the rest phase of your ultradian rhythm, you trigger your body’s fight-or-flight (stress) response.

When your body’s fight-or-flight (stress) response is activated, your prefrontal cortex begins to shut down, you become more reactive, you become less capable of thinking clearly and reflectively, you lose the ability to focus, and you’re hyper alert and anxious.

So don’t try to override your ultradian rhythm. Instead, work alongside it.

In the famous study of prodigious violinists, performance researcher Anders Ericsson found that the top performers all practiced the same way:

– They practiced in the morning.

– They practiced for three sessions.

– Each session was no more than 90 minutes each.

– There was a break between each session.

Ericsson found the same pattern among other musicians, athletes, chess players and writers.

Although we like to imagine ourselves as machines who can work non-stop throughout the day, we’re not. Instead, we’re organisms who can only work in cycles. So in order to be more productive, we need to work in alignment with our ultradian cycles.

By building a more rhythmic pulse into your workdays, you’ll easily triple our productivity.

P.S. If you want to increase your productivity, I just updated my Productivity Action Plan eBook which is jam packed with actionable ideas you can use to immediately be more productive. This eBook is my own personal system I use to be productive every single day. However, this eBook is for members only. So if you’d like access to the Productivity Action Plan eBook, then click here! You’ll also get access to my other member only Action Plan eBooks and a lot of other exclusive content!

Why Volunteer? Why Not?

National Volunteer Month in the United States takes place in the month of April. This month is dedicated to honoring all of the volunteers in our communities as well as encouraging volunteerism throughout the month.

In many cases, volunteering runs in the family. I know that is true for me. My mom and dad were both avid volunteers at church and elsewhere. My mom worked for many years at a local St. Vincent de Paul store (We always called it “Vinnies”), as well as working MANY funeral dinners.

My dad enjoyed volunteering for the Silver K (Kiwanis), where they helped police by checking for locked doors on homes when residents were out of town, and also serving as pallbearers at funerals when the family needed help carrying the casket.

I am an avid volunteer, largely for the Lions organization, but also others, including the church we attend and the Knights of Columbus, where I’ll be helping with this week’s Tootsie Roll Drive for the developmentally disabled.

“Why?” some might say.

For one thing, I am a firm believer that you get a lot out of volunteering. In serving as a club officer in Lions, I learned to be more comfortable leading a meeting and speaking in public. Reading at church also helped a LOT in the latter point.

As well as tangible benefits, volunteering also “feeds the soul.” It feels good to give back to the church you belong to and/or the community you live in.

The one word of caution I would say about volunteering is to proceed carefully.

Not unlike the Vincent Carlos post last week about learning to say “no” in the working world, I would add that learning this word is also vital in volunteering. Say “yes” to each and every volunteer opportunity that comes up will lead to resentment and burnout. No one can do everything.

Pick your volunteer activities carefully. What causes are you passionate about? Animal welfare? Then volunteering at a local shelter would make a lot of sense. Helping the elderly? Meals on Wheels or calling bingo at a local nursing home might be your calling.

Is your place of employment passionate about a certain cause? My wife’s bank, for instance, participates in a local run/walk for dementia awareness each fall.

One needn’t be passionate about a certain cause to be a volunteer, but it sure does help. If you just help out for a certain organization because that’s what your favorite neighbor does, fine and well, but “his bag” may or may not be “your thing.” He’ll enjoy the activity, but chances are you won’t and you’ll be apt to quit.

The main thing is to pitch in and do SOMETHING, whatever that may be, or for however many hours you can spare, whether it’s just four hours each month to four days a week.

It all makes a difference.

My mom used to say that we all have a beginning date and an ending date on our tombstone. It’s what we do in between – “the dash” – that counts.

Food for thought.

Read more at the link below.

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-volunteer-month-april/

The Most Powerful Word in Your Vocabulary

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By Vincent Carlos, Guest Blogger

Do you feel like you’re busy, but not productive?

Do you feel like you give too much of your time and attention away to people who don’t deserve it?

Do you feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to accomplish all the things that matter most to you?

If so, you’re not alone. Almost everyone feels stretched too thin both at work and at home.

But, fortunately, there’s a simple solution to help you take back control of your time so that you can spend your time and energy on the things and people that matter most to you.

The solution? The word “No.”

In the book “The Power of No,” successful entrepreneur, angel investor and best-selling author James Altucher says that “No” is the most powerful, productive word in your vocabulary.

So make an effort to say “no” as much as you possibly can!

If it’s going to distract you from doing work that truly matters, say “no” to it.

If it doesn’t move you forward, say “no” to it.

If it doesn’t make you better, say “no” to it.

Oftentimes, we feel obligated to say “yes” to everything out of social pressure. But constantly saying “yes” to everything will lead to more stress, less time, and lower productivity.

On the other hand, learning to say “no” will energize you and excite you because by learning to say “no” to the things that harm you, you’ll actually be saying “yes” to the things that make you happy.

So make an effort to say “no” to at least 5 things today. Even if it’s small, say “no.”