Friday

Five Scientific Reasons Why Singletasking Works (and Multitasking Doesn't)


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In Devora Zack's new book, she argues for the benefits of singletasking over multitasking. Put simply, multitasking is not the way to get things done properly, though our culture tells us there is no other option. There is another option, and it is singletasking -- focusing on one priority or issue at a time with complete attention all the way to completion.

But why singletask? Isn't multitasking effective? Nope, and here are five good reasons why singletasking is way better:

1. Your brain is built for singletasking: Neurologists and researchers have shown that your btain is capable of balancing only two things at a time at most. Overload it any more and it becomes overwhelmed and incapable of balancing concentration and attention adequately.

2. Multitasking makes you fat. Well, maybe not fat, but it definitely makes you put on weight. Studies have shown that those who tend to multitask at mealtimes or when they are hungry end up overeating. This is because the mind is not focused on the task at hand: getting nutrition, so you are less likely to know when you are full.

3. SIngletasking is the key to creativity. Extensive research conducted by academic researchers has shown the moments of creative insight and "a-ha!" instances only occur in an uncluttered mind. The more competition there is for the mind's attention, the less it wanders into creative and non-traditional areas and patterns.

4. Multitasking actually slows down productivity. One of the main reasons we multitask is so that we can get more done in less time. However, a study reported by the American Psychological Association actually indicates that switching between tasks actually slows down productivity more than focusing on each task one at a time.

5. Singletasking is real; multitasking does not exist. There have been countless productivity experts and scientists alike who have made this compelling argument: there is no such thing as multitasking. The very phrase "multitasking" suggests accomplishing several tasks simultaneously. However, all the evidence shows that the "tasks" are never done as competently or as thoroughly as they should be in most cases of multitasking, so what is really being achieved? Can it be called multitasking if the tasks are not handled?

Tuesday

Five Surprising Companies That Espouse Servant Leadership


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In Cheryl Bachelder's latest book, she addresses the importance of servant leadership at all levels and how it is not just a soft science but one that is necessary for real organizational growth and progress.

But is it possible to practice servant leadership in a large, publicly-held company with shareholders to answer to? Well, Cheryl did just that with Popeye's (of which she is the CEO), the international chain of fast food restaurants. Here are some other major companies that you may be surprised to find are servant leadership-based:

1. Balfour Beatty: It's surprising to have a construction company with a servant-leadership center but Balfour Beatty CEO Eric Stenman firmly believes that's the way business should be done.  Stenman's focus has always been on the "personal and professional success of all his employees."

2. The Container Store: CEO Kip Tindell has often indicated how he does not believe in the business mantra of maximizing returns to shareholders as a core focus. He always puts employees first and believes a thriving organizational community is the key to business success. Read his letter to investors here.

3. Marriott International: Founder Bill Marriott has always emphasized a culture of service -- both to customers as well as to others in the organization. His emphasis on "the spirit to serve" is what moves the multinational organization along to such heights.

4. Starbucks: They may be the bane of every indie coffee shop everywhere, but their service to their employees is legendary. Apart from offering many non-standard benefits, Starbucks recently also indicated that they would begin to help employees with free college tuition. CEO Howard Schultz believes a great company can only be built by linking shareholder value to value for employees.

5. Nordstrom's: The popular department store enjoys a loyal fan base thanks to their incredible customer-centric focus. What is not as well-known is their "inverted pyramid" organizational model that puts sales and floor staff at the highest level of importance and the executive team and directors at the bottom. Since the Nordstrom brothers themselves worked their way to the top (or rather, the bottom) from the stock room, this focus on the front-end is not surprising.

Thursday

Five Women Who Stepped Up When No One Expected Them To

In her latest book, Helene Lerner talks about the need for women to step up and take the reins and be confident. The traditional myths that have always held women back (lack of confidence, feeling unready or unqualified) are just those and in order to crush those myths, women have to be willing to step up and assume control and convey confidence.

The following five women are examples of those who stepped up in unexpected ways and changed the lives of thousands or tens of thousands. You may not recognize some of the names, but their achievements are legendary:

1. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
In 1865, Anderson was the first female doctor in England and in France. Her entire life story is one of continually being refused admittance to medical schools and the medical profession but she fought the establishment every step of the way at a time when women were not permitted to practice medicine. Despite numerous times being told that she lacked the proper "skills" to be a doctor, she relented. She eventually became the first Englishwoman to qualify both as a physician and a surgeon in England, co-founded the first hospital staffed entirely by women, and became the first dean of a British medical school and also the first woman allowed to practice medicine in France. Her story is well worth reading.

2. Caroline Herschel
Herschel was the first woman to be paid for her contribution to science and to be awarded a Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Born in 1750, Caroline suffered from typhus at age ten which stunted her growth. She never grew past four-foot three inches. Her family assumed she would never marry or have many prospects in life and so she was trained as a maid, and later, as a singer. However, her keen interest in her brother William's work in astronomy eventually made her more than just a qualified and competent scientist. Despite the fact that many regarded her as someone not qualified to be more than a domestic servant, she went on to discover several comets and form theories and scientific hypotheses around various celestial movements. She was also the first woman admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society. Read more about Herschel here.

3. Helen Octavia Dickens
Dickens was the first African-American woman admitted to the American College of Surgeons in 1950. She came from a poor background as the daughter of a former slave. Helen applied to all the best schools for medicine and was continually rejected until she managed to register at the University of Illinois and graduate in 1934. Dickens often spoke of always having to sit right at the very front in her classes because she otherwise could not pay attention to the instructor because of the mockery and insults directed towards her by her classmates. Dickens was one of the first doctors to encourage young women to empower themselves by conducting extensive research into teen pregnancy and sexual health issues. Read more about Dickens here.


4. Marlee Matlin, actress
Marlee Matlin received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 1986 movie Children of a Lesser God, and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009. We can all agree that these would be amazing achievements for any actress, but we left something out: Marlee Matlin is also deaf. Her whole life she has had to work through the hardships and difficulties that come with not being able to hear in an industry that is as harsh as it comes, and she has triumphed. Learn more about Matlin here.

5. Sandra Day O'Connor
When Sandra Day O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School, she was turned down for interviews by over forty law firms because she was a woman. For a time, she even worked for free in various law offices just to gain experience and get her foot in the door. Then she slowly began to ascend and in 1981, she became the first woman appointed to the US Supreme Court and served even through personal trials such as breast cancer. Read more about her here.






Tuesday

Five Indicators of the Damage Being Done By Our Current Narrative

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In his new book, David Korten explains how our current "story" is one of Sacred Money and Markets which emphasizes monetary gain and the use of the planet purely for resources. We need a new story, Korten says, or face our own demise.
We humans live by shared cultural stories that shape our common values and how we structure institutional power. When we get our story wrong, we get our future wrong.

Here are five ways the familiar Sacred Money and Markets story by which we currently live gets it badly wrong—with deadly consequences.

1. Money is wealth. Conditioned to believe that money is wealth rather than just a number, we forget that the only legitimate purpose of business and the economy is to serve living people and the rest of nature. We instead structure and manage them to make money as their defining purpose and allocate resources to maximize returns to money. The inevitable result is growing inequality, environmental destruction, political corruption, and poverty and servitude for all but the few.

2. Unregulated markets combine with the individualistic competitive drive for personal advantage to maximize wealth creation and thereby the well-being of all.
We forget that humans survive and thrive only as members of healthy cooperative families and communities. We celebrate as a human ideal, behavior we might otherwise recognize as psychopathic.

3. Material consumption is the path to happiness. Thus misdirected, we live in indentured servitude to global corporations to feed insatiable addiction to consumption that destroys nature and deprives of us the true happiness of life as members of caring communities.

4. Earth belongs to us. She is our property to use as we find most financially profitable.
We forget that Living Earth is our sacred mother, the source of our birth and nurture. We belong to her.

5. Corporations are just people and entitled to the same rights as any person. Publicly traded corporations are legal entities programmed by their legal structures to function as money-seeking robots that behave like psychopaths in response to signals from global financial markets that value only money and incessantly demand ever greater short-term profits without regard for the consequences for life.

Thus misdirected we believe we get richer as we destroy the living wealth foundational to our own existence to make money for those who already have far more money than could ever possibly use. Money prospers. Life withers. 


Our future depends on awakening to the reality that we are living beings born of and nurtured by a Living Earth itself born of a Living Universe. And that changes everything.



Wednesday

Five Famous People Who Refired Themselves Out of Retirement

In Ken Blanchard's latest book with his coauthor Morton Schaevitz, he explores the concept of refiring -- that is, how to live a more vital and energetic life in the post-retirement years.

There are countless people who un-retired themselves and went on to have vigorous and healthy second acts. Here are just five:

1. Frank Sinatra
Old blue eyes decided to call it quits in 1971 at the age of 55. However, his fan base was rather disappointed and continued to rally for his return. So, Sinatra did return just two years later in a television special. The TV special was so successful that he decided he would keep at it until the mid-1990s.

2. Clint Eastwood
This man has refired several times -- first he was an A-list actor, then he retired and went on to become the mayor of Carmel, California, and then he started directing and making films. He came out of retirement yet again as an actor in Robert Lorenz's "Trouble with the Curve."

3. Sugar Ray Leonard
In 1982, Leonard suffered a detached retina that was supposed to sideline him permanently. The problem was that Leonard just kept refiring. When he finally hung up his gloves for good in 1997, Leonard had retired and refired four times.

4. Stephen King
The famous horror-writer announced in 2002 that he was retiring due to the pain he continued to suffer from a 1999 accident. Despite the pain, he couldn't quite keep away and decided to take up writing again and has published more than a dozen novels since his announcement.

5. Michael Jordan
The retirement-refirement story almost everyone knows: In the fall of 1993, Jordan left the Chicago Bulls -- whom he had led to three straight NBA titles -- to pursue a career in professional baseball. When that didn't work out, he returned to the Bulls in Spring of 1995 to lead the team to three more championships. He retired again in 1999 but then made yet another comeback ion 2001 to play two seasons with the Washington Wizards.

Tuesday

Five Lessons from Five Astronauts


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In his latest book, astronaut Ron Garan teaches readers about the need for the orbital perspective -- a way of seeing things in the larger scheme where all things are interconnected and no one thing is without the influence of something else no matter how seemingly removed.

Ron is not the first astronaut to have important lessons for mankind. Here are five other lessons from five notable astronauts:

1. Buzz Aldrin: Emotions get in the way sometimes.
Like most astronauts, Buzz Aldrin was a fighter pilot. He famously said "Fighter pilots have ice in their veins. They don't have emotions. They think, anticipate. They know that fear and other concerns cloud your mind from what's going on and what you should be involved in." Aldrin was not advocating for us to be soulless automatons, but when quick actions are required, human emotions can get in the way of rapid responses to pressing situations. Oftentimes, it is a matter of seeing, anticipating, and acting more than anything else. Essentially, it's about moving from a focus on oneself and one's own thoughts to something that serves a purpose not directly related to one's own self-preservation.

2. Neal Armstrong: We should never look at our achievements within their own contexts but in the larger sense of things.
Being the first man on the moon is quite the accomplishment and yet Armstrong never saw his mission and achievement in such narrow terms. He said, "The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited." Achievements are not about themselves but emblematic of greater ideas and opportunities.

3. Linda Godwin: Always be thinking ahead of where you are thinking currently.
We have a tendency to look only for immediate needs and goals, but Godwin once explained the importance of thinking long-term by saying, "It's important to know that we packed right, because it is a safety issue for coming home." Most people think in terms of a goal as just reaching it, but equally important (especially if you're in outer space) is being aware of what comes next and what resources that requires.

4. Shannon Lucid: Always push for what you want no matter what others tell you.
Shannon Lucid has always been candid about her struggles getting into the space program as a woman: "Basically, all my life I'd been told you can't do that because you're female. So I guess I just didn't pay them any attention. I just went ahead..." She also said, "It was just really, really tough getting anything when you were a female. Basically, I just took advantage of everything I could..." Lucid fought every step of the way to make it to where she is despite what others told her.

5. Edgar Mitchell: Develop a global mindset and realize that our differences are petty and that a global consciousness can unite us.
Edgar Mitchell is certainly one of the most spiritual astronauts that ever existed but he said the transformation for him happened in space: "You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics looks so petty." Mitchell has gone on to become a powerful voice in various spiritual communities globally.

The unmistakable lesson that all of these astronauts also endorse is one that Ron Garan is talking about in this book -- the need for a bigger mindset that moves away from immediacy, shot-termism, and narrow, overly-focused thinking and instead moves towards...the orbital perspective.


Wednesday

The Three Pillars of Society

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In his latest book, Henry Mintzberg describes how our society has become imbalanced due to a lack of consistent and equal support from the three crucial pillars of society.

Below, Henry described what each of these pillars does and what happens if it exerts too much or too little influence.


Pillar 1: 
What is it? The Public Sector—governments in all their forms

What is it responsible for? Many things—more than some people care to realize. But mainly protections, for example policing and regulating.

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? That’s called communism (or for some people, government in any form). Governments can be crude: too much government leads to a cold, crude, bureaucratic society.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? People lack protections, private forces run rampant. If you live in America, look around.


Pillar 2: 
What is it? The Private Sector—businesses in all their forms.

What is it responsible for? Providing us with many of out basic goods and some of our necessary services, but not for lobbying, not for bribing politicians with political donations, not for advertising to influence public policies, not for doing what governments have to do—at least not in any society that wishes to call itself democratic..

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? This describes the state that many countries are in today. Businesses can be crude; our societies are becoming increasingly crude.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? That’s what happened under communism: people lacked for many basic goods and services. They craved them, and so were desperate for capitalism. How many of those people have remained so?


Pillar 3: 
What is it? The Plural Sector, better known as civil society, the third sector, the not-for–profit sector, and other inadequate labels. It comprises all associations and organizations that are neither owned by the state nor by private investors. Some, like co-operatives, are owned by their members; many others are owned by no-one—Greenpeace, Harvard, etc. Some are associations but not organizations, namely social movements and social initiatives.

What is it responsible for? This sector serves many of our needs for affiliation, especially in communities. These days I believe that it had better take responsibility for getting us out of the mess that imbalance in favor of the private sector has put us into. For problems like global warming and income disparities, corporate social responsibility will not do it, nor will governments, so many of which are now co-opted or overwhelmed  by private forces. We shall have to rely on social movements and especially social initiatives to bring in new ways of dealing with our problems.

What happens if there’s too much emphasis on it? It becomes closed, society becomes closed—think of the Taliban, or of the New England witch hunts.

What happens if there’s not enough of it? Then we lack affiliations, and a capacity for the radical renewal that we require. A healthy society balances the power of its public, private, and plural sectors.