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“No” is the New “Yes”

More than ever we are prisoners of the urgent. We react to what’s right in front of us, whether it truly matters or not.

Prioritizing requires reflection, reflection requires time. And, well you just don’t have the luxury of that now do you? We are so busy trying to keep up that we don’t stop to think about much of anything.

Too often we default to “yes.”  Saying yes to requests feels safer, avoids conflict and takes less time than pausing to decide whether or not the request is truly important.

Many of us have become addicted, unwittingly, to the speed of our lives — the adrenalin high of constant busyness. We mistake activity for productivity, more for better, and we ask ourselves “What’s next?” far more often than we do “Why this?” But as Gandhi put it, “A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”

Here are a few tips, so that you can schedule time to figure out how to say no. 

1. Schedule in your calendar anything that feels important but not urgent. If it feels urgent, you’re likely going to get it done. If it’s something you can put off, you likely will — especially if it’s challenging.

2. As your final activity before leaving work set aside time (about 10-15 minutes) to outline your tasks for the next day.

3. When you get in the morning, do the most important thing on your list first. Focus completely on this for 90 minutes, turn your phone off, silence your email. The more focused you are, the more you will accomplish.

4. Take scheduled breaks throughout the day. Working from home I have had to institute this into my schedule even more. I actually started doing simple yoga routines during my breaks to renew myself.

Yoga for a Cause: Lululemon’s Children’s Tumor Foundation Fundraiser

Last Sunday, my local Lululemon (Clarendon) hosted an in-store yoga session in support of the Children’s Tumor Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to improving the health and well being of individuals and families affected by the neurofibromatoses (NF).

Neurofibromatosis encompasses a set of distinct genetic disorders that causes tumors to grow along various types of nerves.  NF can also affect the development of non-nervous tissues such as bones and skin. Neurofibromatosis causes tumors to grow anywhere on or in the body.

The class was led by ambassador Sima Tamaddon from Xsport in Alexandria.  Sima has a great vibe to her yoga class, she brings a serious level of fun making the practice more about enjoyment. She talked you through advance levels and made an effort to adjust participants as much as possible.

Down Dog for a cause

I have to say, her flow had me seriously working up a sweat, which she made a comment about “loving.” We went through each flow twice on both sides. There were a couple of moves (this being power yoga) that I had never done before. She had us go into utkatasana or chair pose and put our arms up like goal posts. Then we twisted from side to side keeping our elbows off our legs.

That wasn’t even the best one. Toward the end of the practice she had us fold up our mats and put them in between our legs and lay on the floor. We squeezed our thighs together, did some yoga abs and some lifts.

Best use of a yoga mat?

Lululemon is hosting a happy hour fundraiser at Liberty Tavern on Thursday. If you are around from 5-8, a $5 donation gets you a wristband that extends HH specials. All proceeds are going to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

To make a donation, please visit https://grow.ctf.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=298.

Two Separate Studies Say Parents to Blame for Weight Gain

My mom and I both devour research on weight loss and obesity.

A few weeks ago, she pointed me to a study that said a poor relationship with your mother can lead to weight troubles as teens. She apologized in advance and said she would feel guilty if I struggled with my weight. I told her just the fact that we were having this conversation meant she wouldn’t be the cause.

A day later another study came out saying that a father’s work schedule can influence a child’s weight. I sent the link to my mom, noting that if I got fat she could just blame my traveling dad (he actually didn’t travel when I was young, but does now…so yeah).

The studies while looking at separate emotional issues bring up an interesting point—focusing on the role a parent has on a child’s nutrition.  Since the parent, whether a mother or father, makes most of the decisions about meals their stress can influence that decision.

I still say it comes down to educating parents on how to make healthy choices, even when pressed for time. Meal planning, knowing which restaurants have the best options and making family time to be active together are the best places to start.

Growing up I was lucky enough to have a good relationship with both parents. My father was my basketball coach and my mother always made it a point to be supportive no matter what.  So hopefully I have a little extra defense against weight gain.

My family on my wedding day

Is Your Job Making You Fat?

If you’ve ever sat at your desk, eating left over pizza from the day’s earlier meeting for dinner, then you’d probably agree with the recent editorial in the journal PLoS Medicine that says, “Unhealthy eating could legitimately be considered a new form of occupational hazard.” 

The authors cite the results of a recent study that found that female nurses who worked at night were more likely to develop diabetes during a 20-year period, compared with those who worked during the day. The study participants had demanding (and erratic) work schedules that made high-fat fast food and vending-machine meals the easiest hunger-squashing options. Screwy schedules also had a way with interfering with their exercise time.

There have been many a late night work session that have resulted in ordering black beans and rice smothered with cheese, pad see ew and burgers and fries. Most of the time, I haven’t worked out and am too tired to work out the next day.

If this sounds like your work life, below are a few ideas to help you get through it.

 Active Commuting 

Sitting Too Much?

The Most Un-Yogi Yoga Instructor

Tara Stiles has been called the most un-yogi yoga instructor. I read in a NYT article last July that people in the inner yoga circles criticize her emphasis on yoga for weight loss rather than a lifestyle. For me though, her yoga practice makes me feel better and more centered than some of the others I have tried.

I like doing yoga for a number of reasons; (1) stretching, (2) relaxing easy workout for “rest” days, (3) it just feels good; (4) when I am doing yoga more regularly it makes other workouts easier. Tara’s style brings all of that together.

Her two new DVDs (Transformation Yoga: Weight Loss & Balance and Strength and Energy), paired with meditation led by Deepak Chopra, represent this well.  I hardly admit I have only done the meditation once.  It was odd at first, but I can see why I should be doing it more.

The yoga was a great flow. I relaxed, stretched and felt my heart elevate multiple times, particularly during the Strength and Energy. That workout had my arms and legs feeling like jelly after.

I have incredibly tight hips and as a runner am constantly looking for ways to stretch them out. Tara, in both videos, makes it a point to do hip openers and had me regretting that I wasn’t more diligent about it.

The movement of straightening and then sinking back into warrior 1 is quite challenging

Her pacing actually allows you to focus on your own practice. Often with yoga DVDs I feel behind and more stressed to catch up, which is odd since I am doing it alone in my living room.

I’m now absolutely hooked on Tara. The next time I am in NYC for work, I may just hustle down to Strala.

(FTC Disclosure: I was given the DVDs for free, but the opinion and review is mine.)

Exercise for how long to burn that?

Johns Hopkins recently conducted a very interesting study: displaying the amount of time you’d need to jog in order to burn off sugary drink calories may be the key to curbing intake.

After introducing signs displaying either calorie counts, calorie counts as a percent of recommended daily calorie intake, or the time spent jogging that would be needed to burn off those calories, researchers observed teens and monitored their beverage purchasing habits.

Sales of soda, iced tea and sports drinks dipped, water sales saw an uptick.  While all three types of signs seemed to reduce the number of sugary drinks that were bought, only the signs displaying exercise times had results strong enough to mean researchers knew the decrease in purchases could not be due to simple chance.

I think this is a very cool idea. Even though I am a relatively healthy eater I certainly would think twice before diving into french fries if I knew exactly how many more minutes I would need to work out to burn that off.  It’s also probably a lot easier to understand how long you have to run than how many calories you are supposed to be taking in.

I mean did you ever think that on 20-ounce bottle of soda would need 50 minutes of running to burn it off? How many people do that for every soda they pop open?

Reinvigorated My Love for Spinning

I went through a recent period of loathing spinning. I don’t know if it was that the times were off for the classes or they were just too standard. Then last month, Matt came to Gold’s Gym Clarendon on Tuesday nights and reinvigorated my love for spinning.

Last week, even though it was a small group, I looked around and realized everyone of these people has the clippy shoes and I am in my sneakers. These people are serious spinners/cyclists. I have to get with the program.

The music he chooses is amazing and really taps into the effort you need to put forth. And let me tell you, you are putting forth a ridiculous amount of effort. It’s more than just getting on the bike and riding. He reminds you of keeping your core tight and focusing just on your legs. How does he do this? By encouraging you to actually take your hands off your handles. Yeah, hands free! (I can do it for like three seconds at a time, my goal is to make it longer by the end of this month.)

He also asks for feedback on a regular basis. Even getting down to the personal level, finding out what the group is training for if anything so that he can make the class work for them.

Don’t steal my bike, but if you are looking for an advance spin class check out Matt’s class at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.


Creative Mornings

Last week a Facebook friend posted the below video. It’s the full talk given by Ben Chestnut, CEO and co-founder of MailChimp.com, to a group at the Piedmont Park Conservancy in Atlanta. It’s a long video, but it was the slow weeks of December so I was able to watch the whole thing.

2011/12 Creative Mornings with Ben Chestnut from CreativeMornings/Atlanta on Vimeo.

Chestnut believes there is a great difference between “doing what you love” and “loving what you do.” His example: if you love to bake and you open a bakery eventually the business part of it is going to suck all the loving out of baking. (He said it more eloquently.)

“It’s not about doing what you love, but loving what you do. Love what you do, be really good at it, and success will find you.”

Instead of getting hung up on the “dream job,” sometimes you just have to look right in front of you and make the most of it. Create projects that drive you.

Ben sets up a work environment where this can happen. As a manager he has to embrace the chaos to get the best work out of his employees.

The culture of giving people “permission to be creative,” has been one of the keys to MailChimp’s success. In fact, the company often finds “Easter eggs” in its own website design because of this.  In the tech world, an Easter egg is a practical joke or a hidden bit of content that gets included in the finished product, and they are so named because users have to search for them.

Below is an excerpt from the Fast Company article, Chestnut’s 5 Rules for a Creative Culture

1. Avoid rules. Avoid order. Don’t just embrace chaos, but create a little bit of it. Constant change, from the top-down, keeps people nimble and flexible (and shows that you want constant change).

2. Give yourself and your team permission to be creative. Permission to try something new, permission to fail, permission to embarrass yourself, permission to have crazy ideas.

3. Hire weird people. Not just the tattoo’d and pierced-in-strange-places kind, but people from outside your industry who would approach problems in different ways than you and your normal competitors.

4. Meetings are a necessary evil, but you can avoid the conference room and meet people in the halls, the water cooler, or their desks. Make meetings less about delegation and task management and more about cross-pollination of ideas (especially the weird ideas). This is a lot harder than centralized, top-down meetings. But this is your job — deal with it.

5. Structure your company to be flexible. Creativity is often spontaneous, so the whole company needs to be able to pivot quickly and execute on them (see #1).