Is Multitasking a Good Thing?

How many times have you seen a driver trying to multitask?  Whether they are drinking a cup of coffee, applying makeup or reading, its a sign that our lives has gone beyond the scope of norm.  If our frenzied, chaotic lives require this type of multitasking, it is a sign that something needs to give.

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Per Wikipedia: Human multitasking is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking. An example of multitasking is taking phone calls while typing an email. Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.  Multitasking can also involve performing a number of tasks in rapid succession.

We are all guilty of it.  I know I am.  I work full time and have three kids at home.  Over the past year, I have been working on graduate classes on top of my other commitments.  It hit me like a brick wall when I was working on the computer, typing up an assignment as my son is trying to talk to me about his day.  I was not giving him 100% of my attention.  Later that night, he asked if we could just talk, rather than reading a bedtime story.  I realized that I owe him, as well as the others in my life, my undivided attention.

Multitasking in the workplace is often viewed as a positive when it actually can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.  Trying to handle multiple tasks at once can make it harder to tune out distractions and can produce mental blocks.  Whether at work or at home, trying to do too many things at once keeps us from being present moment oriented.  We are often distracted and lack focus as well as losing out on the enjoyment of the task at hand.

Try it for a moment.  Choose a task or chore that needs to get done and focus on that task alone.  You will find that even something as basic as folding laundry can be enjoyable.  Additionally, you will find that you concentrate better on these tasks when only taking on one at a time.  I can retain more when reading, complete a better homework assignment and really enjoy our family time when I choose not to multitask.

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Are You an Innie or an Outie?

No, I am not asking about your bellybutton.  That’s getting a little too personal!  I am referring to whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.

Now, more than ever, it is okay to say it and be proud.  Each of us gather and process information differently.  If we were all the same, life would be a bore!

Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, has stood up for introverts quietbookiconlargeworld wide.  She has brought to light the great contributions introverts have made as well as the complexity in how their minds work and what it takes to get the most from an introvert.  Her 2012 TED talk is a great motivator for any introvert and can help extroverts to see the benefits of the other side of the coin.

Typically, introverts prefer less stimulating environments.  They do not enjoy highly social events but prefer quiet intimate gatherings with friends.  They work better in solitude with little distraction. They prefer to focus on one activity at a time, often studying and contemplating it prior to diving in.  It is not that introverts are shy, many are perfectly capable of participating in large groups but prefer and often perform better in less stimulating environments.

Extroverts are energized by social interaction.  They feed off this type of stimulation.  They enjoy socializing in large groups and could chit chat all night with a variety of new people.  In a work environment, they enjoy working within groups and committees, collaborating on ideas and leading conversations.

Both introverts and extroverts can and are effective leaders, it really depends on the type of people working for them. Introverts often empower their teams to make joint decisions and seek innovative solutions, whereas extroverts often grasp at this opportunity for attention to highlight their and their teams’ contributions.  Given the opportunity, an introverted leader with an extroverted team can lead to great success in the workplace.  Results can be positive with an extroverted leader of passive people but when their team is outspoken, power struggles often ensue.  Unfortunately, due to the nature of the bid for leadership positions, extroverts make up the majority of leaders.

By focusing on the strengths of both introverts and extroverts as leaders and team members, embracing their unique workplace needs and being conscientious of our team dynamics, we can diversify the workplace and bring more success in the long run.  Are introverts and extroverts embraced differently in your workplace?  How so?

The Things I Value

 

When I watched this Ted talk, I cried.  What an enormous amount of loss Andi O’Conor has endured and the incredible growth that has come from this loss.  This video made me think about the things we value most in life.

My home is comfort.  It is where I feel safe and warm.  I know I will be enveloped in love upon arrival and showered with hugs and kisses when I depart.  It holds everything I care about the most.

My photo albums that document our lives together and adventures we’ve had.  They show the evolution of my children  from infants to young adults.  They enable outsiders to get a sneak peek into who we are and the many faces of our personalities.  They represent many hours of laughter and happiness as we made these memories.  Creating the albums to chronicle our adventures was all part of the fun. My scrapbooking friends and I shared sweat and tears over these photos as we pasted and cut.

The kids’ keepsake boxes that hold special items from their lives for them to share with their families someday.  My oldest daughter has the blue suede booties that made me realize she hated shoes.  My youngest daughter has the little white saltwater sandals she’d wear to water the trees, with nothing else on.  My son has the camo pants that he wore to shreds to honor his dad who missed his birth while serving our country.

The momentos we have gathered through our lives that take us back to another time.  The Precious Moments figurines that my mother gave us at every major event of our lives.  The quilts that all tell a story about the who and when.  The painting of the Puget Sound that takes me back to my childhood.  The spoon collection that belonged to my grandmother, whom I hold in deepest regards. The American flag given to my husband as a token of gratitude.

None of these items mean as much to me as my family and friends.  Those who have accompanied me through good and bad.  Those who love and support unconditionally.  Those who I consider a gift.  How is your support system? Does it need strengthening?  By breaking down our walls and allowing our lives to be “big”, we expand and strengthen our support system.  With continued care and nurturing, we can fully appreciate the true value of a support system.  You never know when you may have to rely on it.

Looking Close to Home for Educational Funding

When looking at funding your educational ventures, be sure to look close to home at the numerous local organizations that offer grants and scholarships.  One such organization is Soroptomist.

Soroptomist is a global organization whose goals is to improve the lives of women and girls through programs that lead to social and economic empowerment.  With over 80,000 members in 120 countries, the variety of programs offered helps multiple women on so many different levels.

One of their main focuses is providing women with access to education which we know leads to empowerment. Educated women are more involved in their communities, less likely to become a victim of domestic or sexual abuse and feel the need to educate others.

Live Your Dream award program is the Soroptomist program that focuses on educating women. Each year $1.5 million is awarded to over 1,000 women. This enables the recipients to pursue training at a vocational or technical school or enroll in an undergraduate program.

In the social media age, soroptomists have reached out with Live Your Dream.org. This online community uses articles, tips and blogs to inspire women to better themselves. Its’ members share the common goal to support women and girls in their quest to lead better lives, while gaining inspiration in their own lives.  Some topics discussed within the community are women’s economic empowerment, ending violence against women and human trafficking to name a few.

This non profit organization began in 1921 when a group of 80 women wanted to serve their community. Women, at that time, were not permitted to volunteer in men’s service organizations. Their initiative grew to a global organization which helps shape and support women as they venture towards growth and wellness.

Soroptomist have put out a great video called “Soroptomist Empowers Women & Girls“.  You can find it below.  Check it out.  The video was a Bronze winner in the 35th Annual Telly Awards, which honors outstanding video productions.

Why be Mindful?

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Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.  When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad.  Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

Worrying can wreak havoc on our mindfulness.  Whether you worry about past problems or future concerns, it causes anxiety, frustration, depression and feelings of hopelessness.  Excessive worrying can cause various physical effects on our bodies.  Headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, dizziness and fatigue have all been associated with worrying.

This internal turmoil can trigger the fight or flight response causing our nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol.  These hormones can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel.  When this fuel in the blood is not used for physical activity, we can encounter some series effect, such as digestive disorders, muscle tension, short term memory loss and even heart attack.

By training ourselves to live in the present moment, we can push our fears and worry from our minds.  The point is not to ignore the problems.  If we consciously make time to address our worries and fears, hopefully, we can gain some clarity and practice towards a more mindful existence the rest of the time.

Helpguide.org offers multiple ideas for practicing mindfulness, such as:

  • Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
  • Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
  • Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
  • Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
  • Urge surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.

There is not a right and wrong way to practice mindfulness.  What techniques have you found to increase your mindfulness?

Laughter is the Best Medicine

When was the last time you had a good laugh?  Not a giggle or a polite laugh, but when was your last hearty, side splitting, “make you cry” laugh?!  Where you laughed so hard you could felt like you could hardly breathe? If you really have to think about it, it’s been too long!

I have always felt that a good laugh makes us feel good but there are medical benefits that can be associated with laughing.

  • Tension and stress cause the blood vessels to tense up and restrict blood flow.  Laughter has been shown to return blood flow to normal with blood vessels expanding and contracting regularly.  This exercise for your heart can help aid in protecting you against a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems.
  • Stress has been associated with a decreased immune system.  Humor can raise the levels of infection fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, a natural chemical in your body that makes you feel better.  These endorphins can actually temporarily relieve pain.
  • Humor brings relaxation.  Muscles that are tense and tight can can be eased with a good, hearty laugh.  This feeling of relaxation can stay with you for as long as 45 minutes after the laugh.
  • When feeling overwhelmed, humor can shift your perspective, allowing you to see the situation in a more realistic and manageable light.
  • Laughing is great exercise for the diaphragm, abdominal and facial muscles.  It even burns calories! When your belly aches after a good laugh, you should be commended for a great workout!

Sharing laughter with another person brings joy, vitality and resilience, uniting people in difficult times and offsetting the impact of mental stress.  Though I don’t recommend laughing at a funeral, I can see where it could be very beneficial to ease the tension while sharing those funny memories of our loved ones who have passed.

How often have you encountered someone laughing and found yourself joining in?  It’s contagious!  Most people are happy to share the source of their laughter as it gives them the opportunity to laugh again and feed off the laughter of others.

So, loosen up.  Look at the lighter side of life.

  • Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.  Share an embarrassing moment and laugh at your serious self.
  • Release your inhibitions and don’t be afraid to express your true feelings.
  • Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up.
  • Keep things in perspective.

Here are two videos that always make me laugh…

 

I Am So Bored…

When I hear this from my kids, I roll my eyes and laugh.  They have no idea that to be bored is such a luxury!  We should all be so lucky to be bored!

In the fast paced world we live in, we often find ourselves running from one obligation to another without taking any time for ourselves.  When we do find a few spare minutes, most of us are still being stimulated via our phones, laptops or tablets.  Whether checking emails as we wait for an appointment or playing Angry Birds at the DMV, our brains are constantly active.  Finding some “me time” where we can decompress, sit quietly and do nothing is essential in keeping our sanity.

Vashon FerryI grew up on an island in Washington state, accessible only by a 15 minutes ferry ride.  After graduation and before moving into the city, I would ride the ferries on a daily basis to get to work and back.  During those 15 minutes, I would watch the waves or gaze over the city, never realizing the incredible benefit that I was getting.  I often think back to these ferry rides and miss this mandatory down time.

Being bored is a luxury we all need to reflect on our past to achieve.  As children, it came easy.  As we grow up, it becomes a skill that many of us have to reacquire as we become more consumed with our busy schedules.  My first time practicing “boredom,” I found it incredibly difficult to sit quietly for a few minutes, let alone 15 minutes.  I fidgeted with my hands, thought of errands to run and planned the menu for dinner.  I had this overwhelming desire to do something (ANYTHING!) to keep me from sitting quietly.  How could this madness actually benefit my mental health?!

I kept at it though, determined to be able to do nothing and enjoy it!  Over time, my fidgeting turned to relaxation.  Soon after I felt the peace and tranquility in allowing myself to just be.  Taking this time to ourselves teaches us to clear our minds and relax.  It gives our brains a chance to step away from the stimulation of the everyday world and refresh. Our brains need this opportunity to rest in order to stay focused and strong for the rest of our crazy busy day.

Believe me, I do not allocate a large portion of my day to “being bored.”   I have a job, a family, schoolwork and other obligations that take the larger chunks of my day.  I look at each transition from one activity to the next as an opportunity. I don’t mind having to wait a few extra minutes for my dentist appointment or the girls telling me they need a few extra minutes in a shop, I can wait quietly, clear my head and take advantage of this valuable time to be bored.

Try it for a few minutes each day for a week, I think you’ll be amazed.  Let me know how it goes.

Nevada Women’s Fund: Empowering Women

Nevada Women’s Fund was founded in 1982 by Lynn Atcheson, Maya Miller and Barbara C. Thornton.  These women had a vision to provide the best opportunities for women and their families in Northern Nevada.  Through scholarships and grants, Nevada Women’s Fund’s mission is to strengthen communities by empowering women to improve their lives and those of their families.

Through scholarships alone, Nevada Women’s Fund has awarded over $3.1 million dollars to 1,350 women since 1983.  The majority of these women have faced social or financial challenges that have prevented them from pursuing further education. Many recipients are single mothers and women reentering the workforce.  Applications are accepted in January and February each year, with awards announced in July.

Grants account for over $3.1 million in disbursements to 141 community organizations that focus on helping women and children.  Whether addressing the physical and mental health of our women, preventing violence for women or addressing concerns of the aging women, NWF strives to strengthen the community.  In turn, our community can better support their women in the pursuit of their goals.

Nevada Women’s Fund supports its efforts through the generous donations of individual donors, earned income from its endowments and the hosting of two annual fundraising events.

  • The Salute to Women of Achievement Luncheon is held every year in May to celebrate women and their professional and personal commitments.  The keynote speaker this year will be Lucille O’Neal, author and motivational speaker. (For those basketball fans, she is Shaq’s mom!)
  • NWF Power of the Purse is hosted just before the holidays to give women an opportunity to shop some of the fabulous local vendors that Northern Nevada has to offer.  With tasty treats and drinks, I’m in!

Nevada Women’s Fund is another great non profit doing some incredible work to encourage women to reach for more that they imagined they were capable of.  I’d love to hear about any other organizations that are empowering women.  Leave me a comment below.

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What is the SAT Measuring Anyway?!

How can we possibly get an accurate measure of a student’s ability based on a standardized test when each student is completely different? Teenagers are far from standard!

The Scholastic Assessment Test or the SAT test was developed in 1926.  It was adapted from the World War I Army I.Q. Test and it was developed to set a standard scale of intelligence for university admissions.  The theory was that by standardizing the test, students of different economic and social backgrounds would all be measured on the same scale.

Ironically, research shows that there is a very high correlation between income and test scores. “The only persistent statistical result from the SAT is the correlation between high incomes and high test scores”, states Leon Botstein, president of Bard College as commented in TIME magazine.  In fact, research shows that the SAT is less of an indicator of intelligence than a student’s GPA.  By using the SAT test as a measure for university admissions, we may actually be looking over well deserving, low income and/or minority students.

So what are we testing on the SAT or any standardized test for that matter?  For students who have the financial advantages for test preparation software, courses, books and tutors, as well as the time to study the format and structure as well as endurance testing for the 4 hour marathon, it seems obvious.  The College Board, the association that administers the SAT, is working on addressing some of this public criticism.  Changes are underway on the SAT (due to take effect in 2016) to make it more representative of high school curricula.  We can hope that at some point, the SAT will measure the knowledge that our students have gained over the course of their lives rather than how to take a test and the best way to spend their money to prepare for the test.  Until then, the SAT is just one of those necessary evils that high school students must endure.

Debbie Stier is the mother of two teenagers who took the SAT test 7 times in one year as part of a project to spur some initiative in her teenage boy.  Her theory was to join her son in this endeavor to teach him about motivation and the importance of not just sliding by.  Her book, “The Perfect Score” documents her journey as well as outlines the tips and tricks that can help any student suffering from testing anxiety.  She offers some humor in this seemingly boring and hopelessly standard test that necessates any college acceptance notice.

Sarah StudyingThe SAT College Board website is a great (free) way to gain some insight on the test, review the format and do some practice questions.  ProProfs.com is another great resource for reading, writing and math practice as well as some fun brain games to easy the tension.   Regardless of how much time you spend and how much you pay for your SAT practice, stress management will be a huge factor in a student’s success.  Practice proper breathing techniques to combat pre- and post- testing stress and take some snacks to carry you through.  Hopefully once is enough!

 

 

It’s the Journey…

PerfectPerfectionism (in psychology) is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards accompanied by overly critical self evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

Normal perfectionism tendencies push a person towards a goal without compromising one’s self esteem.  This is a healthy drive that can increase productivity as well as satisfaction along the journey to the goal.  Neurotic perfectionism tendencies cause internal conflict and anxiety as unrealistic goals are set and dissatisfaction is felt when these goals are not met. This can lead to depression and low self esteem.

Perfectionists often struggle with inner peace. As they venture through life with certain expectations, it is inevitable to feel discontent as they struggle to fight this uphill battle. This inner conflict stands in the way of tranquility for themselves.  Additionally these tendencies can impedes a person’s gratefulness and appreciation, making way for negativism and skepticism.

Perfectionism can be related to the person – the need to organize a home, stay in shape or climb the corporate ladder.  It can also be projected on others – identifying others imperfections in their looks, behaviors and life, in general.  To work towards a healthy blend of perfectionism and inner peace, we must realize the merit in doing our best to work towards a goal.  There may be a better or more efficient way to do things but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy and appreciate things as they are.  Try not to become overly attached and focused on the negative aspects of this journey.  By looking at life without judgement, we can more clearly see the joy in life.

Try to catch yourself falling into the negativity of the unattainable and enjoy your life today, making the most of the journey.

Life is a journey, not a destination.”    -Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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