Archive for May, 2016

Take “Airplane Days” to Remove Distractions and Get Stuff Done

Sometimes when we have a lot of work to do we can find many ways to not do it! These distractions can stem from the internet or even phone calls.

This week, we’ll see how we can eliminate these distractions with “Airplane days”:


In the olden days of just a few years ago, flying usually meant being cut off from the internet for a few hours. If you’re overwhelmed by too many distractions, taking an “airplane day” to cut off communication can help you catch up on work.

As Quora user Bryan Hassin explains, being on an airplane can often mean that all your usual distractions don’t work. You’re cut off from the internet. You can’t receive phone calls. This makes flights an excellent time to get things done. Of course, you don’t have to drop loads of cash to get this experience. Just set aside a block of time to put all your devices into airplane mode and get things done:

When I made the joke that I should start flying internationally more often for productivity reasons, the light bulb went off. Now, at the beginning of each week, I carefully look at my schedule and declare one day (or two half days) to be Airplane Time. I block it out on my shared calendar and treat it as if I were in the air: working out of the office, disabling my phone, and shutting off network connections on my laptop. The rest of the days are for meetings, etc. but this blocked out time each week is my most productive by far.

Of course, some airplanes have Wi-Fi now and you can always disable airplane mode, so distractions have a way of worming into your life. However, having a button (or plane) that’s keeping you focused on your work can help interrupt the path to lost productivity.


All the productivity of being in an airplane, but without the plane!

For more on airplane days and other topics, visit

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Tackle Your Most Difficult Tasks With Meditative “Pause Training”

We’ve all been there. We have a difficult task that needs to be done, but we can’t bring ourselves to do it.

This week we look at how meditative pause training can help us overcome the discomfort of difficult tasks to be more productive:


The discomfort of taking on difficult tasks can push you to seek out distractions, focus on busywork, and procrastinate. If that sounds like you, Leo Babauta at Zen Habits suggests you try some “pause training,” which works similarly to basic meditation exercises. Start by picking one important task you have to do today. Remove yourself from as many distractions as possible, and try your hardest to focus on completing that task. As Babauta explains, your mind will want to run from the discomfort:

Now we’re going to do “pause training,” where instead of running from the discomfort, you pause. Breathe. Turn your attention to this discomfort — it might be fear, frustration, uncertainty, self-doubt, tiredness. Drop your story about this discomfort, and just notice how it feels physically, in your body. Where is this feeling of discomfort located? What quality does it have?

You’ll notice that the discomfort actually doesn’t feel that bad, even though you habitually want to run from it. It’s just energy. It’s not actually good or bad, but just energy that’s in your body, one that you normally don’t want to have and normally judge as “bad.”

If you keep pausing and identifying that feeling when it comes, you’ll begin to realize over time that it’s not a big deal and nothing to worry about. It’s just there. Eventually you’ll become comfortable with that discomfort, and maybe even use it as a motivator instead of a hindrance. Your difficult tasks will still be important, but you’ll want to take them on instead of running from them.


So the next time you feel like procrastinating difficult work, just remember to pause and reflect!

For more on pause training and other topics, visit

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!

Over-compensate to compensate

Have you ever tried to change an old habit, or even the way you think? It can be hard, but often most people don’t do enough to create this change.

This week we look at how you can cause change by over-compensating:


You have something you want to change: a thought process or habit you want to fix. Let’s use the metaphor of a bunch of bricks on a seesaw. Right now all the bricks are stacked on one side. This is the way you have been. To make a change, most people don’t do enough. If you do something small and sensible, it’s like moving one brick. You’re still unbalanced.

You think you made the change, but it’s not accounting for:

  • a lifetime of doing it the other way
  • your environment that made you that way
  • the pressure from friends to stay that way
  • and the undertow of old habits

So, to make a change, you have to be extreme. Go all the way the other way. It will feel like over-compensating, but you have to stack a huge pile of bricks on the other side.

This new you sounds extreme and exciting. You will think you’re going to be completely changed. But actually the old stuff is still there. So really this is what you needed to do to balance, to compensate for that cultural baggage, self-identity, habit, and history. Once balanced, it will sink in, and become your new normal.


That’s how you change – be it old habits or old mindsets, in order to create change, you have to go all the way!

For more on how you can over-compensate in order to compensate (including examples!), visit Derek Sivers’ blog.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!

The Global Economy in April

Global markets turned sour last month, weighed by uncertainty over the health of the global economy. In keeping with recent trends in the market, China was at the centre of the markets bad mood, as Chinese investors, burned by the stock market, sought returns in other places – namely commodity futures. This led to fears of another bubble, this time in commodities, forming in China. Chinese authorities, however, managed to cool speculation in the futures market, before the bubble could burst.

Much of the rally in China has been driven by government stimulus, prompting investors to question how much longer the government could prop up the market. Monetary stimulus is China is spurring credit growth, at a time when Chinese corporate debt remains very large. Analysts fear that this ‘debt wall’ could lead to more corporate defaults over the year. Making matters worse is the lacklustre earnings being reported by Chinese companies, prompting expectations for further company ratings downgrades and yet more defaults. Some, such as billionaire George Soros, believe that China’s debt-fuelled growth echoes that of the US preceding the 2008 financial crisis. Others say that China’s lower growth is nothing to worry about, stating that it is a by-product of the nation’s high growth over the past few years.

Even more worrying to many analysts was the presence of negative rates in the bond market with some, such as Blackrock’s Larry Fink, stating that negative rates are breeding a disaster for the economy. As investors seek returns in longer term debt, analysts warn that they are setting themselves up for ‘damaging losses’ if yields were to rise even slightly. Investors’ appetite for risk is spurring more emerging market debt issuance as well, boosted by Argentina’s triumphant return to the bond market.

Oil markets also plunged last month, as talks to freeze production failed at a summit held in Doha. However, some believe that the failure will be good for the market, as it leads to lower prices and a quicker rebalancing of the oil market. For others, the meeting holds little consequence, as shifts in consumer demand would see the ‘end of oil’ in 2030. Oil prices moved higher in May, however, on geopolitical concerns.

Safe havens rose last month, as investors fled the uncertainty of other markets. Gold prices rose above $1,300 an ounce for the first time since January 2015. Meanwhile, the Yen surged to an 18-month high, after the Bank of Japan stood pat on policy last month.

How to Improve Your Job Performance in Two Seconds

Could the answer to being more productive be as simple as fixing your posture? Well, yes!

This week we look how your posture affects the quality of your work and what you can do about it:


Posture matters more than you may think. In fact, there’s evidence that whether you sit up straight or slouch affects the quality of your work. That means, depending on how you hold yourself, there could be huge differences in how your body operates, which could have major implications for office workers looking to boost their productivity.

One key change that occurs when you sit up straight or stand: Your heart rate goes up about 10 beats per minute, providing a possible improvement in reaction time and attention, according to [retired ergonomist and human-performance specialist, Max] Vercruyssen.

He suggests adjusting your posture or standing up straight when you have a task that requires extra attention and focus. Just don’t expect it to be a cure-all: Any posture-related changes to your performance are likely to be most noticeable when you’re exhausted or coming out of a post-lunch slump.

Ergonomics is all about trade-offs. According to Vercruyssen, the more comfortable we are, the easier it is to crash, lose focus, and possibly even doze off. Vercruyssen suggests balancing this trade-off by sorting and scheduling your tasks by difficulty. If you feel like you can stomach the discomfort of standing or sitting up straight for only short bursts, use this time take on your most taxing projects. If there’s something you could do in your sleep, that’s a good time to get comfy.

In a series of studies, Erik Peper, a professor of health education at San Francisco State University, had participants sit in various positions and then asked them to recall either negative thoughts and memories or positive and empowering ones. Slouchers had a harder time recalling the positive thoughts. The good news: Peper found the opposite effect to be true as well. Subjects who sat up had an easier time recalling positive and optimistic memories, and just 30 seconds of skipping in place was shown to markedly improve mood and energy levels.


And there you have it, the secret to being productive – sit up straight!

For more on the connection between posture and productivity, visit Bloomberg.

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