Category Archives: Health And Wellness

Give Work The Finger?

2d4d2

One of my earlier books ‘Live Work Love: #Add10QualityYears’ was about adding ten years to your productive life. Expanding lifespans in developed countries are tarnished by the physical diseases and decay of affluence. Retirement for many is becoming a shifting goalpost, a political football or an unwelcome concept from last century. Now seems a great time to write about the topic of stretching out the good and productive years. We’re living longer so we may as well live better and make a few more bucks along the way. Or not – on the bucks front anyways. I’m already reading much about how money, above a certain level, doesn’t make that much difference in terms of quality of life. Though below that level, it will diminish the quantity of life you end up with.

A consistent theme throughout the book is overlapping and inter-connectedness – a systems approach. Certainly, when you get to the sections on our bodies and how our physical systems work (or don’t), this becomes incredibly evident.

This next bit might be more of a laugh than anything factually helpful but it is a conversation starter. I use it when MCing conferences to get a buzz going and the noise and enthusiasm levels up amongst the audience.

John Manning studied the relationship between our finger lengths and certain health outcomes. Look at the photo below of my hand and how I’ve marked the difference in length between my ring finger (4D) and my index finger (2D.) Check out your own 4D:2D ratio. They’ve been the same your whole life and they’re not going to change. It’s supposed that their relative lengths are a consequence of exposure to differing levels of testosterone in the womb as a foetus.

So what? Manning’s study of Liverpool heart attach victims’ fingers found a high ratio (like mine) has a correlation with lower heart attack risk. It’s good for sport. It’s bad for depression. It’s terrible for autism. Manning himself describes his findings as, “Persuasive but not yet definitive.” Why am I even bothering to finish this paragraph? You’re too busy trying to stretch your fingers or finding a friend to check out their fingers before you tell them why…

The point is that, even if this is true, there is nothing you can do about it. These are cards that have been dealt. But, on average, our genetics are only a third of our future. Two thirds are our choices, and we can al do something about that.

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Self-Discipline: How To Refill Your Willpower Tank

brain gym

You’ve only got so much self control; Don’t waste it!

This article in ‘Psychology Today’ by Susan Krauss reports on Roy Baumeister’s work about how our self control can be sapped through overuse.

Personally, I’ve always had a mental model of willpower / self discipline / self control as a muscle that you could exercise and get to grow stronger. It turns out to actually be a tank that gets emptied but can be refilled and we can rely on random chance to do it for us, or be proactive and consciously and deliberately take actions that refill our willpower tank.

Oddly, the only thing proven to do so is consumption of small amounts of actual sugar. As much as we’d like to think of ourselves as rational creatures who, through strength of character, can be better people, maybe our natural level of self control is set through natural random chemical chance? It’s like those old Donald Duck cartoons where he’s in a dilemma and on one shoulder a little duck angel appears and on his other shoulder appears a little duck devil who argue it out into each of his ears. This ‘strength’ or ‘ego depletion’ theory implies that the angel gets weary and the devil gets his way until the angel rests up. And the best advice is to slip the angel a barley sugar or a powerade like it’s on a triathalon.

Krauss argues, and I agree, that if the model is that of a muscle that gets tired, then maybe the same progressive development can be applied to our willpower muscle that bodybuilders apply to their actual muscles. Keep working it out and it’ll get stronger over time but you need to keep increasing the weight / temptation to build it up. No pain; no gain.

No weight trainer or body builder says, “I’m going to curl this 20kg with my bicep forever,” yet you’re supposed to say, “I’m never going to have chocolate cake ever again.” That seems unrealistic, demoralising and potentially counterproductive. Weight trainers say, “I’m going to curl this 20kg weight 8-12 times or until I can’t, then rest, then do that set two more times. After time, that’ll get easier and I’ll increase the weight.” I don’t know what the cake equivalent is but it isn’t, “None ever again.” Work up to it.

Employers probably aren’t directly interested in employees’ cake avoidance or body building abilities but willpower / self control is likely a contributor to perseverance and grit which, as I write about frequently, are the most common precursors to success at work (or anywhere else for that matter.) So, if you’re leading someone at work who gives up, can’t focus for long enough or is constantly engaging in temptations that are distracting them from activities that should be adding value to their work and their lives, what can you do?

Well, if we’re stick to our weight training metaphor, you become their personal trainer. Not one of those old school cliche ‘Drill Sergeant’ types who shout, “You’re worthless and weak!! Give me twenty!!” Set challenging but realistic micro-goals that progressively build towards the desired target. Each success builds on itself, they’re more likely to buy-in to it and participate and, ultimately, you and they are more likely to achieve the end goal. But even the fluffiest of personal trainers aren’t pushovers. They don’t accept excuses and they demand honesty and effort.

And the irony is, given that sugar refuels our willpower tank, even if you do eat the cake, you may regret it but you’re less likely to eat more cake. So, in a tenuous way, you can have your cake and eat it too. Try a handful of dried cranberries. They’re the supposed ‘Superfruit.’ You never hear of ‘Supercake.’ (If you have heard of ‘Supercake’, please do let me know…)

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Live Work Love: #Add10QualityYears

Live_Work_Love_Cover_for_Kindle

Hey everyone, my latest podcast is coming out later today but, just quickly, I’m running a limited-time promo for my book ‘Live Work Love: #Add10QualityYears.’ The Kindle version is temporarily free. Unlike retail stores crazy promos, you cannot get trampled in the rush so please do drop all civility and stampede to Amazon. And please do pass on the link. Thanks all.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R8RW7JK

Live Work Love: #Add10QualityYears

Live_Work_Love_Cover_for_Kindle

As you’re about to plough into Christmas meals, followed by New Year’s resolutions, my latest book presents lots of ideas on reasonable things to do to improve the quantity and quality of your health, wealth and happiness, in a non-preachy way. If you want a Christmas pudding that is dairy-free, fat-free, gluten-free and low-sugar, may I suggest a box of raisins? (Actually, raisins are quite high sugar and lack the other things that a non-dried piece of whole fruit would have to off-set that sugar’s impact.)

Paperback edition

Kindle edition

It’s too late for a Christmas present, unless you can handle that whole kindle-gifting thing, but it might just be the thing for friends and family in the aftermath…

Maintaining Rock Stars – Employee Engagement

office space

It’s all too easy to keep loading work upon the seemingly endlessly broad shoulders of your top performers. This article covers off some great ideas on balancing the act of providing them with challenge and purpose, without grinding them down or leaving them feeling taken advantage of. Much of it is Employee Engagement 101:

Employees who feel a sense of purpose are:

  • 3 times more likely to stay in their jobs
  • 1.7 times higher to feel job satisfaction
  • 1.4 times more engaged at work

Some simple and practical tips are provided:

  • Empower employees to clearly communicate challenges they are facing through regularly scheduled meetings with managers.
  • Create a formal mentoring program.
  • Train managers to be aware of stress clues.
  • Offer programs that specifically address tips to reduce or manage stress, from wellness coaching to onsite classes.
  • Include questions about stress and the interconnected issues of sleep, resilience, health, and job satisfaction in employee surveys. Track results over time, by department, location, etc.
  • Find small ways to change your environment, such as onsite fitness programs, which can be as simple as offering pedometers and a little friendly competition.

If at any stage any of your rock stars throw a TV into a hotel swimming pool, you’ve waited too long.

Do Engaged Employees Need To Be Plugged In?

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This article reports on ‘wearable technology’ that can monitor micro aspects of worker performance. They seem well-intentioned, making comparisons to the bands and such that fitness trainers give their clients to monitor their steps and sleep. I suspect the potential to use the devices for evil is pretty high. I used to work with call centres and thought that was one particular job where human discretion was significantly limited (or limit-able) by measurement and monitoring technology.  This takes the premis to the extreme and there isn’t even the need for the human in question to be tethered to any computer by a cable or headset

To be honest, I’d probably be OK if a bell went ‘ding’ if my posture went off target. It’s in my own interest and the firm’s that I maintain a healthy posture. I’ll be healthier and happier and look taller and more confident. Plus for the boss, there’s probably a long term link to health, wellbeing and productivity or at least less absenteeism if my posture is good. Customers might think I have a better attitude. If there’s a GPS component like sports teams use to see which player covers the most ground and that they’re where they’re supposed to be, that’s probably an integrity tool that some bosses might find themselves needing if the whole ‘trusting people’ thing hasn’t been panning out but it isn’t for everyone all the time. Wristbands that measure and encourage you to take 10000 steps a day have been around for ages and no one is up in arms about those.

Philip L. Gordon and R. Brian Dixon, attorneys from management law firm Littler Mendelson, told Bloomberg BNA May 15 that employee consent to wear the technology is critical.”

 

These new gadgets porport to measure brain activity. I am curious as to what my optimum brain activity is in any given work day or if it there is any when I’m watching TV but I’m not sure I want big brother buzzing me every time I glaze over a bit. That said, if I’m a truck driver maybe that’s a really good idea for safety?

‘Live Work Love’ – Free For A Day

My new book in Kindle format is free for a day and that clock is ticking. Normally $US9.99. #Add10Years

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JX60B2Y

live work love Terry Williams kindle cover 150

Sick Of Work?

Fake_Illness

The economy loses billions of dollars a year due to absenteeism caused by stress, according to this Australian research. That absenteeism from whatever cause drags on productivity is obvious. And, no doubt, variations of causes attributed to this thing called ‘stress’ contributes to that.

Setting aside for a moment those workplaces and individuals where there genuinely is a stressor from there being too much work or too challenging work relative to those supposed to perform it, another stressor can be disengagement. It’s not that the work is too much or too hard in itself, it’s that the work and the workplace and the boss are set up and managed in such a way that prevents or lessens the opportunities for workers to experience regular autonomy, development or any sense of purpose.

A recent Gallup Business Journal article makes the connection between the quality of the workplace and illness. If workers were breathing in gas or particles at work that posed a health hazard, that’d be in violation of any decent country’s employment laws. Just because a workplace’s toxins seep into people via their brains doesn’t make them any less hazardous. Yes, people will fake illnesses and ‘pull a sickie’ as implied in the image above and probably that occurs disproportionately on Mondays, Fridays and proximate to public holidays on long weekends. That’s a very different thing.

“The quality of the workplace can be linked to serious physical and mental illnesses such as clinical depression and chronic anxiety that can have a significant negative impact on workers’ job performance and on their personal lives.”

An icon of disengagement is Ferris Bueller from the 1986 movie. He was skiving off high school not work but his sentiments still apply:

“The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom; I’m a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh… you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor’s office. That’s worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.”

Stand-Up Workstations

Sitting can be as bad as smoking. They should print warnings on couches and office chairs. Even if the chair is perfectly primed by a professional Ergonomist and made safe from any posture or health and safety issue, the very act of being sedentary and sitting for long periods is not what humans are suited for. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Between 1945 and 1995, the average adult daily calorie expenditure fell 800 calories. So the amount of moving we do each day has reduced by 800 calories, thanks to cars and machines and washing machines and so forth. 800 calories is the equivalent of a ten mile walk! In 1960, 50% of jobs required at least moderate physical activity. Today it is only 20%. Two thirds of desk workers eat lunch sitting at their desk.

Move it or lose it!

The White Powder That’s Killing Your People

colas

I’m researching for my new book about adding 10 productive years to your life. One thing I’m definitely doing myself now is minimising sugar consumption. It’s insidious how it used to drain my effectiveness, nevermind how it was shortening my life and the quality of it. Sugar is a tough one. Most of us love sugar-based products and it is a primal driver from our starving caveman days.

Things you didn’t even know had sugar in them have sugar in them. One McDonalds cheeseburger has 7 grams of sugar in it. So does a Burger King cheeseburger. 7 grams of sugar is about 2 teaspoons. And who eats just one cheeseburger?

www.sugarstacks.com is a neat idea. I can say 7 grams but what does that look like? You might re-think drinking one can of coca cola if first you saw a photo of one can of coca cola with 10 sugar cubes next to it. Probably not, because you’re addicted to sugar, but at least now you’re operating from an informed position. If you’re thinking that consuming 10 cubes of sugar would make you sick, you’d be correct but fortunately there are offsetting chemicals in soft drinks to enable us to consume and keep down the sugar.

It was once rumoured that cocaine was the secret ingredient in coca cola to addict drinkers to the product. No need.

The World Health Organisation recommends no more sugar daily than:

Child 3tsp (12g)
Adult Female 5tsp (20g)
Adult Male 9tsp (36g)

And by sugar, they don’t just mean the sweet powdery granules you add to cereal. They mean naturally occurring sugars like in fruit juice. In this sense, a 500ml container of Charlie’s Real Orange Juice contains 11tsp of sugar – 22% more than a grown-as man’s daily need. Of course, if you wanted to lose weight after a lifetime of excessive sugar consumption, you’d need to consume even less.

New Zealanders are the 11th largest consumers of soft drinks in the world. On average we consume 10tsp of sugar daily just from drinks, nevermind however else we consume sugar. Six cans of coke a week at 139 calories per can, all other things being equal, will add five and a half kilograms to your weight in a year.

You probably provide sugar for your staff’s tea and coffee. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I used to shout highly sugary morning teas for my teams. I shudder looking back at that now. Maybe having a soda vending machine is not a great idea either? Have a read of the nutrition info on the bottles of some of those flavoured waters too.

Alternative sweeteners, be they chemicals or ‘natural’, have their own particular evils too. They make you want more sweetness for a start. They just make you want more everything.

Add zero? Yeah right.

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