Eat regularly

This morning I went straight to the keys and wrote a Writers’ Guild email newsletter that had to go out. Then I had breakfast. So it was around 11am when I ate and now, a couple of hours later, I’m putting off getting lunch.

This could be why I feel a little ill.

You know that you should eat regularly and if you didn’t know it, you hear it often enough. But there is a reason you hear it often, there is a reason why it’s important and in case it takes just one more push to get you to do it, hello. I’m pushing.

I’m pushing you because eating regularly, even though it takes time away from your work, means you can work better.

And I’m pushing you because that will push me. Let us work together. Hey, let’s do lunch, okay?

When coffee doesn’t cut it: how to keep going

“There are a few optimal windows for doing your most creative and focused work,” [Assistant Professor Christopher] Barnes says. Most people are at their best in the mid-morning and late afternoon. You might match your circadian rhythm to your schedule by organizing your to-do list around these peaks and valleys. Tate recommends doing “any type of highly detailed work,” such as writing, important decision-making, or technical coding during high-energy hours. During the lulls, you can then turn to tasks that don’t require a great deal of focus: cleaning out your inbox, filling out expense reports, or returning phone calls. “That’s when to do tasks that are like muscle memory work,” she says.

How to Overcome the Midday Slump – Carolyn O’Hara, Harvard Business Review (1 July 2015)

Are we sure coffee doesn’t do the job? It would be helpful. Tea would be even better. But according to O’Hara, moving around and then the opposite, mediation, are what you need. There are reasons and there are more ways to get yourself moving, though: Read the full piece.

Get more energy without caffeine

I have to ask: why? But over on Reddit, there is a discussion I’ve just seen about how to stir yourself instead of your coffee, specifically:

I know a lot of people whose morning habit is to down a cup of coffee to get them ready for the day. Not only have I seen many articles knock that as a bad thing, but I am also not a lover of hot drinks. At the moment of writing this, it is 10am in the morning and I only woke up 2 hours ago. I am feeling tired and could easily jump back in to bed.
So, how do you increase your energy without consuming caffeine?

How Do You Increase Your Energy without Caffeine? CallumVlogs, /r/productivity (27 April 2015)

He – I just somehow sense it’s a man, I don’t know – is still getting replies today, that’s how it floated up in front of me, but he also got responses immediately including this one:

take a nap – it is overused and trivial, but it works like a charm
take a cold shower – cold is key. Warm relaxes you, cold gets you perked up
make yourself a green smoothie – kale / spinach + a fruit of your choice + water + nuts. The greens will give you quite a boost, the fruit will make the taste good, the nuts will give you some energy lasting energy
juice some veggies – carrots / celery / beats
juice some citrus fruits – lemons / oranges / grapefruits – the vitamin C will give you an energy boost
do some HIIT exercises – you’ll have to push yourself mentally past the barrier of “I don’t have the energy for it”, but you’ll feel like a champ after that


Read the full piece and contribute a strong defence in favour of Pepsi Max, would you?

Walk it off, walk it off

One day, when Marc Andreessen, the money man behind such tech giants as Facebook, Twitter, and Zynga, was out driving around his home in Palo Alto, California, he nearly hit a crazy old man crossing the street.

Looking back at the fool he had nearly run over he noticed the trademark blue jeans and black turtle neck. “Oh my god! I almost hit Steve Jobs!” he thought to himself.

Why Everyone From Beethoven, Goethe, Dickens, Darwin To Steve Jobs Took Long Walks and Why You Should Too – Andrew Tate, Canva (6 March 2015)

In comparison, my Apple Watch just told me it was time I really stood up for a minute and I ignored it. I am evil.

It really was Jobs, by the way, not just any old nutter in a turtleneck, and writer Andrew Tate says: “through history the best minds have found that walking, whether a quick five minute jaunt, or a long four hour trek, has helped them compose, write, paint, and create.”

I’ll think about the quick jaunt, okay? Read the full piece for five persuasive reasons why walking is good for you and your productivity.

Anxiety can help

Oh, thank god. You can’t believe how anxious I get about events: the sole thing I’ve found can stop me worrying about a forthcoming gig is to have another gig to worry about it first. But 99U claims that anxiety can be good for you. Obviously within limits, neither they nor I want to encourage you to do anything that could get us sued, but.

Calming yourself down is often the wrong thing to do. Research by Alison Wood Brooks at Harvard Business School found that when participants interpreted their nerves as excitement (for example, by saying to themselves “I’m excited!”), they gave better public presentations than those who tried to relax.

If you’re not anxious at all about an upcoming test, it probably means you don’t care. It’s only when anxiety becomes excessive and out of control that it starts to harm your performance. Psychologists have known about this anxiety “sweet spot” for decades…

The Unexpected Benefits of Anxiety – Christian Jarrett, 99U (undated, probably 22 June 2015)

Read the full piece for links to the research and a graph of that anxiety sweet spot thing.

Do you want caffeine to be good for you or what?

Here’s the thing. If you want it to be an aid to your writing, there are reasons to be cheerful. If you want to think that it’s dangerous in any way, here you go.

There are a lot of people who don’t drink coffee, and it is easy to assume that there are plenty of writers who are very creative without resorting to caffeine intake at all. Coffee may stimulate creativity for some, while for others it may result in the mind’s being too alert for creativity to freely flow. Coffee may have health benefits, but there may also be negative effects if one drinks too much of the beverage.

As for me? I started writing this article while drinking a hot cup of coffee, but now my cup is empty. The buzz of caffeine alertness is gone, and I’m considering having a second cup. Or, perhaps to encourage creativity, I should just let my mind wander instead.

Ellis Shuman Writes: Does Caffeine Make You a Better Writer? – Ellis Shuman (19 March 2014)

Read the full piecefor balanced but leaning-toward-coffee detail.

Nervous habit

few minutes before you step into the situation that makes you nervous slow down. Walk slower to the meeting place. Move slower. Even stop for a minute if you like and stand still.

Then breathe through your nose. Take a little deeper breaths than you usually do. Make sure you breathe with your belly. Not with your chest (a common problem when people get stressed or nervous).

How to Overcome Nervousness: 7 Simple Habits – Henrik Edberg, Positivity Blog (5 November 2014)

Read the full piece.

Band on the wrist

Microsoft has release Band, a health, er, thing. There’s a Band app for iPhone, Android and Windows phones plus there is an actual band that you wear. It looks a lot like various smart watch-like bracelets I’ve seen people wearing, except this one just feels like Windows:

Tell the truth, you were expecting it to look like this:

Microsoft Health is a new service that helps you live healthier by providing actionable insights based on data gathered from the fitness devices and apps that you use every day. It’s designed to work for you, no matter what phone you have, device you wear, or services you use. Microsoft Health makes tracking personal fitness easier, more insightful, and more holistic.

Microsoft Band, the smart band powered by Microsoft Health – Microsoft Band official site (retrieved 30 October 2014)

Read the full piece and watch videos on the official site.

What You Eat Affects Your Productivity

So grab a bottle of whisky, put your feet up with a burger and read this:

Think back to your most productive workday in the past week. Now ask yourself: On that afternoon, what did you have for lunch?

When we think about the factors that contribute to workplace performance, we rarely give much consideration to food. For those of us battling to stay on top of emails, meetings, and deadlines, food is simply fuel.

But as it turns out, this analogy is misleading. The foods we eat affect us more than we realize. With fuel, you can reliably expect the same performance from your car no matter what brand of unleaded you put in your tank. Food is different. Imagine a world where filling up at Mobil meant avoiding all traffic and using BP meant driving no faster than 20 miles an hour. Would you then be so cavalier about where you purchased your gas?

Food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can derail an entire afternoon.

What You Eat Affects Your Productivity – Ron Friedman, Harvard Business Review (17 October 2014

Read the full piece.

Eat that

Okay, so, there is no question but that the best food in the world is dark chocolate and that the best drink in the world is builders’-strength Yorkshire Tea. Easy. Some poor eejits don’t realise this, though, and have gone off on some damn fool idealistic crusade to find out what foods make you sleep well and which ones keep you up.

Tossing and turning. Long, sleepless nights. They’re draining, frustrating, and, well, exhausting—physically and mentally. And they’re usually unnecessary, experts say, but can be counteracted by minor dietary tweaks. Indeed, what you put in your mouth can directly affect how many ZZZs come out. “The majority of people with day-to-day insomnia could be sleeping like puppies if they made just a few changes,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, which are located nationwide, and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic. “And if you know how to eat right? You’re going to be way ahead of the game.”

From cherries to almonds, consider these soothing, snooze-inducing foods:

Bananas. Make them a daily staple. They’re packed with potassium and magnesium, nutrients that double as natural muscle relaxants. Plus, they contain the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan, which ultimately turns into serotonin and melatonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation; melatonin is a chemical that promotes sleepiness. It takes about an hour for tryptophan to reach the brain, so plan your snack accordingly.

[See: Top-Rated Diets Overall]

Sleep-Promoting (and Sleep-Stealing) Foods – Angela Haupt, US News (19 July 2012)

Bananas are just the first of the good ones and there some bad boys in there too. Read the full piece.