Yet more evidence that standing at work is better for you than sitting


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recent study done by researchers at Tel Aviv University validates standing desks.

Not only is standing better for your health, it also strengthens your focus. This is because the stress of holding your posture improves selective attention.

The Stroop effect

The researchers had university students alternate between standing and sitting while testing their reaction time to a task of naming a color. The words printed behind the color either matched or conflicted the one in text (e.g., the word “blue” printed in red ink instead of blue ink).

Participants seemed to process congruent data — when the word and print color matched — at the same speed, or slightly slower, when they were sitting compared to when they were standing. But they processed incongruent data – when the word and print color did not match — more quickly when they were on their feet.

The study demonstrates that not all multitasking crimps productivity. In fact, overcompensating for the added stress on your feet sharpens your focus. As someone who just bought a standing desk myself (I highly recommend the Spark desk by Ergodriven for anyone starting out), I believe the studies to be true.

By engaging with my body, standing improves the selectivity of attention. I also use an anti-fatigue mat (check out the Topo by Ergodriven) to mix up my stances to avoid getting achy or tired.

Nevertheless, this latest study suggests that researchers consider other postures than sitting as part of their cognitive testing.

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2018 is almost here. If you’re like most people, you’re looking to start fresh in the new year.

Start small

When it comes to starting new habits, people aim too high. The trick is lowering the barrier to success to make it feel like you’re winning.


That could mean one push-up or walking at least five minutes until you’re ready to extend your goal. Exercise happens to be one of the ‘keystone habits‘ that unleashes other positive changes like eating healthier or making your bed.

Step by step, habits undermine the resistance to help you do even more.

If you’re still struggling to get started, do it badly. There’s no shame in imperfection if it helps get you closer to the pellets.

Change is first and foremost a decision. It’s the results that happen slowly.

How to practice effectively


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Everything is practice. Practice is everything. “Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement.”

Biologically speaking, practice strengthens the neural tissue, specifically the fatty substance myelin which enhances the runway for brains to communicate effectively with the muscles.

The 10,000-hour rule of deliberate practice doesn’t necessarily guarantee improvement. The training needs to be effective. Below are four tips for ensuring that quality meets quantity.

Tips on how to practice effectively

1 — Focus on the task at hand. Minimize distractions like TV and social media. Put your smartphone on airplane mode or throw your phone into the ocean.

2 — Start out slowly and then increase the speed of repetition. Raising the pace builds up the likeliness of performing the task correctly.

3 — Practice frequently with allotted breaks. Professionals practice 50 – 60 hours per week.

4 — Practice in your brain by reinforcing the skill with your imagination.

If you’re struggling to get started, do it badly


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Perfection is the antithesis of inspiration; it prevents you from getting started.

The trick to getting going is to do it badly. Be intentionally messy.

Producing crap isn’t the end-goal. The point of taking small actions is to create enough momentum to feel like we’re winning.

What sustains persistence are small improvements. You’re looking to go from one pushup a day to two the next week. You’re trying to walk five thousand steps a day before graduating to six thousand. You’ll need to write one-hundred words day after day before developing the muscle to get down two-hundred words on a consistent basis. By the way, there is no such thing as writer’s block!

Do small things to get started — not matter how poorly — to avoid second-guessing yourself and to prime the motivational pump.

How to use ‘temptation building’ to get things done 


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How do you make a strenuous activity more enjoyable? According to Wharton School assistant professor and behavioral economist Katherine Milkman, you bundle it with something that’s rewarding in what she calls “temptation building.

It goes something like this:

“This means you would restrict your Netflix time to the same time you spend working out – only watch your favorite show while you’re in the gym. Once you leave the gym, you’re left wondering what happens next in that show. The only way to find out (that is, if you stick to the plan) is to reward yourself with the next episode while you’re on the treadmill.”

There are of course countless ways to make the things you ‘should’ do easier. My preference is to listen to a new music playlist while cleaning up the house or checking out the latest Tim Ferriss podcast while jogging on the treadmill. Anything that requires extra effort or creates boredom (like driving), I try to find a way to make the process a little more pleasurable.

The only problem is that temptation bundling strategies are brittle. Every time you skip a workout, it will become harder to start up again. Do it or lose all motivation.

In the long-run (assuming you stick to your habit), the goal is to drop the incentive of temptation altogether. You ‘should’ be able to accomplish things without the extra encouragement. For writers or athletes, practicing each day is non-negotiable and often the force of grit.

There is nothing wrong in dropping carrots for you to get started. Intermixing activities of strain and happiness makes things a little easier.

Read more about temptation building on the ToDoist blog.

Crime and ‘Punishment’


When most people think of punishment, they think of negative consequences — jail for committing a crime or a lawsuit for tax evasion.

However, voluntary punishment, like stress, can also have benefits.

The US Marines have a saying: “Pain is weakness is leaving the body.”

Sometimes you have to punish yourself to get better. You need to wake up early, to exercise, and do your homework.

Punishment is synonymous with resistance. People want pleasure, not pain. Some consider writing punishment, but it is more like a bicep curl for the brain. As the writer Steven Pressfield likes to say, “the pros play hurt.” The pros play even when they are not motivated.

If you want something, you need to be able to wrestle with punishment. You need to persist in strengthening weaknesses.

Defining punishment comes down to perspective. There are obvious repercussions for doing the wrong things. However, punishment can also be the fuel that helps people progress.

Smoke This


Sitting is not the new smoking. Smoking kills you outright. Sitting for long periods of time without moving will do the same. But sitting in 45 minute intervals and then getting up to take a five minute break will keep you just as healthy as standing all day at work, which probably has its own negative consequences.

Some people need to sit in order to do focused, creative work. They may stand to answer email and input data. Meanwhile, the only way some people can work is on their feet.

Marketers sell fear. They sell successful role models that worked standing up, most notably Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Hemingway. Standing up is a health recommendation, not a promise for success.

Sitting won’t kill you if you get up every once in a while, preferably for exercise.

The Walking Trend


Creative people tend to walk a lot. Walking refreshens the brain and stimulates ideas that may otherwise remain dormant while sitting in a chair.

“Wonderful things happen when your brain is empty.” – Maira Kalman

Studies show that walking is more powerful than meditation.

Walking is clearly beneficial to both body and mind. It’s so popular that Silicon Valley folks conduct interviews and meetings while walking. Walking is even considered a sport.

Walking is taking on new meaning. But are we walking for the sake of walking, the beautiful aimless activity that it is, or are we walking because it’s the new trendy thing to do?

Probably both. We all work 24/7 because of the mobile phone so any time we can live and play while being productive is a huge benefit.

Whether you’re looking to reset, to discover your surroundings, to gather ideas, or to talk business the only thing that matters is the act of walking. It’s like people complaining about social media. At least people are writing again! And now they’re walking too!

The psychology of workout music


Music helps us perform by taking over a vital piece of the task of moving, the rhythm travels in through our ears and down our auditory pathways to the supplementary motor area. There it joins forces with brain activity that is signalling when to move, helping us to keep pace by providing an external timing signal. Or to use a sporting metaphor, it not only helps us out of the starting blocks but it helps to keep us going until we reach the line.

Music helps the brain better plan movement. Music is the cue.

Thinking Exercise


Exercise is integral to creative thinking and persistence. I stumbled upon two articles today that emphasize this importance.

Maria Popova of BrainPicker, explains how simple movement improved her focus:

When my body is moving, it’s almost like it takes the wind out of this mental spinning, and I’m able to focus.

Famous Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, explains how running strengthened his will to write:

Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself?

Writing requires creativity, focus, and endurance; just like exercise.