Nurturing the Gym Newbies

Every January, many who have “dropped the ball” on their health and fitness goals rush to the gym in the following days to jump start their resolutions. For more frequent gym-goers, this can come as a shock when their previously unoccupied gym is swarmed with newcomers. While the immediate reaction is to get frustrated, it is important to remain positive. 

Going to a gym for the first time can be intimidating. Here are some tips to ensure your gym time remains a positive and healthy part of the day, whether you’re a regular or a first-timer.

1.       Don’t wish for failure.

Everyone knows that gym populations start to dwindle back down to regulars in late January to early February. If you frequent the weight room, it’s easy to hope for that exact outcome. Don’t! Everyone has to start somewhere. Instead of hoping they give up like many who make resolutions, hope they succeed, become healthier and perhaps more gym-savvy.

2.       If you see someone confused, help them!

Everyone has had that moment: you look at a machine and are confused about what muscle it works, let alone how to use it. If you see an unfamiliar face obviously having problems, kindly offer to demonstrate. Not only does this facilitate the kind of comradery one would want to find in a gym, but it also might free up that machine you have had your eye on a bit quicker.

3.       Remember how far you’ve come.

No matter your level of physical fitness, age or athletic experience, going to a weight room or an exercise class for the first time is scary for most. But the important thing is, these newbies are chasing their goal. That’s a good thing! Try to remember the obstacles you overcame to get to your desired fitness level. Odds are the people you are wishing away are going through something similar. A friendly face and patient attitude may be just what they need to get over that newcomer’s anxiety.

How to Stay Focused at Work During the Holidays

When we think of the holidays, the last things we want to think about are the last-minute tasks and day-to-day work that must be completed leading up to them. With so much distraction, it’s hard to stay focused during these joyful months of the year. Here are some tips to keep you concentrated:

  1. Avoid distraction. The temptation to procrastinate can be even greater this time of year. An email from your favorite department store may pop up with a flash sale, or you might want to check out the prices of available flights for Christmas. It may seem harmless to take a break from work to focus on more pleasurable things, but this can have a massive impact on your overall performance.
  1. Focus on the right projects. The holidays are a great time to work on self-guided projects. If your office is a little slow, you may have the opportunity to research without worrying if anyone will ask you to pop into a meeting or answer an email ASAP. It’s easier to focus on these sorts of big-picture, long-term tasks when you know you’ll have the time you need to really dig in.
  1. Be thoughtful of your off hours as well. Another key to staying focused at work is trying to isolate your office tasks to office hours. One of the best ways to avoid distractions is to make sure you’re allowing yourself time to shop, plan, and do whatever else you need to do outside of the office.

A Very Healthy Holiday

While the holidays are meant to be a time for celebration with family and friends, they can also take a toll on our physical and mental wellbeing. From experience, however, there are a few ways in which we can truly enjoy the holiday season and wind up healthier and happier than in years past. Here are simple steps to ensure your holiday season is merry and bright:

  1. Eat healthy. With sweet treats everywhere you look, it is easy to pack on the pounds during this time of year. To prevent the extra five to 10 extra pounds this season, be aware of the caloric content in the foods and the liquids you are consuming, and opt for bringing a healthy dish to your holiday party. Don’t deprive yourself, though — remember everything in moderation.
  2. Increase activity. While the weather makes it tempting to curl up in a blanket and stay inside, make sure you are getting aerobic activity at least four to five times per week.
  3. De-stress. There can be a lot of financial stress with gift-buying in addition to work and outside obligations. Develop a plan for when these stressors arise and be sure to set aside time for you.
  4. Embrace the spirit of giving. With the holidays, there are countless opportunities to give back to the community. Whether it is volunteering at a local soup kitchen or donating presents to the less fortunate, volunteer your time and support those in need.

So instead of waiting for the New Year’s resolutions to begin after the parties and festivities, let’s vow to take small steps to a more enjoyable and healthier holiday season right now.

-Penny

Productivity: One Step At A Time

We live in a busy world, where productivity can be hard to come by. Simply walk into any coffee shop, and you’ll notice the hustle and bustle from the person catching up with a friend while also checking email from the person finishing up a proposal during another phone call. The art of multitasking seems to be prevailing now more than ever. But did you know that only two percent of us are actually capable of successful multitasking?

The real question lays in how we are supposed to be productive when multiple projects come our way. Here are some simple ways that can help you can focus on one item at a time while still being productive:

  1. Put down the iPhone, tablet, laptop, etc. I know it can be difficult, but simply turning off these electronics can eliminate distractions and allow for more productivity.
  2. Set a routine. How many times do you set aside time to do something and find yourself on social media or another website instead? Creating a schedule for your to-do list will set an expectation for the day and will lessen the temptation of other distractions. (Pro Tip: Outline goals for the day, too, and you’ll have a roadmap for even greater success.)
  3. Eat a well-rounded breakfast. We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so this should be no surprise. Study after study says that productivity increases when you eat a healthy, protein-filled breakfast.
  4. Meditate, meditate, meditate. Meditation for 20 minutes every day is proven to help relieve stress. When multitasking seems to be too overwhelming, set aside time to relax and breathe.
  5. Organize your life. From file folders to planners to a tidy desk, organization is key to avoiding distractions and maximizing productivity.

Still having trouble multitasking? Read here for more ways on staying focused and for a calmer lifestyle.

-Penny Kokkinides

Tips for Working While Traveling

As our workplaces become more and more dependent on technology, our business contacts increasingly expect us to always be productive no matter the circumstance – even while 30,000 feet in the air. Thanks to technology, we can continually be connected at the touch of a few buttons. There are almost always inconveniences that occur when working remotely, however. From my experience, I have gained some insight on how to increase productivity despite these inconveniences.

Here are three simple ways to make sure that you are prepared for any travel situation that comes your way:

·         Pack and Plan – Looking ahead at your next business trip, plan for those situations when you are waiting to board the airplane or waiting on your hotel to be available.  During these simple gap periods, you’d be surprised at how much you can accomplish. With these gap periods in mind, package together what you think you might need for different tasks.  Will you need an iPad and a notebook on the plane? Do you need to catch up on the professional development book you’ve been needing to read? Plan ahead and pack for these small but crucial situations. 

·         Prepare for no Wi-Fi and no power – Technology glitches are bound to happen.  And if you are like me, they tend to happen when you need technology the most. Plan for these moments and save a few key documents to your desktop instead of relying on Dropbox or Google Drive. You might also find it helpful to print out a few copies of documents also, just in case you find yourself without the luxury of Wi-Fi.

·         Find ideal work and food locations – Research ahead of time nearby coffee shops and local food spots with free Wi-Fi.  It’s much easier having places already mapped out by the time you arrive with tasty snacks readily available to make your work a little more enjoyable. 

Lastly, don’t expect to get everything you need done accomplished.  Working remotely can be time consuming.  Be mindful of that, and you will already be ahead of the game when you the business trip is booked for the near future.

    – Penny Kokkinides

 

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Improving email etiquette in the workplace

If you’re like me, there is never a dull moment in your work email inbox.  From notifying your colleague who sits just down the hall about lunch plans or connecting with other professionals across the globe, email seems to be the main source of communication in the workplace – and one of the main time sucks.

With the loss of the spoken word and the increase in technology, it has come to my attention that we may need a quick refresher on email etiquette. Below are some helpful tips to increase your email’s readability and overall communication professionalism:

  1. Put yourself in the mindset of the recipient. Before you press the send button, be sure to re-read the email for relevant context and any errors. If you are ever uncertain about your message, ask for another set of eyes for review before pressing send.
  2. Take caution of the reply-all. We’ve all been in an email chain that is not relevant to us.  Take note of who is receiving the email and also be aware of who is “CC’ed” on the email as well.
  3. Summarize forwarded messages. Reading a forwarded message can often feel like you are in unknown territory and can be difficult to put the pieces together. By summarizing the forwarded email, your recipient will be able to gather more information and better understand the matter at hand.
  4. Be courteous.The content in emails can sometimes get lost in translation and the tone of a message can sound different when reading it. Manners still go a long way.

Still want more steps to freshen up your email etiquette? Read here on how to “wow” your colleagues and get the attention of your peers.

  • Penny Kokkinides

Social Media Sadness

Thanks to social media, we are surrounded by a constant influx of information about others. Millions of Americans communicate with ‘friends’ on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram almost every day. Millions of Americans let these into their lives to show them pictures of lunch of their newest outfit, yet many still feel lonely.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few reasons  you might consider unplugging:

  1. Powering-down helps remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness. Researchers recently discovered that one in three people felt worse after visiting Facebook and more dissatisfied with their lives. From family happiness to body image to vacation destinations to the silly birthday greetings on a Facebook wall, the opportunity for envy presents itself often on social media. Powering-down for a period of time provides opportunity to reset and refocus appreciation and gratitude for the lives we have been given.
  1. Powering-down combats FOMO. Scientifically speaking, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) has been recognized as a recently emerging psychological disorder brought on by the advance of technology. The premise is simple. Our social media streams are ever-filled with everything happening all around us. Nowadays, we even see the plates of food our friends are enjoying. Within this constant stream of notification, our fear of being left out continues to grow.
  1. Solitude is harder to find in an always-connected world. Solitude grounds us to the world around us. In our always connected world, it becomes increasingly more difficult to develop self-awareness. You’ll always seek to be like others, instead of being like yourself.

    – Penny Kokkinides

sleep-deprivation

Can sleep deprivation kill?

Sleep deprivation is an issue affecting millions of people across the globe. We consistently put work and school priorities over our bodies’ most essential activity. And most of us are so used to being sleep deprived that we remain oblivious to how impaired we really are.

In actuality, long-term sleep deprivation can wreck both physical and mental health. Here are just a few reasons why you should always try to hit the hay for the right amount of time:

Stroke risk quadruples: Research suggests that getting fewer than six hours a night can elevate stroke risk for middle and older-aged people.

Heart disease risk increases: Harvard Health Publications reports that chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (or cholesterol-clogged arteries), heart failure and heart attack.

More likely to catch a cold: Proper rest is one of the building blocks of a healthy immune system. In fact, one Carnegie Mellon University study found that sleeping fewer than seven hours a night was associated with a tripled risk of coming down with a cold.

More likely to have an accident: Getting six or fewer hours of shut-eye a night triples your risk of drowsy driving-related accidents, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s Drowsydriving.org. 

Less focused and memory problems: Can’t remember where you placed your cell phone? Exhaustion may be to blame. In addition, exhaustion destroys the focus you’ll need to properly complete those important tasks at work.

 – Penny Kokkinides

Misconceptions of the Flu Shot

The leaves are starting to change colors and the air feels a bit cooler. Winter is almost upon us, and whether we like it or not, we will soon be pulling out our parkas, scraping our windshields and regretting that we ever prayed for cooler weather.

This cold weather, though, also means that we better prepare our immune systems for yet another flu season. The flu shot, although sometimes not as effective as it should be, comes with some misconceptions: Can’t the flu vaccine actually give me the flu? If I haven’t received the flu this season, shouldn’t I wait to get vaccinated to strengthen my immunity? The following addresses some of these common questions to set straight what is fact from fiction:

  • Fact: While flu vaccines can be made with a flu virus, this virus is “inactivated” meaning that it is not infectious.  This can sometimes cause misconceptions of believing that the flu shot actually causes a person to have the flu. 
  • Fiction:  If I haven’t received the flu shot this season and still have not become infected, I should hold off on getting the flu shot to strengthen my immunity. Flu activity typically peaks between December and February and can sometimes last until May. Even if you haven’t contracted the flu yet, the CDC still advises getting the vaccine. It’s recommended to get the flu shot in October, but receiving the vaccine in January or February can still protect against infection if the virus is still lurking around.
  • Fact: Those who are six months and older should be vaccinated every year. According to the CDC, a person’s immunity from the flu tends to decline over time. It is recommended that vaccinations should occur every year for optimal protection.

Still not sure if you should get vaccinated? Visit the CDC’s website for more answers to your flu vaccine questions.

– Penny Kokkinides

2016: Year of the Podcasts

It may have taken a while, but podcasts are finally taking off.

Though their roots go back to the 1980s, podcasts got their big debut via Apple in 2004. When Apple started supplying podcasts, many thought that they weren’t for them. Today, they offer something for everyone, with more than 100,000 podcasts being offered in the English language alone. Here are some recommendations for those looking to enter the podcast game:

  • Movie buffs and those simply bored with Hollywood’s recent movie remakes can get their kick by listening to The Blacklist Table Reads. It offers ear movies for some of the best unmade screenplays.
  • Millennial offers tips for managing your 20s and 30s. Everyday problems and doubts, as well as life-changing decisions can be made a bit easier by listening to this advice podcast that navigates the new society that surrounds us all. It can also be helpful for parents with adult children to get a better understanding of the struggles and challenges they face, or parents with younger children that way to get an understanding of what their children might face in the future.
  • To get a peak inside the heads of some of your idols and pop culture icons, The Nerdist is worth a listen. This unscripted ‘cast lets the guest take the lead and talk about their interests. Quentin Tarantino and Paul McCartney have made appearances.
  • If you’re feeling starved for information, IQ2 lets you listen to intelligent people debate a variety of different topics. In turn, it could leave a little smarter and with something more to offer at upcoming dinner parties.
  • Do you have a friend who always shares random facts? Are you the friend always sharing random facts and need more for your inventory? Stuff You Should Know could be your secret weapon. It offers little tidbits of information that are sure to impress.

If these aren’t for you, don’t lose faith! As mentioned above, there are thousands of podcasts on many topics that are being offered: comedy, romance, politics – whatever your interest.