Are You Satisficed? And Other Thoughts on Maximizing Use of Your Brain

I highly recommend The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin. Since reading it I have changed the way I approach daily tasks and technology. I’ll share some nuggets and strategies I have implemented but encourage you to read the book as it contains a wealth of information. You can also hear Levitin on the Diane Rehm Show.

My top three takeaways were “satisficing”, toning down the multitasking and reaping the benefits of daydreaming.

Levitin discusses the term “satisficing”. The gist is that some choices may not be “the best” but are good enough to settle on. This is opposite the sentiment of comedian Aziz Ansari’s commentary on our culture that when he thinks “I need a toothbrush”, he first has to research online reviews for “the best toothbrush”. Each decision requires energy. If you look for “the best” in everything, then you have less energy for big decision making. So find out what is most important to you and what you can satisfice on (maybe which toothbrush you buy) so that you can put the most energy into the most important decisions.

Levitin writes that multitasking “makes us demonstrably less efficient”. “It takes more energy to shift your attention from task to task. It takes less energy to focus. That means that people who organize their time in a way that allows them to focus are not only going to get more done, but they’ll be less tired and less neurochemically depleted after doing it”. Our brains are like toddlers we have to keep focused!

Lastly, not only is day dreaming good for you, you may actually be productive while doing it! Levitin explains that when trying to solve a problem, if we allow our brains to daydream, “This distinctive and special brain state is marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, and a relative lack of barriers between senses and concepts. It also can lead to great creativity and solutions to problems that seemed unsolvable”. This explains why we come up with solutions to problems while laying in bed at 2:00am.

Things I have implemented since reading that I have found to be helpful:

Weed Out My Feed If I haven’t talked to you in five years I’m sorry but I am removing you from my Facebook newsfeed (Here’s How). Before Facebook, there was no need for daily updates on that one guy I had a class with Sophomore year. That is unnecessary information taking up brain space.

Sunday Night Stylist On Sunday, I pick out five outfits and group them in my closet. Then during the busy workweek I have less decisions to make. Many successful CEOs wear the same thing everyday to forgo this energy-depleting decision – I don’t think I’m quite ready to adopt a Steve Jobs look – but this is a start. I also cleaned out my closet, donating any unused clothes (asking myself the question “Does this spark joy?” – from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). This way I am not wasting time looking through unnecessary options.

What’s a Girl “To Do”?  Each work day I write in a notebook the date and list the things I want to accomplish, even if it is simply “email John”. I put a star by the things that absolutely have to be done. I put a check by each “to do” once I finish. Things that were not checked are moved down to the next day. This allows me to focus because I am not thinking in the back of my mind “don’t forget to do…!”.

Play Hard to Get With Email  I see you email notification box, popping up in the right hand corner. I know you want me to click on you…but you will have to wait. Levitin writes, “If you’re checking email every five minutes, you’re checking it 200 times during the waking day”. When I receive email, the impulsive side of my brain wants to see what it is! My new rule: I devote my attention to what I am doing at the time. Then, when I am done or made progress, I will take a break to check email. When I check that email, I make an effort to address it that moment and then delete or send it to a categorized folder.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T My S-L-E-E-P I view sleep or laying down as a time to “reset” my brain. I used to get frustrated when I couldn’t fall asleep. Now, I approach that time with respect and consider it nourishment I am giving to my mind. Even if I am not asleep, my brain is still benefitting from having the chance to relax and wander. I feel less frustration when I view it in this beneficial way and I actually fall asleep easier because I am not stressed.

What are some strategies you use to keep your mind organized?

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The Wonders of Winter Squash


September is Fruit and Veggie Month! What better way to celebrate than to learn more about what’s in season right now! Here in North Carolina it’s time for all the winter squash recipes to start floating around again! Winter squash is a great fiber rich, nutrient dense carbohydrate that’s loaded with antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. It’s also a good source of Vitamin C, B Vitamins, manganese, potassium, and other nutrients. Read More »

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Have you had your Vitamin N today?

Linville Falls overlook 2014

Close your eyes…inhale exhale fully.  Absorb the smells, sounds, and sensations all around you.  Connect with the ground under you; sense the sky above you.  Now open your eyes and enjoy the fullness of the great outdoors!

Oh wait! It is likely that you are inside while you are reading this… thus illustrating the reason for this blog post.  Research indicating the benefits of spending time outside has gained popularity over the last several years due the diminishing moments we share with the trees, birds, and flowers.  As Richard Louve states, “The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”  Basically, the more two dimensional our work, school, and recreation becomes with a focus on navigating screens, the greater the need for time outdoors to explore, move, or simply breathe.  As a SAS employee, I know we value our screen time; it’s our livelihood.  But, we need to balance that screen with some green!

Why this need for oxygen rich air, vibrant color, and tactile stimulation?  Let’s explore 4 reasons for getting your daily dose of vitamin N (NATURE).

1-Nature deficit disorder – What is that?  Well, you want to avoid it and prevent it for your kids.  Although not used as a medical diagnosis, it’s now considered a “real” thing by many scholars in education as well as environmental science and behavioral psychology.  Richard Louve coined the term in 2009 and emphasized the importance of being in the quiet and calm environment available outdoors.  Effects of NDD stretch from fear to anxiety and depression to attention disorders.

2-It’s good for your heart – Let’s take a look at Miyazaki's Study:
A physiological anthropologist and vice director of Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences outside of Tokyo has taken research subjects into the woods, this is what he found:
A leisurely walk in the woods can lead to -
12.4% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol
7% decrease in sympathetic nerve activity (also known as "fight-or-flight" behaviors)
1.4% decrease in blood pressure
5.8% decrease in heart rate
Bottom line, signs point to…GO OUTSIDE!

3- Your immunity will thank you – Vitamin N is full of Vitamin D!  University of Pittsburgh researchers reported in 2005 that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications during their recoveries if they were exposed to natural light.

4-You will feel better and more alive – That’s why it’s a good idea to take a walk when you want to scream (or after you scream) or say something you will regret.  Moving outdoors offers a neutral space for you to breathe and take things one step at a time.  This is where I have reaped the benefits the most.  Time outside every day is, for me, a recipe for sanity.  The expansive, diverse, at times overwhelming, stimulation makes me feel at home.  I find a sense of connection, wonder, reverence, and surprise, and I love sharing time with my husband while we both receive the benefits of Vitamin N.

Now, go get yours!

"The poetry of the earth is never dead." John Keats


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6 Traits for Growing Old with Grace

In celebration of Work/Life hiring a new Elder Care Consultant, Kim Andreaus, I am posting this blog I wrote on tips for growing old with grace!

George Vaillant, author of Aging Well, uses the long-term longitudinal Study of Adult Development (2002) to suggest six traits for growing old with grace.  The majority of older adults maintain a “modest sense of well-being” usually until a few months before they die.  Older adults are actually less depressed than the general population.  Vaillant concludes that “positive aging means to love, to work, to learn something we did not know yesterday, and to enjoy the remaining precious moments with loved ones.”

He also reminds us that “Immanual Kant wrote his first book of philosophy at 57, Titian created many artworks after 76, Ben Franklin invented bifocals at 78, Will Durant won a Pulitzer Prize for history at 83, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum at age 90, Leopold Stokowski signed a 6-year recording contract at 94, and Grandma Moses was still painting at 100.”

So what are the traits this study identified for growing old with grace?

  1. Caring about others and remaining open to new ideas
  2. Showing cheerful tolerance of the indignities of old age
  3. Maintaining hope
  4. Maintaining a sense of humor and capacity for play
  5. Taking sustenance from past accomplishments while remaining curious and continuing to learn from the next generation
  6. Maintaining contact and intimacy with old friends

I would love to hear about how you are implementing these suggestions in your life!

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Top 5 Food Waste Solutions


One of my top pet peeves is wasting food. My mom has always been the same way, so I know where I got it from. I remember our weekly “leftover night” as a child. My mom would pull out all the random leftovers from the week and that’s what was for dinner. Thanks to my mom I’m very good about using my leftovers now. I just hate to throw food away. It’s money in the garbage!

Food waste is a big problem though, not just an annoyance. Did you know that 30-40% of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten? Americans waste an estimated $162 billion in food each year ($400 billion globally!)!!! On average, we all waste about 25% of the food we buy. For many of us trying to choose quality food on a budget, not wasting food is the #1 priority! But it’s not just about money. Millions of Americans face hunger on a daily basis while the amount of safe, edible food wasted in the U.S. continues to increase.

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Running: Body Awareness and How It’s Done

Chelsea Color RunWhile I was in college, perhaps the lecture that stood out most to me was on proper running form from a Strength & Conditioning class. It wasn’t something I ever really thought about before. My only focus had been getting through my runs without dying! However, whether you are a serious marathon runner or someone who just takes an occasional jog, it is important that you are aware of the way that you hold your body while running. Having proper running form can not only help more serious athletes increase their speed, but also prevents soreness, wear and tear, and injuries in the average runner.

Running is one of my main forms of exercise as I run several miles at least four times per week. I find it to be my biggest stress reliever and my favorite method of cardio conditioning. After learning all about proper running, I have noticed how much longer I am able to maintain my pace without cramping, strain (especially shin splints), or fatigue.



Here's how it's done: Read More »

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"How was your day?" How parents can get a response!

The school year has begun, and, as parents, we are intensely curious about what is going on in the minds, hearts, and lives of our children during those hours they are away from us.  We try to act nonchalant as we query, "How was your day?", but we are anything but!

One-word responses (O.K....fine) seem to be the norm.  Or, we get an immediate defensive posture, "Why do you ask me this every single day?!  I don't want to talk about it!" ...or a simple, "Leave me alone!"  Rarely do we receive rich and interesting details of the school day.

Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness and The Sweet Spot, just wrote a blog that provides three suggestions as to how to encourage some dialogue: Read More »

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Fuel Your Training


The foods we eat play a huge role in how well our body functions, positively or negatively.  If you are training for a sports event or competition, you want to make sure your body is functioning at its peak! This could be a 5K, 10K, Triathlon, Spartan Race, or any kind of event that requires a lot of physical activity.

Your food not only provides the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function, it also provides the fuel.  Just like you wouldn’t start a road trip with an empty gas tank, you need to make sure you have fuel for your training, and for the actual event. Read More »

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Reach the finish line of a race this fall with these 6 Tips

Philadelphia Marathon Finish, 2007

Are you thinking about completing a fall race? Whether it’s a 5K, 10K, or half or full marathon, it’s going to be here before you know it.  I’ve been running for years, and I can tell you, there’s nothing like the motivation of signing up for a race to get those bottom cheeks in gear and get you back into a fitness routine.  Right now, I’m training for an Ironman.  Yes, I admit that it’s absolutely nuts.  Full time job, 2 energetic little boys, and a hyper puppy - who has time for that?!  5.5 more weeks to go.  Yes, in 5.5 weeks I will cross that magical life-changing line and be an IRONMAN.  A finisher.  Five. And a half. More. Weeks. But until I get there, there’s training.  Exercise and training, especially when you’re pushing yourself to try something new, is hard.  But if it were easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge, right?!  Here are six tips to help you successfully reach the finish line: Read More »

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The Jedi Goodbye: Helping Young Children with Separation Anxiety

Beginning a new school year can be hard for little ones. Whether it is being dropped off the first day of preschool, starting kindergarten, going to a new school or getting a new teacher, young children can experience stress. A lot of times this stress presents itself as separation anxiety – not wanting the parent to leave the child.

Not only is separation anxiety hard for the child, I would argue that it’s equally as hard for the parents. Leaving your child when s/he is scared or crying is a terrible feeling that you keep with you throughout the day. I would like to share a few ideas for helping ease separation anxiety in young children. Read through these five suggestions and decide which ones might work for your child.

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