Where I’ve Been: Paris March 31, 2012

Last week my husband and I headed to Paris to celebrate his birthday.  It was a quick four day trip but we managed to pack in the right amount of everything.  From picnics in Jardin Luxembourg to seeking out the best pain au chocolat to drinking plenty of champagne to taking full advantage of their amazing bicycle sharing program, we had the most incredible time exploring the city of lights.

Here is a list of our favorites discoveries:

Pain au chocolat from Gerard Mulot

Dinner at Spring- where we indulged in a six course meal with one of the best wine parings we’ve ever had

The organic farmer’s market on Sunday at Marché Raspail where we picked up gorgeous radishes, two kinds of amazing cheese, a baguette and a variety of charcuterie for a perfect picnic

Drinks at Prescription, and Le Ballroom du Beef Club.  The masterminds behind the newly open Experimental Cocktail Club in NYC.

Baguettes from Au Levain du Marais

 

 

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Read: The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time March 14, 2012

I admit it.  I’m often distracted.  It is not uncommon for me to find myself surrounded by multiple electronic devices.  In fact, just 20 minutes ago I had the TV on, two cellphones, a laptop and an iPad all by my side.  Sometimes I laugh at this reality.  But most of the time, I’m fully aware that it completely wears me out; somehow, these devices have won.

So when I read this article by Tony Schwartz, I was reminded that we all need to focus.  We need to take time to think, process, absorb and then respond.  It’s hard to do.  But as Tony stresses, it’s not only critical for us to disconnect, it’s actually more productive.

As I gear up for the fact that I’m going on vacation for a few days next week, I’m keeping this quote from Tony in mind:  “when you’re engaged at work, fully engage, for defined periods of time. When you’re renewing, truly renew.”

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time

Why is it that between 25 and 50 per cent of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work?

It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.

What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries. Technology has blurred them beyond recognition. Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive. It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse.

Tell the truth: Do you answer email during conference calls (and sometimes even during calls with one other person)? Do you bring your laptop to meetings and then pretend you’re taking notes while you surf the net? Do you eat lunch at your desk? Do you make calls while you’re driving, and even send the occasional text, even though you know you shouldn’t?

The biggest cost — assuming you don’t crash — is to your productivity. In part, that’s a simple consequence of splitting your attention, so that you’re partially engaged in multiple activities but rarely fully engaged in any one. In part, it’s because when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 per cent.

But most insidiously, it’s because if you’re always doing something, you’re relentlessly burning down your available reservoir of energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour.

I know this from my own experience. I get two to three times as much writing accomplished when I focus without interruption for a designated period of time and then take a real break, away from my desk. The best way for an organization to fuel higher productivity and more innovative thinking is to strongly encourage finite periods of absorbed focus, as well as shorter periods of real renewal.

If you’re a manager, here are three policies worth promoting:

1. Maintain meeting discipline. Schedule meetings for 45 minutes, rather than an hour or longer, so participants can stay focused, take time afterward to reflect on what’s been discussed, and recover before the next obligation. Start all meetings at a precise time, end at a precise time, and insist that all digital devices be turned off throughout the meeting.

2. Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day. It forces your people into reactive mode, fractures their attention, and makes it difficult for them to sustain attention on their priorities. Let them turn off their email at certain times. If it’s urgent, you can call them — but that won’t happen very often.

3. Encourage renewal. Create at least one time during the day when you encourage your people to stop working and take a break. Offer a midafternoon class in yoga, or meditation, organize a group walk or workout, or consider creating a renewal room where people can relax, or take a nap.

It’s also up to individuals to set their own boundaries. Consider these three behaviors for yourself:

1. Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time. If possible, work in a private space during this period, or with sound-reducing earphones. Finally, resist every impulse to distraction, knowing that you have a designated stopping point. The more absorbed you can get, the more productive you’ll be. When you’re done, take at least a few minutes to renew.

2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. If you don’t, you’ll constantly succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. Also, find a different environment in which to do this activity — preferably one that’s relaxed and conducive to open-ended thinking.

3. Take real and regular vacations. Real means that when you’re off, you’re truly disconnecting from work. Regular means several times a year if possible, even if some are only two or three days added to a weekend. The research strongly suggests that you’ll be far healthier if you take all of your vacation time, and more productive overall.

A single principle lies at the heart of all these suggestions. When you’re engaged at work, fully engage, for defined periods of time. When you’re renewing, truly renew. Make waves. Stop living your life in the gray zone.

*Image via Tattly

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Monday Morning Inspiration: Cristiana Couceiro March 5, 2012

 

I have fallen in love with the work of Cristiana Couceiro.  She is an illustrator/graphic design/collector extraordinaire based out of Lisbon who uses anything from newspaper, vintage photos, pieces of paper, books etc…to create her works of art.  These are just a few of my favorites.  Some of them were done for her clients like the NYTimes, Wired, Nike and Audi.  Others are from her personal portfolio.  You can see more of her work here.

 

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Where I’m at: ZAAZ March 4, 2012

It’s been pretty quiet over here on the blog since 2012 kicked in. There is a good excuse for that.

Just a month ago, I joined ZAAZ (pronounced z•ah•z) a digital ad agency that prides itself on not only the work they do for clients like Audi, Microsoft, Coca- Cola and Nokia but also on their core values.  Values like passion, kindness, perspective, integrity and results.  Values that many people and companies talk about embracing but don’t.

There is something different about ZAAZ.  Something real and genuine that made me jump in and say yes.  I am so fortunate to be a part of a team of incredibly smart and engaged people who I’ve already been able to collaborate, build and stretch with.  There is a reason why Ad Age named us one of the best places to work.  We have lots of exciting things in store.  Stay tuned.

 

 

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