Men's Health Lists : 7 Strategies to Avoid Distraction at Work  

Posted by ReelTym

By: Laurence Roy Stains

Very few men are endowed with the sort of concentration that allows them to cut through clutter and get the job done. Most of us are overwhelmed screwballs who need to learn what this focus thing is all about.

Athletes are always striving to perfect their focus. "You have to pay attention to the most task-relevant cues," says Robert M. Nideffer, Ph.D., a performance psychologist in San Diego and president of Enhanced Performance Systems. "You've got to separate signal from noise."

If you're going to advance your game and post a win, you can't get distracted—by the noise around you or the noise inside your head. You have to pinpoint what's important and execute accordingly.

The enemy of focus is distraction. Only during an Internet bubble could a distraction be so pie-in-the-sky. Usually it takes the form of the work that has to be out the door by 5 p.m. When that workload reaches inbox-busting proportions, it sucks up all your attention. The result? You get so caught up in what's urgent, you lose focus on what's important.

That crucial distinction was made by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and it is, for my money, the best part of that best-selling classic. If you spend your days reacting to the urgent but often unimportant priorities of others, your career will consist of putting out fires. You may be efficient—but will you be effective?

Your top priorities, the things that will help you keep focused, should be your long-term goals—the projects that will define you, advance your career, and maintain your passion for your line of work.

Only your boss gets the luxury of concentrating full-time on what's important. And we all know why he's able to do that—he delegates the urgent stuff to you. If you're dizzy with conflicting demands on your time, how can you keep your eyes on the prize? Here are some smart ways.

Think by the Week

Most planning tools—calendars, daily planners, and to-do lists—help you be more efficient. But you're only prioritizing your crises each day.

Covey's cure-all: a weekly worksheet. Organize your life on a weekly basis; this allows you to schedule time for your top priorities and the actions that prevent crises.

Tell People to Leave You Alone

"It takes the average person 2 to 15 minutes to recover from each interruption," says time-management coach Joy Baldridge of Baldridge Seminars International. "Interruptions are the biggest time robbers and focus busters."

To minimize an interruption, she recommends her "plus, plus, dash" trick. Say two nice things (the plus, plus, or ++), then dash (--) off. Example: "Hey, great to see you. I wish I could talk now. Right now isn't good, though; let's talk at 3."

Clear Off Your Desk

Is your desk a mess? I hope so. Psychologists have discovered that messy desks are a necessity in a wide variety of careers. They're also distracting. Although we're barely conscious of it, we all have the same method to our madness.

We keep a "hot" pile of papers, probably next to the phone; a "warm" pile or two toward the edges of the desk; and various "cold" piles atop the filing cabinet and every other square inch of horizontal space. These last are mostly completed projects or "just in case" materials.

Their presence may ratchet up your sense of being overwhelmed. "As emotional arousal increases, focus becomes more difficult," says Nideffer. So take a rainy Saturday to stash or trash that stuff.

Straighten Out Your Life

If your output is down but your workload is the same, maybe something is bugging you. "One of the hardest things to realize is when your own emotions are slowing you down," says Jeffrey P. Kahn, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City and president of the consulting firm WorkPsych Associates.

"Listen to what people tell you. If they ask, 'Are you okay?' it's appropriate to say, 'I'm fine,' but then ask yourself, 'Am I okay?' " If, on the other hand, you feel frazzled, but everyone admires your ability to juggle a zillion tasks, then give yourself some credit: You're multifocal. "I see that a lot, particularly among very successful people," says Dr. Kahn.

Respond Right Away

"In high-pressure situations, people tend to rush," says Nideffer. You've done this, I'm sure—you get an e-mail or memo, and because it requires a moment of thought or the retrieval of more information, you set it aside. Later on, you come back to it (when you're even more rushed) and spend time trying to figure out where you left off.

Try not to pick up the same piece of work twice. "Read it and respond," says Dr. Kahn, "rather than put it aside and think you'll respond later."

Carve Out Time

If you're feeling overwhelmed, break it down. Ask yourself, "What is it, exactly, that I'm not getting to, and how can I get to it?" Doctors need to return phone calls, contractors need to take care of paperwork, salesmen need to sit down and make long-term plans. They all need to carve out an hour or two for these tasks. "Protect that time," advises Dr. Kahn. "Then you don't have to worry about it while you go about your day."

Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit

In the end, your workday will inevitably be a hodgepodge—a crazy salad of big projects, short deadlines, interruptions, distractions, and surprises. Roll with it all, but make sure to do what Dr. Kahn calls "picking the low-hanging fruit—tackling the easy tasks that you can get done quickly. That helps you feel like you're on track."

Men's Health Lists : Burn More Fat on the Treadmill  

Posted by ReelTym

By: Scott Quill

Treadmills make me feel like a lab rat: caged in a gym, getting nowhere, with a vague sense that life is pointless. Which got me wondering how scientists keep their clueless little research rodents running on treadmills in their experiments.

Turns out it's Cheerios. Cheerios and a little electrical shock if they slow down.

"It's a very small current. But they don't seem to like it," Steven Britton, Ph.D., a professor of physiology at the Medical College of Ohio, tells me. After a session, he says, he rewards each rat with a Cheerio. "In Norway," he mentions, "they give them a little piece of chocolate."

Intriguing. But shock therapy isn't going to happen at my gym. And chocolate is part of the sweet holiday minefield that puts me and other men on the treadmill in the first place. Then Britton, being a scientist, makes an intuitive leap: "If people are informed of the consequences of being overweight and not exercising, that's kind of a little shocker."

Eureka! So I, being a journalist, twisted his idea and did some research, making a negative jolt a positive push:

Men who exercised for 30 minutes on a treadmill boosted their levels of phenylacetic acid—a natural antidepressant—by 77 percent. Perfect for gloomy winter days.

Running for an hour or more per week reduces your chance of coronary heart disease by 42 percent, according to Harvard researchers.

Running on a treadmill instead of on roads reduces your chances of a stress fracture by at least 48 percent, a study showed.

Taping these findings to the treadmill's control panel would help. But here are some more practical boredom busters that will make your time on the belt seem to go faster. For all of these, make sure you jog easily for 5 minutes to warm up, jog another 5 to cool down, and stretch afterward.

Then go ahead, have a Cheerio.

Mix It Up with Incline Intervals
The term "intervals" usually means a series of short, hard runs interspersed with jogging or walking. In this variation, instead of speeding up for the hard stints, you increase the incline. The high level of effort will improve your power, says Tony Veney, a track coach at UCLA.

Here's how: Set the treadmill's speed for about half of your full effort. Set the incline at 3 percent and run for 20 to 30 seconds, then return to a zero incline for 30 seconds. Repeat this sequence at 5 percent, and then 7 percent. That's one repetition. Do eight to 10 repetitions.

Try TV Time-Outs
If there's a television in your gym (or basement), use it to time your "pickups" (sustained intervals in which you pick up the pace), suggests Budd Coates, a four-time qualifier for the Olympic Marathon trials and special contributor to Runner's World magazine.

Say you're watching a basketball game. Whenever the clock stops (time-outs, foul shots), bump up your pace to about 80 percent effort. When the game's in progress, dial down to a jog. It works with any sport or any TV show. Run hard during Katie's segments; jog during Matt's. Or, when Bill O'Reilly gets rude, pick up the pace; when he's being civil, jog. (Warning: You need to be in good shape for this one.)

Take a Shot at Negative Splits
No, this doesn't refer to an uptight cheerleader. This concept burns fat, makes the time fly, and will help you in your next race. "Negative splits" means you're running faster at the end than at the start. In this session, start at a jog, and at every quarter mile, punch the speed button one beep higher. (You can do this for any length interval.) Push this as long as you like, but give yourself a smooth cooldown.

Breaking the run into chunks makes it less tedious, and training your body to start slow and end fast will pay off next time you're in a road race; you'll hold back at the start when your adrenaline is high, and finish strong when others fade.

Live on the Edge
This goes against all those lawyers' warnings, but it works for David Deubelbeiss, the Boss of the Belt. He's a Toronto ultramarathoner who set a world record by running 130.82 miles on a treadmill in 24 hours. (And who knows boredom better than a Canadian?)

His tip: When you get bored, slow your stride (not the speed of the treadmill) so you drift toward the back edge of the belt. When your heels touch the end, quickly step up to the front. Do this at a relatively slow belt speed, warns Deubelbeiss, and don't try it until you can run without looking at any part of the treadmill for 30 seconds.

Crest that Hill
This drill from Jane Hahn, a senior editor at Runner's World, will help you run hills effectively, attacking the slope and exploding over the top. It'll also help you put on bursts of speed on the flat. Run for 3 minutes at a 3 percent incline, then flatten it out and maintain the same level of effort by speeding up the belt a few notches for 1 minute. Recover with a minute of jogging, and then repeat the sequence three times.

Power Up the Tunes!
Load your MP3 player wisely. A British study found that men can handle much higher workloads when listening to music that builds in tempo from slow to fast, rather than maintaining a consistently fast beat. So start out slow with Coldplay, mix in some White Stripes, and end with the Ramones. A great runner's player is the tiny iRiver iFP-390T. It holds up to 8 hours of music, has an FM tuner and a voice recorder, and straps to your arm.

Watch Yourself
Use your club's mirrors for something other than checking out the redhead wearing the Under Armour. Look at yourself occasionally, especially when running fast. "Monitoring your stride mechanics gives you something to concentrate on, and you'll run more efficiently," says Bob Larsen, coach of the USA men's distance runners for the 2004 Olympics.

Larsen's checklist: (1) Minimize your contact with the belt. Don't bounce; think quick feet. (2) Stand tall so all your body segments are aligned. (3) Stay loose and relaxed.

Use a Heart-Rate Monitor
If you're bored with the readouts on the treadmill, add another source of input: a heart-rate monitor. "You should train at 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, because as you exceed 80 percent, results do not increase proportionally to your work," says Richard Stein, M.D., a spokesman for the American Heart Association. See how inclines affect your rate, and notice how quickly your heart recovers from a burst of effort.