5 Activities for Workplace Zen

Our team at Optimity often laugh about the buzzing, dizzying professional world we inhabit as a wellness company. Indeed, it has been a hectic season again. Our organization runs lean and everyone wears a lot of hats. The demand on time and energy is high every day. So under this relentless drum for productivity and progress, we are determined to stay sunny and upbeat.

Here are 5 little exercises that has made our work-lives more enjoyably zen.

  1. Shrink the list – Prioritize the day using the ABC system (A for Urgent and important, B for Important but can wait, C for Nice-to-haves). Then proceed to only do the As. By making peace with the fact that we often cannot do it all, we enable ourselves to focus on what is the best use of our time to get to our desired outcomes.
  2. Start with deep breathes – We can get energized throughout the day if we condition ourselves to take a couple of deep breathes every time we start a new task. We often get tired because we are not getting enough oxygen consistently into our brains. So avoid those headaches, and get into the habit of using more of our lung capacity throughout the day.
  3. Queue it up – Another item for the to-do? Don’t jump into right away. Instead, put it directly into your to-do list and continue on finishing your current task with focus and swiftness. This actually saves us time in the long run and prevents errors that occur when we switch contexts too often.
  4. Noise control – Be aware of your work environment and the noise level, and find your optimum ambient sound environment. Tuning your work settings will help you stay focused, calm and head-ache free all day.
  5. Easy path to victory – Do the most difficult task first, and the day is just strolling through a progressively easier path to getting things done. Remember to smile and enjoy every little victory.

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3 Habits of Powerful Professionals

Professional Art of Balance

Over the last 2 years, we interviewed hundreds of powerful professionals [CEO, CFOs, CMO, COO, Head of Sales, VP of Marketing etc.] to gather key insights on how daily habits can shape careers:

The astounding growth in these leaders’ productivity and mindfulness seemed to be compounded over decades of their personal investment in habit building. Many shared experiences of adding simple, healthy habits into their daily routines. A few talk specifically about setting stretch goals, many swear by their routine for fitness, and most will talk about the power of continuous learning. They are all absolutely dedicated to practicing regular business-boosting habits.

The following 3 habits are easy to emulate, and can be seamlessly incorporated into your routine. They just might make the difference between stagnated personal growth and the inflection point on your competency, responsibilities and salary. The trick, as with any habit, is in making it stick.

1. Practice ACTIVE thinking

Can you place the last time that you came up with a great idea or had true fluidity and clarity of thought? For those I interviewed, they often do a lot of thinking and problem solving while they are on the move. During their jog, or as they are on a walk, their thoughts have hyper-clarity and focus.  The benefits of daily physical exercise are well known, including stress reduction, improved mental acuity, and cardiovascular health. And it can be an invaluable business resource.

“I owe a lot of my winning decisions to my exercise routine,”one CEO says. “Life is busy, and I rarely have time to focus on specific issues uninterrupted… But when I’m out cycling, for an hour I am uninterrupted and invigorated. I feel positive, alive, and my brain just solves problems almost unconsciously.”

So try this, while you are walking home take a longer route to think; while you are on the treadmill, focus on a challenge you are having at work. Very quickly, you will see that your brain and muscles are well-connected to help produce better outcomes for you.

2. Set ambitious goals

Ask yourself these questions: What ambitious goals excite you? Can you do something about it in the next 3 months? next 3 weeks? next 3 days?

Now write them down. Keep it neatly displayed in your field of view at work.

Winning CEOs have the well-developed habit of setting goals that motivate themselves and their people. They regularly take time to define success and set goals. The power comes from getting specific with timelines and actions.

At least once a week, you should practice the habits of looking at your industry and develop a vision for it. Then, figure out how you would set ambitious goals to motivate others to join you in realizing that vision.

3. Never waste a meal

This is an Optimity trademarked habit. It is about taking advantage of each meal to give your body the nutrients it needs and also as an opportunity to connect with your fellow men/women.

2 great books bring home the 2 core ideas in this habit:

  • Never eat alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, a book on relationship building.

This book focuses on how each meal is a great time to network, since something special always happens when we spend time together “breaking bread”.

Being connected is a valuable asset in business and in life. Social interactions play a great part in our emotional well-being and our sense of community. So you should build the habit of enjoying food with others: try visiting an acquaintance from a different organization for lunch or invite them over for dinner. If you do this a couple times a week, you will find that your circle of influence have quickly multiplied into a powerful network.

  • Whole” by T. Colin Campbell, a book on nutrition and eating habits.

This book is about the principle of nutrition and the human body: an apple as a whole interacts differently with your body, it cannot be substituted by adding up tablets for vitamin C and A.

It teaches the habit to consume “native forms” of plants, explained by the world of nutritional chemistry. We in our career-building phase of 20 years, get to enjoy close to 22,000 meals (if you eat thrice a day). Effectively after these years, your body will be completely build and re-build with new molecules. So make each meal count, and put good chemistry into your body. Your body is a complex machine, and you deserve premium material to build it.

active and healthy lifestyle 'how to' list with goals to be fit and motivated
active and healthy lifestyle ‘how to’ list with goals to be fit and motivated

“Breakfast smoothies are my thing! And I was looking for ways to connect with my staff more, so I started this 1-on-1 breakfast walking meeting thing.” one VP of Sales shared with me. “Any of my staff can book me for a breakfast walking meeting and enjoy one of my smoothies. I started getting to know my people better and I feel incredibly close to my team. As a health bonus, Pat’s wife wrote a thank-you note to me recently! Apparently Pat got on the juicing bandwagon because of me and lost 20lbs over the last year!”

So treasure each meal, as a chance to build your body and bond with those who you want to get to know better. Don’t squander calories and time.

Tiny habits like these will compound over time. Soon, you won’t even need to think to arrange for them in your daily schedule, they will just become a part of your routine. So start today, and keep at it.

 

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Humanifesto for Your Health Community

Posted by Jane Wang 

Another beautiful summer week has gone by, and it has been rewarding to see our community ramping up! As our team is pulling together the next MTAP event, I thought it would be fun to share our “Humanifesto” for community building for your better everyday health:Humanifesto for Your Health Community

C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y

  • C — Collaboration (Collaborate, don’t control — remember to lead by example and to help encourage those around you to take small steps: drink more water, take the stairs and go for a walk at lunch)
  • O — Openness (Be open and transparent in what you do, and what you need help with; you’ll be surprised to get help and support in expected and heart-warming ways)
  • M — Meditation (Don’t stress and worry during your day, practice meditation when you run into crises and build a habit of calm, this will help you learn to always get into your optimal mental state daily)
  • M — Massage (Give yourself a hand massage and bring awareness to those over-worked hands! We work with so many hand-held devices and hand-operated machines that it is easy to “overwork” them.)
  • U — Utilitarian (Reflect useful and practical content your colleagues and community can identify with and do in your work context to spruce up their day!)
  • N — Niceness (Remember being extra nice pays back in dividends, it will not only improve the experience your colleague has during their days, but it also gives you something to smile about.)
  • I — Intervals (Training in intervals is key, but also view work routines as interval training! Give yourself periods of concentration and break up those intervals with a bit of physical activity, such as a game of ping-pong, a few jumping jacks, or a quick walk around the block; these active minutes help you work more efficiently during stressful days and also gets you to better health outcomes almost effortlessly)
  • T — Time management (You may have heard that 10 minutes spent in planning saves about 90 minutes of wasted work. I know that this is very true for my work process. I can usually get much more done in a day with prioritization. Here is a helpful resource that I use to guide friends on teaching how to prioritize at work http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-manage-time-by-prioritizing-daily-tasks.html )
  • Y — Yield (Find a metric to measure what you are getting back from your effort; I like to focus on the # of days that feel happy after work or # of days that I’m off because I was sick. You’ll be surprised to find that with a little bit of change, how your quality of life will improve dramatically, if you pay attention to the “yield”.)

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Enable the Initiators

Posted by Jane Wang 

Ever since we have been getting increasingly involved with organizational partners, who are also passionate about creating better health and happier days for professionals; our work seemed to have the effect of compounding each firm’s impact.

We put on a wine and cheese for our partners, colleagues, friends and created a community series called “More Than a Paycheque”. It was a lot of fun, as we listened to an expert panel chat about culture, gamification and technology and how it is adding to our quality of life at work.

MTAP_1 MTAP_2MTAP_3 MTAP_4

As we know it, culture building is a journey for a community — a manifestation of a belief system, a result of the values the members of the social group believe in and advocate.

This is no different for people who are trying to drive health or safety or training, and various digital tools can help enable you to congregate and grow.

We are excited to grow our community, so that we can multiply the effects of each individual’s effort. My team is investing their personal time into helping out to create a community movement: Optimity_EventPoster_V1 the next community event we are hosting is now live on Eventbrite: MTAP2. eventbrite.com

We hope you can make it out and contribute to the cause of better days for productive people.

Importance of community

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Permission to stand?

Posted by Jane Wang 

Funny story: Yesterday, we had an afternoon meeting with a leader in the innovation space of a large consulting firm, and without thinking much of it, I stood up to stretch my back in the middle of the chat as we continued to talk vivaciously about the innovation climate in Canada. After a couple of minutes, he asked: “Why did you stand up? Are you leaving?” and I realized that how the culture of “movement” have not been granted for much of the community.

The way that we work is still new and somewhat shocking, even to the innovators.

So I feel compelled to ask for permission to “stand up”… for better productivity and better health.

Back pain, poor circulation, get more standing minutes? For productivity alone, we deserve the permission to stand at work.
Back pain, poor circulation, get more standing minutes? For productivity alone, we deserve the permission to stand at work.

Being a mentor for the Lean StartUp Machine workshops has opened my eyes to how small things can have huge impacts on the success of a team.

Since the whole point at LSM is to get the teams to 1) ask the right questions, 2) drill down to the essential and 3) get out of the building to find the answers (read more on LSM), managing time and cutting through the laid-back and non-actionable chatter is of the uttermost importance.

LSM – Standing Meetings
LSM – Standing Meetings

Our mentor team at LSM experimented with many things… and one of the most effective practices we found was removing the chairs. 

These No-Chair meetings cut down the time the team members debated, and energized them to all participate during the meeting! The teams reached the same conclusions in about 1/3 of the time and often get right into action following the meeting.

The productivity argument aside, it is also a good change for people who sit for 6+ hours per day. That extra 15lbs and chronic lethargy are often side-effects of our sedentary careers. Often the back pain and swollen feet are symptoms of the culture of stillness that we are unconsciously infused in. As a woman, who loves wearing beautiful yet sometimes un-ergonomic footwear in professional settings, I enjoy rely on software, wearable tech and a healthy culture to help and give me permission to stand and move throughout the day.

So rise up, and “stand up” for your right to be more productive and pain-free. Join the community by signing up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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Morning Workouts

Posted by Jane Wang

Over the years I’ve grown to love exercising in the morning. It frees up my evenings, leaves me fewer excuses for skipping out on a workout, and helps me feel more alert throughout the day.The sense of accomplishment compounds throughout my day, giving me positive feelings that carry into client meetings and work sessions with my team.

Tips and tricks from Jane Wang, CEO of Optimity

Tips and tricks from Jane Wang, CEO of Optimity

Research shows morning workouts can also improve sleep, acuity, and productivity, as well as positively impact diet and exercise habits. At Optimity, we are tracking how it impacts business metrics and employee perception.

However, just because I love morning workouts doesn’t mean I leap out of bed at the sound of my alarm, eager to exercise every day. I’m not naturally a morning person, so I find it tough to head out for a run before the sun rises or attend a 6AM burpee bootcamp. I’ve skipped my fair share of early workouts, but I’ve also gotten quite good at not skipping them too, thanks to a little strategic planning, preparation and positive thinking.

If you’re wanting to become more of a morning exerciser, here are some of my top tips. Maybe they’ll help you too!

1. Ease into it. If you’ve never exercised in the morning before, don’t sign up for 6AM personal training sessions five days in a row. To start, schedule one morning workout per week.

2.  Enlist a buddy. It’s a lot harder to skip a morning sweat session if you have someone counting on you to show up. No one wants to be that person who bails!

3. Before you go to bed, decide exactly what morning workout you will do. For example, instead of saying, “I will exercise before work tomorrow,” say “I will jog 2 miles and do 30 pushups before work tomorrow.” This allows you to budget just the right amount of time you’ll need to fit in your workout. It also prevents you from dozing back off to sleep while pondering what type of exercise you’ll do.

4. Give yourself a reward. When your alarm goes off, don’t dwell on how much you’d rather fall back asleep or how tired you are. Instead, give yourself something to look forward to. It can be a delicious breakfast sandwich or smoothie after the workout, a more-indulgent lunch to treat yourselve (sushi versus salad), or even permission to get that item you have been eyeing for the last few weeks (that book, that gadget, or that shirt)!

Working out in the morning isn’t for everyone, but I’m living proof that the non-morning person can live better with a little self-actualization at the beginning of each day. Hope this helps!

Let’s build a community:

Do you prefer morning, afternoon or evening workouts? What helps you early exercisers get out of bed in the morning? Let us know down below. 

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Reactive vs. Proactive

Posted by Jane Wang 

Managing work life and personal life is a continuous struggle for most professionals. It is especially apparent in 2015. When you are in a client-facing position, when your performance and billable hours dictate your performance and compensation, it is not always an easy task to juggle work assignments and personal issues at the same time.

I find this problem exciting, because we are truly starting to see higher engagement because our initiatives not only is loved by employees, but are getting more top-level buy in. Tech firms especially are innovators in this space, where the reduction in sick-days can be counted and gains in productivity (lines of code, deployed features, velocity) can be measured.Reactive vs. Proactive

Coaching employees to deal with stress before it happens becomes key to the success for the HR team, who aim to keep their star players performing. Top firms internally promote their Employee Assistance Programs to help their team deal with mental health and stress issues when they arise.

The problem with relying on EAP’s is that often they are reactive, versus preventative, and heavy usage is expensive. There is often a negative stigma surrounding their usage, preventing employees from using them or talking about it openly to their peers.

We are entering a world where the chronic-disease-management apps, often “free” to the employers, are a great start to helping firms understand how mobile-first technology can change behaviour.

At Optimity, we get to help on the other side, with a proactive, preventative mobile-first solution that delays and stops employees from falling into the chronic state. They are really 2-sides of the same coin in solving the rising health-cost issue for employers.

 

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