Please accept this apology that is being made by proxy

Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

If, somehow, you fancy a career as a professional apologiser – as opposed to an apologist – then Japan is the place to go. There you might find work with an “apology agency”.

By hiring an expert, not only do you get to avoid the discomfort, you also make sure that the person gets a proper apology. These agencies train their employees to handle things based on the gravity of the situation. These people are professionals, and it looks like they can get you out of all sorts of sticky situations.

You have to wonder how a person on the receiving end of a professional apology must feel though. Wouldn’t it be a little too impersonal? It’s the thought that counts I guess.

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Even when I sleep I can still be productive

Monday, 22 September, 2014

If you have a full diary, or an overly busy schedule, news that you might be able to do a thing or two while sleeping could be music to your ears

The researchers then lulled the participants to sleep, putting them in a dark room in a reclining chair. Researchers watched them fall into the state between light sleep and the deeper sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). They were then told a new list of words. This time, their hands didn’t move, but their brains showed the same sorting activity as before. “In a way, what’s going on is that the rule they learn and practice still is getting applied,” Tristan Bekinschtein, one of the authors of the study, told Shots. The human brain continued, when triggered, to respond even through sleep.

It sounds like what we might be able to do while asleep is pretty limited – actually it’s incredible that anything at all is possible – so I wouldn’t go expecting to achieve all that much.

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Procrastination, a symptom that all may not be well?

Monday, 22 September, 2014

Simply trying to force yourself into action may not be the remedy for procrastination. In fact procrastination may be symptomatic of stress and low self-compassion, suggests some Canadian research into the subject.

Sirois found that people prone to procrastination had lower levels of self-compassion and higher levels of stress. Further analysis revealed that procrastination might increase levels of stress – particularly among people low in self-compassion.

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How reading the “Harry Potter” books made me a better person

Thursday, 18 September, 2014

Not only will you be treated to a gripping yarn when you read the “Harry Potter” books, you may also emerge a better person, says a study that found readers of the saga tended to become more empathic by the time they had read through the series:

For decades it’s been known that an effective means of improving negative attitudes and prejudices between differing groups of people is through intergroup contact – particularly through contact between “in-groups,” or a social group to which someone identifies, and “out-groups,” or a group they don’t identify with or perceive as threatening. Even reading short stories about friendship between in- and out-group characters is enough to improve attitudes toward stigmatized groups in children.

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Introverts and running companies, it makes sense

Wednesday, 17 September, 2014

You’ve likely noticed I have a little to say on the subject of introversion here. Maybe it’s a matter of playing catch up in a way, there was little awareness, and even less talk, of the personality type when I was younger, meaning I was more than accustomed to being told to say more, to socialise more, and what have you.

Even I wondered what was wrong with myself at times, but now there is more, well a little more, appreciation of the fact that people might either be extraverts or introverts, and that they should be left to do what they do best.

Sure the person who is seen to be outgoing and highly sociable is likely to be presented with more opportunities, especially in the workplace, but that’s not to say the upper rungs of the corporate ladder are no place for an introvert. In fact an introvert’s personality traits are well suited for leadership roles:

“Thoughtfulness, consideration, and thorough preparation are principles every leader should employ, but for introverts, these vital principles come inherently,” he explains. Introverts typically think before they speak and act, whether communicating with their team, delivering presentations, or interacting with colleagues. “They devote time [to] thinking through their objectives and preparing for queries.”

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It may be better if we do not encounter extraterrestrials

Friday, 12 September, 2014

It’s quite possible we on Earth are the first born in terms of intelligent life in the cosmos, given the relatively young age of the universe. It’s something that makes the chances of our ever encountering extraterrestrial life pretty remote, and that may not, surprisingly, be a bad thing:

A message with a more straightforward intent could have equally ruinous effects. It could be a new scientific insight or technological blueprint sent as an item of interstellar trade or détente, but have a destabilizing effect on Earth’s economy. Or a message could contain a philosophical statement interpreted to have religious meaning, triggering conflict and disorder. Even “Is Anyone Out There?” would be problematic – the decision to answer or not could provoke more than just verbal conflict within our species.

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Good ideas will seldom come from sitting about

Friday, 12 September, 2014

My best ideas come to me while I’m on foot. Or so I like to think. Whether anyone agrees is another matter. It seems though there a clear link between walking and the thought process, that makes walking a two-for-the-price-of-one sort of activity, exercise plus clear thoughts…

When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs – including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

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For best results, take a short digital sabbatical each day

Thursday, 11 September, 2014

Sometimes I think the only reason people talk about taking so-called digital sabbaticals is just that, so they can talk. I think it absurd that we divest ourselves of the likes of smartphones, and tablet devices, because we think we’re too connected, or spend too much time doing one thing or another online.

Luke Thomas, in a Medium article on the subject, hits the nail square on the head:

Most discussion is geared towards extended periods of time (i.e. a vacation), and while that’s great, there doesn’t seem to be much discussion around incorporating a digital break into our daily/weekly lives. If you look at “being connected” as an addiction, since when is going cold-turkey a good idea? This is one of the toughest ways to quit, and many relapse.

Indeed, try going without your devices for a few hours each day, rather than taking the whole hog, for like a year, approach.

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The Boring Conference… you sure can’t beat some great boredom

Thursday, 11 September, 2014

I first heard about the Boring Conference – “a one-day celebration of the mundane, the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked” – more than three and a half years ago. From all accounts boring sells, as the event has taken place every year since then, and from all indications will return again in 2015.

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Boost productivity, buy some plants for the office

Wednesday, 10 September, 2014

This is the sort of office/workplace productivity tip I like… because it requires no effort, simply add some plants to the work environment, and see output increase by up to fifteen percent.

Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University and his fellow psychologists, who have been studying the issue for 10 years, concluded that employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces are filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers.

Lean offices and the like are, I believe, places where work flows have been designed to be as simple and efficient as possible. It sounds as if they’re also stripped back affairs as well, featuring only the bare minimum of furniture and fixtures.

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