Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

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It’s always a joy to read Daniel Pink’s books. He has a knack for presenting Social Science research in an easy to understand way that makes it applicable to readers’ everyday lives. In his latest book When he picks timing as his topic and concludes: “I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe that everything is timing.” Let’s take a look at his main findings and see how we can time certain life activities to ensure better, more efficient and productive outcomes.

“A peak, a trough, and a rebound” – beware of early afternoons

Numerous studies show a distinctive pattern in most people’s moods and emotional states throughout the day. Happiness, positivity, and attention are on the rise in the morning, only to take a dip in the afternoon, before they rebound again toward the late afternoon and evening. (One study determined the most unproductive time of day to be 2:55pm.) Understanding of these patterns can have far-reaching repercussions for our daily lives. Some of the studies’ findings are just “nice to know,” but others can mean “life or death”. Knowing that taking a short (no longer than 40 minutes!) nap in the early afternoon can boost your productivity later on – that’s nice to know. But knowing that scheduling a medical procedure, such as surgery, for the afternoon will increase the risk of something going wrong 3- to 4-fold or knowing that juries and judges will evaluate evidence in trials much less rationally in the afternoon – that knowledge can potentially save your life!

Scheduling Your Life for Maximum Benefit

For best results, schedule medical procedures, academic tests, court trials, or important analytical tasks (or math class) for the morning. But, as always, there are exceptions to every good rule. When the task you need to tackle is not an analytical one but one that requires you to have insight or a creative spark, it’s best undertaken during our non-optimal time, the afternoon for most people. For academic schedules, this means that math and science classes are best scheduled early, whereas art and creative writing are best taught later in the day.

Midlife Crisis

According to research, the quintessential midlife crisis is real across genders, countries, and different socioeconomic groups. Numerous studies have shown that well-being and happiness slump in midlife and reach the lowest point at 52.9 years (for American males). Happiness begins to decline in the early 30’s, bottoms out in the early 50’s, and starts a steady climb after that. People frequently report higher well-being in their 70’s than in their younger years. While most explanations have traditionally centered on sociology, explaining that midlife is the phase of the realization of unmet life expectations and the corresponding disappointment, Pink also delves into newer research that alludes to the possibility of there being a biological component to the midlife crisis.

Take a break – the power of naps

Pink calls naps “Zambonis for our brain”. According to research “they smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches a typical day has left on our mental ice”. Numerous studies from around the world conducted among different professions show the benefits of naps. For example, a NASA study shows that pilots who napped up to 40 minutes showed a subsequent increase of 34% in reaction time and a twofold increase in alertness.  A UC-Berkeley study shows that an afternoon nap expands the brain’s capacity to learn and retain information as well as boosting short-term and associative memory. Nappers were twice as likely to solve a complex problem as non-nappers. The benefits of napping are independent of the amount of sleep people get at night. Even individuals that get enough nightly sleep still benefit from an afternoon nap.

Final thoughts

There is much more to this book than naps and midlife crises. Pink also elaborates on different chronotypes, the science of beginnings and endings, and group timing and synchronization. Interspersed with chapters are sections with real-life action points and tips and tricks to take advantage of the research of timing.  It’s a fun and educational read with lots of life improvement potential.

If you’d like to discover the science of timing, you may check out When from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.

Written by Anne Nowak

Book Review: SuperBetter

Have you ever encountered a difficulty, challenge, or trauma that was overwhelming to deal with? If you are human, chances are the answer is “yes”. In her book “SuperBetter,” Jane McGonigal offers a new, fresh, and, in most eyes, unusual approach to overcome such situations. She uses gaming methodology to getting “stronger, happier, and more resilient”. If this turns you off and you think this is quackery, hold on.

About the Author

McGonigal, in addition to being an avid video game player and designer, is also a PhD and Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute of the Future. She has led workshops for numerous Fortune 500 companies and taught at UC Berkley and the San Francisco Art Institute. Her TED talks on this topic have been viewed more than 10 million times. Her SuperBetter methodology has been scientifically researched and validated by several universities and medical centers.

How the Book Works

While the SuperBetter approach is easy to understand and follow, the book is long and not a quick read. It is divided into three parts, and the reader does not necessarily need to follow them chronologically (though the book is worth reading in its entirety). Instead, you can pick and choose the parts that you are most interested in. Not surprisingly, the book is full of gaming terminology. That makes it easy to understand and fun to follow. It is simply part of why this approach works.

Throughout the book you will find more than 50 quests to complete. Those quests represent the real-world applicability and interactive qualities of the book. Of course they are fun too. Follow along and complete the quests, like in a game; they start off very easy and will get more and more involved. The quests address one of four areas: physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience. Through those quests you will gamefully address and manage your life challenges.

Why Games Make us Superbetter

The first part of the book is a detailed overview of the science of games and presents evidence on why they work in alleviating physical and mental pain. It’s fascinating to read how games we all know and which are easily available on a smart phone can benefit our well being (Tetris and Candycrush for example).

This part of the book also discusses what it means to be gameful. Being gameful is the state of mind we are in when we play games and it is key to why games are successful in helping us cope. McGonigal defines gameful as “bringing psychological strengths you naturally display when you play games – such as optimism, creativity, courage and determination – to your real life”. Whenever we approach life’s hurdles optimistically, courageously, determined, and creatively, we stand a much higher chance of prevailing.

How to be Gameful

Part two is the practical part that introduces, explains, and demonstrates the SuperBetter method, which readers can immediately apply to their lives. Here McGonigal gives us many quests to fulfill.  And, as is befitting for a book about gaming, she uses gameful concepts and language, which doesn’t only make it useful but also fun to follow along. The seven rules that make up the SuperBetter method are:

  1. Challenge yourself
  2. Collect and activate power-ups
  3. Find and battle the bad guys
  4. Seek out and complete quests
  5. Recruit your allies
  6. Adopt a secret identity
  7. Go for an epic win

While being gameful, these seven chapters address physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges, how to approach and cope with them.

Adventures

The final part of the book consists of three adventures addressing issues of relationships, body image, and time management. McGonigal defines adventure as “a set of power-ups, bad guys, and quests, designed to help you tackle a particular challenge”. In other words, this chapter represents three full tutorials of how to apply the SuperBetter method to problems in these three specific areas. This also serves as a blueprint to design your own adventures for challenges that you are facing and need to get SuperBetter at.

Final thoughts

Overall this book is well worth reading all its 425 pages (warning: take your time, it is not a quick read). McGonigal’s truly unique (and scientifically validated) approach will surely help people address serious real-life issues from a new angle. If you follow along and complete the quests and adventures while you are reading, you will have gained new coping techniques by the end of the book, guaranteed. For those readers already well versed in gaming terminology and methodology, go ahead and jump right into the quests. For all others, the methods in the book will represent a change in mindset about problem-solving, which is itself a worthwhile effort.

If you want to try out the online and app versions of the game, find more info at www.superbetter.com  If you are interested in the science behind SuperBetter, you can learn more at www.showmethescience.com

Written by Anne Nowak

Tech Talk: Hoonuit

Do you want to learn more about computer applications to help you in your job search? Or have you started a job in which you are expected to use certain computer applications?Then take a look at Hoonuit.

Hoonuit is an online platform that provides “on-demand software training and support tutorials to help businesses and organizations fulfill staff technology training and development goals”.

Getting Started

Patrons of the East Baton Rouge Public Library can access Hoonuit through the library’s Digital Library. The computers inside the East Baton Rouge Parish Library will connect automatically, but if you are at home, you may need to type in your library card number. You will need to Create a New Account if you do not already have an account with RB Digital. The account is free.

Once you enter Hoonuit you will see a welcome page. The screenshot below shows “Pathways” which are like online courses focusing on a particular topic or software suite such as Word 2016 or Office 365.

These courses include modules, each of which includes a series of short training videos that describe a specific aspect or feature of that software.

As you can see, the videos are very brief. They teach by showing actions within the application along with a voice over by an instructor who explains what you can do within that application and how.

Popular topics include:

CAREER SKILLS
Writing a Resume
Accepting a Job
Winning Cover Letters

DESIGN
WordPress 4.9
Adobe Illustrator CS6
Adobe Animate CC

MOBILE DEVICES
iOS (multiple versions)
Chromebook Training
Creating a Basic Budget on a Mobile Device

PROGRAMMING
C++ Primer Training
PHP Basics Training
HTML and CSS Training

SOFTWARE AND TECHNOLOGY
Google Drive
Office 365
macOS

Important – There are many videos on topics and software applications that are not listed under Pathways or Topics – you must search for them. Hoonuit offers over 50,000 videos on an impressive array of applications, including applications that are less well known but can be useful, such as Audacity, Gimp, Moodle, and OpenOffice.

You can access Hoonuit through a web browser on a computer, or on your smartphone or tablet using the RB Digital app. Explore Hoonuit and expand your computer skills today!

Written by Richard Wright

Do Yourself, Your Career, and Your Employer a Favor — Take a Vacation!

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Americans work hard and they don’t like, or more accurately, don’t dare, to take time off. A study by Project: Time Off, an initiative by the U.S. Travel Association, reports that in 2015, 658 million vacation days went unused, and for 222 million of those, employees received no compensation for these unused vacation benefits.

The reason cited most often by employees is that they feel there is too much to do and that there will be a mountain of work waiting for them upon their return, making the vacation not worthwhile. Also, company culture often doesn’t encourage taking time off. Instead, it is the employees’ perception that the more time they spend at work, the more successful they will be.

Is this healthy? No! Is this productive? No! Is it possible to do this differently? Yes!

Let’s see what taking time off can do for you.

Improve your health

Stress reduction:  Vacations reduce stress by removing people from situations that are associated with stress and anxiety, according to a study by the American Psychological Association. Other studies have shown that employees who take time off complain of fewer stress-related illnesses, such as headaches and backaches, once they return to work.

Heart disease prevention: A number of studies have shown that taking time off can decrease your risk for heart disease. One study showed that women who took a vacation only once every six years were eight times more likely to develop heart disease than women who took at least two vacations a year.

Strengthened immune system: Since too much stress and overwork negatively affects the immune system, the rest and relaxation associated with time off will likely lead to strengthened immune systems — and fewer days of work missed due to sickness.

Improve your productivity

Taking time off is not only good for you, it is also good for business! Research shows that when done right, time off will increase your energy level and happiness, which translates into higher productivity. Incidentally, many of the countries with the highest labor productivity are also home to employees that take most of their very generous vacation allowances (e.g. Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany).

Accelerate your career

Taking more time off can lead to better job performance and faster promotion. An internal study at professional services firm EY has shown that for every additional ten hours of vacation that employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved by 8%. According to Project: Time Off, people that use all of their vacation time have a 6.5% higher chance of getting a raise and/or getting promoted than employees who decide to let 11 or more days of their leave lapse. A word of caution, the relationship established in this study is correlation, not causation, but it is an interesting notion nonetheless.

However, beware — a poorly planned or poorly executed vacation can achieve the opposite effect: you will return to work even more stressed. Therefore, plan your time off wisely. Plan and coordinate with your colleagues ahead of time to avoid that huge mountain of work waiting upon your return. Most importantly, relax and recharge.

Now have fun planning your 2017 vacations!

Written by Anne Nowak.

Tech Talk: Lynda

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Lynda.com is an online education platform that offers thousands of video courses to help you learn a broad array of skills, including software, creative, and business skills. Within the Lynda library, you can browse courses by topic, software, or learning paths. Let’s take a look at some of the courses available on Lynda.

3D + Animation

  • 12 Principles of Animation for CG Animators (1 hr 23 min)
  • Animation Foundations: Storyboarding (1 hr 32 min)
  • Learn Adobe Fuse CC: The Basics (1 hr 25 min)
  • Matte Painting: Environments for Film (3 hr 21 min)
  • MODO Essential Training (5 hr 25 min)

Audio + Music

  • An Insider’s Guide to Today’s Music Biz 05: Managers (51 min 18 s)
  • Learn Melodyne 4: The Basics (2 hr 8 min)
  • One-Minute Weekly Songwriting Tips (25 min 21 s)
  • Podcasting with GarageBand (2 hr 17 min)
  • Vocal Production Techniques (1 hr 42 min)

Business

  • Business Process Modeling Fundamentals (1 hr 20 min)
  • Contracting for Creatives (1 hr)
  • Design Thinking: Venture Design (1 hr 3 min)
  • Migrating from Google Apps to Microsoft 2016 (2 hr 11 min)
  • Personal Finance Tips (1 hr 23 min)

CAD

  • AutoCAD Civil 3D: Site Design (3 hr 38 min)
  • Bluebeam: On the iPad (1 hr 8 min)
  • Customization for CAD Managers (2 hr 6 min)
  • Rhino Project: Architectural Documentation (1 hr 18 min)
  • SketchUp 2017: Essential Training (3 hr 48 min)

Design

  • Logo Design Techniques (5 hr 7 min)
  • Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory (5 hr 56 min)
  • InDesign Secrets (23 hr 51 min)
  • Learning Print Production (4 hr 16 min)
  • Understanding Data Science (1 hr 16 min)

Developer

  • Computer Science Principles: Programming (1 hr 25 min)
  • Learning Android App Development (1 hr 30 min)
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2016 Essential Training (3 hr 18 min)
  • Programming for Non-Programmers: iOS 10 and Swift (3 hr 24 min)
  • Unity 5 2D: Building an Adventure Game (2 hr 22 min)

Education + Elearning

  • Create Effective Learning Assessments (35 min 30 s)
  • How to Create Instructional Videos in Camtasia (1 hr 12 min)
  • Learn Moodle 3.1: The Basics (1 hr 49 min)
  • Test Prep: GRE (6 hr 44 min)
  • Word 2016 Essential Training (5 hr 41 min)

IT

  • Cloud Computing: Cloud Storage (1 hr 15 min)
  • Ethical Hacking: Mobile Devices and Platforms (1 hr 47 min)
  • Linux: Storage Systems (3 hr 30 min)
  • PC Maintenance and Performance Fundamentals (1 hr 8 min)
  • Windows Server 2016: DNS (1 hr 50 min)

Marketing

  • Google AdWords Essential Training (3 hr 4 min)
  • Instagram for Business (1 hr 16 min)
  • Local SEO (2 hr 31 min)
  • Marketing Analytics: Segmentation and Testing (53 min 4 s)
  • Qualitative Marketing Research (1 hr)

Photography

  • iPhone and iPad Photography with iOS 10 (2 hr 55 min)
  • Learning to Critique Photos (1 hr 12 min)
  • Photoshop CC 2017 for Photographers (7 hr 57 min)
  • Video Gear: Technical Tips (4 hr)
  • VR Photography and Video: The Basics (42 min 17 s)

Video

  • Advanced Cinematic Video Lighting (1 hr 19 min)
  • Creating Motion Graphics with Fusion (3 hr 49 min)
  • Crowdfunding Campaigns for Independent Film (1 hr 9 min)
  • DaVinci Resolve 12 Essential Training (15 hr 43 min)
  • Final Cut Pro X Guru: Titles and Effects

Web

  • Design Thinking: Understanding the Process (41 min 57 s)
  • Installing and Running WordPress: WAMP (56 min 10 s)
  • Learning Python Web Penetration Testing (2 hr 49 min)
  • Ruby on Rails 5 Essential Training (10 hr 21 min)
  • UX Design Tools: Axure RP (1 hr 37 min)

Access to Lynda is free for East Baton Rouge Parish Library patrons with a library card, and you can sign into Lynda through the library’s Digital Library.

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Once logged in, you will see three sections. The top left section gives you quick access to courses you were most recently viewing. Below that is the “My Playlists” section. You can add courses that you are currently watching to the playlist as well as save courses for future viewing. This way all the courses you’re interested in are located in one place, and you don’t have to search through the Lynda library for them again.

The third, and largest, section features courses. Here you can see courses that have been recently added as well as popular and recommended courses.

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When you are viewing a course — in this case “Data Visualization Tips and Tricks” — a contents section appears on the left. Here you can see the the progression of lessons and the length of each video. To the right of the contents is the video, and the section below the video gives further information and options, such as a transcript of the video and the option to download the lesson to view later, which is great if you know you’ll be somewhere without internet access.

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So are you ready to start learning? Which course will you watch first?

Written by Thien-Kieu Lam.

4 Podcasts to Inform and Inspire

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Podcasts are a great way to expand your knowledge and to stay inspired — listen during your commute, while you exercise, or on your coffee break!

WORKING

A glimpse into the day-to-day work of professionals from different fields. Guests include a landscape designer, makeup artist, forensic anthropologist, and book editor. Produced by Slate and hosted by Adam Davidson.

Episode spotlight: How Does the Director of Presidential Correspondence Work?
Fiona Reeves and her team at the White House process all the citizen mail that the president receives. Reeves explains how she selects the ten letters that are delivered to President Obama each evening and shares a few memorable letters received during her eight years as director of presidential correspondence.

THE CHASE JARVIS LIVE SHOW

Each episode is a conversation between Chase Jarvis and a different creative influencer, including entrepreneurs, artists, and authors, who discuss their professional and personal journeys, life philosophies, and habits for success.

Episode spotlight: Brene Brown: Rising Strong in a Digital Age
Brené Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher and author, breaks down what it means to live wholeheartedly, the opportunities found in allowing yourself to be authentic and vulnerable, and how to rise after failing.

THE $100 MBA SHOW

Daily 10-minute episodes covering a myriad of business aspects, from hiring staff to online marketing and personal branding. Hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Episode Spotlight: Five Reasons Customer Surveys Fail
Tips to get the most out of your customer surveys, from creating the right questions to implementing a plan of action based on feedback.

NOTE TO SELF

Conversations about what it means to be human in a digital age and how technology impacts our lives. Produced by WNYC and hosted by Manoush Zomorodi.

Episode spotlight: When to Stop Looking for a Better Date or Restaurant
Can algorithms help us make better decisions in our daily lives? Host Manoush, her sister Gitta, and show producer Jenna Kagel experiment with applying the “optimal stopping” algorithm to counter the paralyzing problem of too many choices, in this instance, when it comes to dining and dating.

Written by Thien-Kieu Lam.

Tech Talk: Treehouse

Coding has become the universal language of our times. Digital technology’s role in shaping the ways we live and work will only expand, in breadth and depth, and coding will continue to be a highly marketable and valued skill.

Whether you’re interested in building your skills for a career in the tech industry or just want to create your own website, there are many online resources for learning on your own time and at your own pace. One such resource is Treehouse, and East Baton Rouge Parish Library patrons may request a free Treehouse account on the library’s website.

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Treehouse offers many different courses as well as tracks. A track is a program of courses designed for a particular topic. For example, the “Web Design” track includes a total of seventeen courses, starting with “How to Make a Website” and ending with “CSS to Sass.”

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Once you have created an account and chosen a course or track, Treehouse will create a daily lesson plan for you, which can be viewed in your dashboard. Each lesson plan usually includes two to three steps and takes approximately thirty minutes to complete.

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Courses are taught using video tutorials and follow along exercises in custom Treehouse workspaces that allow you to create and test code as you write it. There are also quizzes to evaluate your retention of information.

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For an idea of what Treehouse video tutorials are like, check out this introduction to the course “Intro to HTML and CSS.”

Ready to start? East Baton Rouge Parish Library patrons can request a free account. Don’t have a library card? EBR Parish residents can visit the nearest branch to create a library account and get access to Treehouse and many other free resources!

Written by Thien-Kieu Lam.