Tag Archives: self-improvement

How to Improve Your Running for Beginners

How to Improve Your Running forI’ve been running for about five years, and I still feel like a beginner a lot of the time. But I can also see how far I’ve come over the years. My first 5k, in early 2010, was finished with a time of 9:51 per mile; my most recent 5k personal record (PR), in July 2014, was finished at 7:46 per mile. And somewhere in the middle, I ran a marathon.

When I started, part of my motivation was how hard it was for me to run. I hated the idea of being so bad at something that seemed so easy for so many people. I also thought of myself as a relatively fit person so it was frustrating to suck wind before reaching even a half mile.

Of course, at some point I did get better. Looking back, here are the top things I think got me there, at least at the start: Continue reading How to Improve Your Running for Beginners

Building Healthy Habits: Hide Your Triggers!

Building Healthy Habits- HideThe office where I work has a tradition of assigning everyone a new desk each quarter. At first, I was skeptical about this–it has some obvious drawbacks, like the time lost to physically moving all of your stuff four times a year. But one major advantage I’ve found is that it limits my exposure to unhealthy food triggers, at least part of the year.

My first several months here, I sat next to the kitchen. This means that saying no to the catered lunch or platter of brownies wasn’t a one time deal, but something I had to do repeatedly throughout the course of the day. It won’t surprise anyone to learn that my willpower would eventually crumble, usually around 2 or 3 pm after several hours of meetings and mental exertion, and I’d be sitting there with the remains of dessert in my lap feeling bad about the poor choice I’d just made. Continue reading Building Healthy Habits: Hide Your Triggers!

Three Reasons to Keep Separate Work and Personal Email Addresses

Three ReasonsYes, I know: I already recommended keeping separate work and personal email addresses as a way to maintain work-life balance. But I feel so strongly about this particular issue that I felt it deserved its own post. If you don’t already keep separate accounts for work and for your personal email, start now.

Here’s why:

1. It helps you avoid embarrassing mistakes.

The two email clients I use–Outlook and Gmail–both autopopulate email addresses based on the first few letters I type. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of typing just the first few letters of someone’s address and not double-checking that the right recipient is selected. So easy. (I assume this is why my colleague whose name is also Amy B and I get so many of each other’s emails.) Continue reading Three Reasons to Keep Separate Work and Personal Email Addresses

Should I Get a PhD in Psychology?

Should I Get a PhD in Psychology?As someone who has a PhD in psychology (from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor), I am often asked by other people whether it’s worth them pursuing the same degree. There’s no right or wrong answer, and only you can decide whether you want to spend the time and effort to get an advanced degree. However, I thought it might help people if I outlined some of the benefits and advantages of getting a PhD, as I see them based on my own experience.

Before I get started, keep in mind that PhD programs differ quite a bit between disciplines. If you’re thinking of getting a degree in engineering or English, your program might look a lot different from mine, so keep your grain of salt handy.

You might want to get a PhD in psychology if . . . Continue reading Should I Get a PhD in Psychology?

Video Blog! Three Reasons to Wait Before Replying to that Email

3 Reasons to Wait to Reply to that EmailHere’s my inaugural video blog! Please excuse any issues with the filming or editing; this is new to me.

In this episode, I talk about three reasons why you might want to think about waiting before replying to an email. This advice goes a bit against the grain for many productivity coaches, who might advise handling something as soon as you can and being done with it. I have identified three situations where I think there may be greater benefit in waiting to reply instead of rushing to be done.

What do you think? When is it better to reply now, and when is it better to wait?



The Art of Organizing Your Email: Declutter Your Inbox and Your Life

OCTBeing an organizational psychologist does not necessarily make one organized, but it’s true that organization systems can increase productivity, efficiency, and even happiness. I’m a particularly good organizer of email; colleagues often ask me for older documents or information because they know I can find it quickly. It’s become a bit of a point of pride for me to see how quickly I can locate a given piece of information. I’ve compiled a few of my top strategies for organizing email so that it’s easy to sort, find relevant information when you want it, and impress colleagues and friends with your incredible document-hunting powers.

Create folders that make sense for your work. I have an extensive series of folders in both my work and personal email accounts. For my work, my folders correspond to projects I’m working on. Continue reading The Art of Organizing Your Email: Declutter Your Inbox and Your Life

Three Tips to Be A Better Public Speaker

3 TipsOne of my many weird qualities is that I actually enjoy public speaking. It’s taken me a while to get here. I remember the very first time I presented professionally in front of an audience. It was at a conference in New Orleans early in my grad school career. I had lost a contact on Bourbon Street a few nights before and was stuck wearing my glasses over a red and watering eye. I was presenting on the last day of the conference, and had given myself a lot of negative self-talk about what this implied for the quality of my presentation. The situation was not ideal. Even though there were only a handful of people in the audience, I was incredibly nervous. My hands visibly shook throughout my talk, and my voice wavered like it’s never done before or since.

It was awful.

However, I’m the type of person who is fueled by failure, so I decided I would become a better public speaker. Over the last decade plus, I’ve made an effort to speak in public as often as I can, and to improve with each go-around. Here are three of my favorite tips for becoming a more compelling and engaging speaker, and having more fun at the podium. Continue reading Three Tips to Be A Better Public Speaker

Listen for Opportunity’s Knocks

This kid sure noticed the money in the tree! [Has anyone ever wondered how bizarre a stock photo shoot must be?] Image from Thinkstock
This kid sure noticed the money in the tree! [Has anyone ever wondered how bizarre a stock photo shoot must be?] Image from Thinkstock
One blog I follow is the Evil HR Lady, written by Suzanne Lucas. Lucas recently posted a column with some simple strategies for being more aware of career opportunities that might be readily available.

Lucas talks about a recent study where researchers pinned dollar bills to low-hanging tree branches in pedestrian areas and observed whether people noticed and took the money. A surprisingly small number of them saw the money–and even that figure plummeted when the person was on a cell phone. Lucas asks, if we miss an opportunity as money literally dangling from a tree at eye level, what opportunities are we overlooking in our careers? Continue reading Listen for Opportunity’s Knocks

The Power of Beautiful Design

I admit it; I make ugly slides.

I can recognize lovely design, and I very much want to emulate it, but the fact is, I just don’t have a brain that can arrange content in attractive configurations. I’m the presenter equivalent of a sensible shoe. I get the job done in terms of delivering the information you need, but you’re probably not attracted by the styling.

One of my personal development goals is to improve my slide style, because the fact is that the format influences how people receive your message. More attractive slides are more engaging and reflect well on the presenter’s overall skills. In many cases, the formatting can even influence whether or not the audience accurately understands your meaning. Continue reading The Power of Beautiful Design

Skills I Wish I’d Learned

I really like what I do, so I don’t spend a lot of time regretting my educational and professional choices. That said, there are two major things I wish I’d done earlier in my career that I think would make me more successful (read: effective) today:

  1. Spent a semester or summer abroad. I’ve always loved languages, and have dabbled in several. For a while in graduate school, I even neared fluency in Spanish, being able to read full-on novels in a reasonable time span. But because I never spent an extended period of time relying on and experimenting with a language, I didn’t cement my knowledge. Not only does being multilingual open direct opportunities to work in other cultures, it also makes your cognitive structure more flexible and enhances creativity.
  2. Learned to program a website or a mobile app. Computer science was still a bit outside of the mainstream when I was in college so I never ventured into a class. I did teach myself some basic HTML (so I could have a rockin’ homepage with pics of my cats and my ear piercings), and that small skill is actually still useful today. I feel like I’d be a much more effective program designer if I were able to do at least some of the coding myself, if only to experiment with possibilities and communicate with software developers in more informed terms. I’m not even sure the programming language matters as much as developing some basic proficiency with technology.

Fortunately it’s not too late to pursue these skills, although it’s harder now than it would have been when I was a full-time student. I’m not sure I’ll ever have an opportunity to spend an extended period of time in another country speaking the language, given my full-time job and my full-time employed spouse. That doesn’t mean I can’t consume media in other languages, talk to native speakers, and travel. I’ve also really enjoyed using Duolingo to refresh basic grammar and vocabulary knowledge and to begin working on new languages.

Ditto on learning to program–given that I don’t seem to have natural talents in the area, it would be great if I could just add a class to my courseload, but nowadays I don’t have a courseload. I’ve been flirting with online educational tools to try to bridge the gap, although I haven’t found quite the right one for me yet. I tend to get frustrated when I’m not good at something and so most of my autodidactic attempts at programming end with frustration. Any suggestions of tools I could use to learn more programming would be much appreciated.