Tip Tuesday: Staying Focused While Working

In my job I have multiple roles. Within those roles I have multiple tasks. Some days I am pulled from task to task and often time find myself  starting something new while forgetting I am in the middle of something else. If you are in a similar situation read on to find some tips for keeping your focus at work. 

1. Keep your work station organized. I do this one a lot. Take a few minutes at the beginning and end of the day to make sure there isn't too much clutter around your desk. This clutter will create an uneasy feeling and lead your mind to stray. 

2. Make a to-do list and stick to it. If you have your tasks written down you are more likely to complete them. Having them bouncing around in your head just creates confusion and you are less likely to complete them all effectively. 

3. Realize when you are getting off task. When I start something and then have to take a call, sometimes I go right into a brand new task forgetting I had started one before. When you realize you have done this, don't get upset, just simply return to the initial  task, complete it, and move on. Train yourself return your mind to something you started. 

4. Give yourself a break.If you work primarily at a desk it's best for your body to get up and move around for five or 10 minutes each hour. If you work at a computer too, it's best to give your eyes and mind a rest from it. It also helps to relax your mind and refocus. Step away from the desk and computer as often as you can and come back ready to finish or start a new task. 

5. Discipline yourself. Focus takes discipline, for everyone. Working in a place with so many possible distractions for me, it's simple for my mind to bounce around. I have to try and be strict with myself  to focus on what I am currently doing and let other tasks that may pop into my head wait. 

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The Incline

In a small mountain town, neighboring Colorado Springs, there is a famous "trail" known as the Incline. 

In 1907 the Manitou Incline was built for a cable car to carry materials to build pipelines on Pike Peak. The railway didn't serve this purpose long and eventually was turned into a tourist attraction, lifting riders high atop the mountain. In a 1990 rock slide the tracks were washed away and they were never repaired. 

At this time accessing the trail became illegal due to trespassing on railroad owned land. However, challenge enthusiasts began using the trail as the hellish workout that it is. It is made up of railroad ties as stairs that lead you up a 2,000 foot rise with as incline of 68% in some places. The Incline takes you up about 3/4 mile where you are then able to wind down the 2.9 mile Barr Trail to get back to where you began. 

Sound doable?
Apparently I thought so. 

Toby talked this challenge up enough and I thought it might be a fun thing to try. But the words of Yoga fit well here. "Do or do not, there is no try." Once you're on your way up, you've just got to keep hiking. 
Look for the faint tan line, that is the Incline from miles away

I guess I wasn't quite sure what I was up against, until I got going for a while. We took the trail in the evening, it worked out well because it was cool and there weren't many people making their way up. An older woman, with two walking poles began just before me. At her slow pace I quickly found the need to pass her. I knew I had roughly an hour of extreme stair stepping ahead of me, so I tried to keep the pace slow-ish. 

After I climbed for roughly 10 minutes I felt the need to pass. However, soon enough I was feeling like I might explode if I didn't take a break. My friend with the walking poles soon passed me. In fact she continued up the mountain at her slow, but constant pace, not breaking once. 

The impending doom ahead of me
The trail was rugged and unforgiving. The steps were uneven and at times you might have a moment where you feel you'll lose your center of gravity. 

I was forewarned about the false summit or also known as the bailout. A spot that appears to be the top but is merely a tease making you believe you are finished. At this spot there is a trail leading you down if you can't continue to the top. My friend with the walking poles left us then. 

Standing fully upright was becoming increasingly tough
As I got closer and closer to the top I had to stop every several feet or so. I remember thinking several times this is the stupidest thing I've ever done. But I was happy to be doing it, most of all I was going to be happy to be through with it! 

Toby walked patiently behind me while I competed my beginners clime in about 65 minutes. His quickest climb of the Incline was 27 minutes, meaning he is running steps in certain places. The fastest recorded time is 16.42 minutes by a triathlete.
Finally standing and smiling again


I couldn't believe the energy it took to make one trip up the Incline. In 2013 an man broke the record for most trips up the Incline in one year at 719!

Going down?

Walking up hikers have right-of-way, but unbelievably there are people trekking down the Incline. One misstep and you are nose diving 2,000 feet down. For non-suicidal types, use the Barr trail. The remaining part of the trip is a 2.9 mile hike down the mountain, at a much, much tamer slope. 

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Water and Sun

On my recent trip to Colorado my cousin, his three kids, and I went camping in the mountains at a state campground near Crested Butte. Its only had a few amenities-one included was a water pump. Or so we thought. We didn't bring any water besides what we had in a few bottles because we planned on using the camp's pump. When we made a trip to the water pump to load up for the night, we realized something was wrong with it-it wouldn't pump water. The camp host wasn't in so we didn't know how to figure out what was going on with the pump. 

Our dinner was to be spaghetti so when that time came, Toby poured all the water from our bottles to boil noodles on the camp stove. After that our water was gone. Next we could do no dishes, brush no teeth, and possibly not go on the hike we were planning for the following day. 

We never were able to get the pump working so the following morning we drove the six miles back into Crested Butte and were able to fill all our containers at a gas station. After this we were back in business. 

When we didn't need water-we got it. Both nights during our dinner time we got rained on. We had a bit of shelter under a tarp, but otherwise we couldn't do much. Our clothes were luckily not saturated, but damp enough to chill you. The following morning I wanted nothing more than sunlight to warm my chilled bones and to dry out the few clothing items I'd brought. Getting up as early as I did I had to wait for the sun to rise high in the sky. There were also very thick clouds keeping me from the warmth I desired. Eventually the sun shone down on me. 

The reason that I mention these two things is because when I was having these experiences I realized now simple yet important these things are. We go about our day putting so much importance in our technological amenities, we forget just how important the amenities of the sun and water truly are for us. But in the moment you're truly in need of them most, and they aren't available, you finally give them the importance they are warrented. 

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My Ramadan Experience

When I lived in Morocco I was witness to three holy months of Ramadan, one per year. Fasting during Ramadan wasn't anything I was ever interested in trying during that time. It's been two years since I've lived there, and finally now I am having my Ramadan experience.

For those of you who are unaware of what Ramadan is I will pull information written in 2010, by yours truly. 

It is one of the five pillars of Islam which means one must complete it yearly itn order to be a considered good Muslim.  For 30 days from start to finish Ramadan involves fasting from sunrise to sunset. Fasting includes no eating, no drinking, no wearing make-up, and riding yourself of all impure thoughts and habits. This means no smoking and no sexual activity.
The intention of Ramadan is to put yourself in the shoes of those who are less fortunate than you. It is also a time for asking God for forgiveness and spiritual guidance. It is a time to purify oneself through self-restraint and good deeds. It is seen as a duty of all Muslims and must be done without complaint or question.

This year I just felt compelled to give it a try. Not for the entire month, but just for a day. 

My day started at 4 a.m. when I set an alarm to wake me up for the first meal of the day before sunrise. I wouldn't really call it a meal, as I didn't have much of an appetite that early in the morning. I just ate whatever I could stomach as to get some food energy in me. I set another alarm for 5:50 and went back to sleep. 

I didn't have to make breakfast for myself or pack a lunch so I had a little more time in my morning. In Ramadan one is supposed to go on with daily activities as they normally do, so I got on my bike and rode to work. 

Fasting all day wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done, but it wasn't much fun either. I had a bit of a lingering headache the whole day. My voice was becoming horse due to the dry throat I had. I was sleepy so I rested my head on my "lunch" break. 

When I have a lull at work I will usually grab a snack or a drink to keep my occupied, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do this. I didn't feel physically hungry, just pretty low on energy. 

The most daunting thing was knowing that I wouldn't be able to break fast until sundown at 9:14 that night. This year, and for the past few years Ramadan has taken place during summer. This means that the days are hot and they are the longest of the year. 

The other difficult part was that as the day went on I had trouble finding certain words when I spoke. Even simple things like "I'm going to my uncle's house for 4th of July and he has a............pool."

The more I thought about this fact the more it made me realize that children who go to school hungry have a much harder time studying then children with a full belly. Many students can struggle for this reason. It wasn't that my mind was only focused on my hunger, my brain simply had trouble finding the words. We have an issue with this in many of our schools. To give children a good foundation for learning, we have to give them good nutrition.

It was nice to break my fast just after the sun began to set. I enjoyed some nice coconut Greek yogurt and other things. I didn't want to fill myself with junk and gorge as to feel full in the first two seconds. 

In retrospect after it was over it really didn't seem like that bad of a day, but I did have it pretty easy. I didn't have to explain to anyone who might not understand that I was fasting. I wasn't forced to go to a restaurant or refuse food from anyone. Fasting in America, where not everyone is doing it, must be difficult for the whole month of Ramadan.  I did think about ending my fast a couple times during the day but ultimately I am glad I stuck it out and got to have the experience. 

It did make me understand what people experience who have to deal with hunger on a daily basis. So ultimately the intention of Ramadan was fulfilled for me. 

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Tip Tuesday: Introductions

I enjoy bringing people together. 

I admit introducing those people is not one of my strong points. I don't know if I just find it awkward, I can't find the right time, or I just don't put enough importance on it. 

Whatever the reason, I need to get over it and make it important. 

It's never fun being with a friend and they suddenly run into someone else they know. Show respect for everyone involved and make sure everyone knows one another. 

I read several articles on formal business introductions, but that's not what I'm after. There are a whole slew of etiquette rules when it comes to introducing people, but I plan to make this as stress free as possible. 

So here are just a couple of tips from my own head that will steer both you and me on the road to good introductions:

1. Work toward making new introductions a habit. Try to get it in as soon as it feels naturally possible. After you say your "hello, how do you dos" introduce your friend that's waiting in the wing.

2. You will typically introduce the person that you know the least to the person you know the best. Ex: You introduce your friend of six months to your friend of 10 years. This helps to make your newer friend feel included and special.

3. Say something interesting about the person you are introducing. Don't make it about their job or work-life isn't about that! Ex: "This is my friend Kristen, she's a very talented artist."

4. Use the person's last name. Perhaps that person may recognize the last name and know their family. (That happens a lot here in Jackson) Plus it makes that person sound more established. 

If you are looking for tips on more formal introductions and would like to know the proper etiquette please click here. 

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