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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Strategic Renewal/Do You Have a Chinois?

Thursday - last night was a bust! Went to the piano bar to sing and Bob Solone wasn't there - a few others, who were similarly unaware he'd taken the night off showed up and we sat at the piano and talked. One old gal, Penny, went through my massive music book, humming the tunes to herself, asking me now and again to sing her a song which I did. Then a call from Victor who was in the vicinity and he hopped over for about a half hour and we talked up a storm. I left shortly after he left to meet up with his partner.

Started the cooking and shlepping for my party. It's always an enormous undertaking. If I don't plan right I'll find myself totally depleted and unable to enjoy the event - dumb, right? To not enjoy the fruits of my own labor? Today two big soup pots simmering on the stove - making chicken soup. My Jewish friends tell me my chicken soup is the best they've had! The secret is probably because I cook the chicken backs for three days to produce a stock that is rich and complex. I'm also wise to the subtlety that secret ingredients can add - tiny quantities that fly beneath the palate radar. Into each pot, in addition to the usual suspects like ribs of celery, chunks of onion, carrots, bay leaf, salt and pepper, I also add JUST two whole cloves and two allspice berries. Learned the hard way how assertive these ingredients can be. My goal is a soup where chicken is the star with the other cast members doing their thing unnoticed behind the scenes. Next step - the soup will be filtered through a chinois to remove any grit, chilled, and the fat that congeals on top removed and saved to be used in the making of the matzo balls. Day before the party, I'll saute chopped carrots, celery and onion, add the chicken broth along with some fresh grated ginger and dill weed. I'll add back in, a few spoonfuls of the reserved chicken fat because any self-respecting chicken soup should glisten with a few beads of fat on top. And the matzo balls? Good thing I only make this soup once a year because it's the chicken fat that takes them over the top of deliciousness - I call them little pillows of heaven.  I hope your mouth is watering about now. Too bad you can't smell what I'm smelling!

And speaking of being depleted, just read a fascinating article in NYT entitled Relax, You'll Be More Productive by Tony Schwartz. You're thinking, "Yeah, sure. I've heard that advice before - power naps and all that." I know I have. Had this conversation with Liza last week when I landed this new gig and ruminated on how I was going to fit the work into my otherwise busy days. We reviewed how I spend my time. She laughed at me cuz it DID sound ridiculous! I get up naturally without an alarm which means some days I'm up at 6:30 and other days, especially if I've been out the night  before, it might be almost 8:00AM when the day starts. Feed the cats. Brew a pot of coffee. Do any dishes from the day before. Write the list. Drink coffee meditationally for about 1/2 hour - staring at my elm tree. Write the blog which takes about an hour. Attend to self care: vitamins, floss, water pic, physical therapy exercises, elliptical, shower. Get and open mail. Enter receipts into Quick Books and review online banking transactions. Catch up on e-mails. Work for about an hour. Run errands like banking, groceries, dry cleaner, salon. Cook. Eat healthy meals. Talk on the phone. Work for another hour. Take a nap. Do tasks from the list. Work day done. Go out. Have fun.

Liza, on the other hand never does less than several things at the same time - schedules her tasks for maximum efficiency, barely sleeps and keeps everyone on a tight schedule. She attempted to solve my time "problem" by suggesting I write my blog while on the elliptical (dictated), forego the half hour of coffee meditation and enjoy the coffee while catching up on e-mail etc.

So from the article, which you really should read for yourself, I plucked and transposed some salient points:

  • A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal -  including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations - boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.
  • Physicists understand energy as the capacity to do work. Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time it is renewable.
  • The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren't designed to expend energy continuously. Rather we're meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.
  • Researchers..discovered we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again....they also discovered this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives. During the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a  break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves - the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. 
  • To maximize gains...individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Companies like Google, Coke and others are tapping into this research and have started creating a work environment where employees are required to renew themselves periodically throughout the day. 
  • ..The energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important in terms of the value of their work than is the number of hours they work. By managing energy more skilfully, it's possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably ...When we're renewing, we're truly renewing, so when we're working, we can really work.

Not feeling so guilty about my half hour nap in the afternoon after reading that!!! I've known for a long time that tiny nap is key to my ability to maintain my productivity throughout the day and into the evening. People think I'm the energizer rabbit - I'm NOT!  That bunny just kept going and going and going.  I take time for renewal most days. Think Liza should do the same!



  1. We both know that you do not "get and open the mail" on a daily basis. :-)

  2. Ha ha! Busted! I also don't do my PT or exercises every day - guilty of getting lazy!