April 2013


Eliminating moving woes

I love moving.

I promise I’m not just saying that. Even as a child, graduating and moving to new schools, making new friends, new experiences, new surroundings, it’s always been a thrill to me. To me, there’s nothing like organizing your kitchen just right for the first time, picking just the right shade of blue for the family room, and deciding whether your couch should sit against a wall or float in the centre of the room. These decisions give me life; they are exhilarating. I totally understand that I’m probably alone in my love for the mundane task of moving houses.

As a soon-to-be wife and the mother of a toddler who now insists that he’s a “big boy anda Lion,” I no longer have the luxury of changing my environment on a whim. Luckily, I happen to be in the business of moving, and helping my clients stay on task and get organized is one of my favourite parts of my job. I’ve also learned some tips along the way that have helped to avoid moving day catastrophes.

For one thing, I encourage my clients to get a head start. Pack one box a day in the weeks leading up to the move to help alleviate the stress of one big “moving weekend”. Decide on the logistics of the move ahead of time. Are you using friends are hiring movers? Across how many days do you plan on actually executing the move? Basically, if there’s anything that can be done ahead of time, do it.

Another thing I’ve learned is to keep movers in the loop, particularly if my clients are hiring movers. I cannot tell you how unnecessarily stressful it is to realize that moving the baby grand piano is going to cost an additional $150 that wasn’t accounted for in the original budget and require moving equipment that will now take an extra two hours to go pick up – on the client’s dime.

It is important to keep movers aware of anything outside of ordinary boxes and furniture that they will need to move so that they are not caught off guard and have all the equipment needed.

The great part about moving (at least for me) is that it gives me an opportunity to purge my environment of all of the things that I don’t really need and/or use anymore. Clothing can be donated to local charities and old magazines and papers can be discarded or shredded. I prefer doing this at point A rather than bringing the clutter into point B.

One of the most basic tips I offer to my clients is to label everything. I cannot stress this enough.  You may think you’ll remember that the box with the blue ink stain on the top right corner is the one holding the cutlery, but when you’re all of a sudden in a room surrounded by dozens of identical looking boxes, things can get a little tricky. Plus, it’s always easier to just place labeled boxes in the rooms where they’ll need to be unpacked to prevent having to move boxes after you’ve just moved them.

And of course, tying up loose ends after the move is just as important as the move itself. Calling your service providers to inform them of the change (phone, internet, cable, etc.) can save you from waiting weeks for service appointments when you’re in your new home, and informing the postal service of your address change guarantees you won’t miss important correspondence.

Even with these tips, you might not see moving as a grand old time, but I’m hoping you’ll at least not see it as a stressful ordeal. Organization is key; the rest is just memories waiting to happen. Happy moving.


Dos and Don’ts of a competitive work environment PART 2

Yesterday we discussed 10 pointers to keep you on your A game at work. These are the final 10 tips to ensure your work life is harmonious and successful.

11. Switch off post work. Treat it like a part of your life. Not your life. This works as a deadline – it will help you effectively manage time, prioritize and concentrate better on work.

12. Set realistic goals, and leave a margin for mistakes. You are only human. Do not let anyone else forget that either.

13. Do not push people, and do not let people push you. Deadlines are excellent to out-perform other colleagues but they are catalysts in burning you out.

14. Dress according to the work atmosphere. Exude a vibe of no-nonsense attitude. If you take yourself seriously, your colleagues will take you seriously. Worry not: there will always be occasions to wear that backless red dress.

15. Appreciate every person for the good qualities they have. Your colleagues will not only respond to you as a person on priority but also their overall performance will be better.

16. Restrict criticism, instead start ‘critically appreciating’ your own and others work.

17. Know your job well, but also the periphery. Multitasking is the key today, but do not let it become a habit. Do not be tempted to interfere in your colleague’s task; you may become bait for all the work someone else did not show up to do. Have the knowledge, apply it only during crises.

18. If you want a different persona at work, decide your ‘character’ in advance and stick to it. If you choose the ‘silent, strong kind’ over ‘friendly, chirpy kind’ then you must imbibe it. Often a fluctuating persona and mood swings confuse people.

19. God is definitely in the details, but never compromise on the bigger picture for the details. No one appreciates the skill of a nitpicker, not even you.

20. Finally, assess your goals like the company asses the KRA. Are you heading in the right direction? If not, return and revisit your challenges and restructure your approach.

If you agree with these corporate environment dos and don’ts, it is important that you start practicing them. Do it as an experiment: change your attitude and note the experiences that you encounter at work. Modify these practices accordingly and formulate your own little guidebook to corporate success.


Dos and Don’ts of a competitive work environment PART 1

Every crisply-dressed career woman will tell you that corporate competition is not only about delivering more than you promise, but also about beating your deadlines and maintaining an impeccable code of conduct. All of the above are mandatory, and you can rest assured that your competitor is already doing this and more. Over the next two days, I will lay out the top 20 pointers to keep you on your A game.

1. Be professional. Professionals are honest to the act (work) and not the person behind the act. In order to achieve this, build a level of clarity within your personality.

2. Do not judge. Use the oldest and the wisest trick in the book: Watch and learn.

3. Do not forgive nastiness or jealousy. Do not encourage others to do what you would think twice about. Do not make scapegoats of others or become one. You won’t climb higher if you are habituated to pulling people down.

4. Do not compare and contrast. You may take longer initially to rise, but use the time to build the ladder.

5. Reserve your opinions and suggestions for friends and family. Remember, everyone seeks an alternative opinion – only to reconfirm their own. However, do not ignore a genuine need.

6. Appeal to the mind and not just the heart. Remember that ‘A bad decision made for a good cause is still a bad decision.’ Logic goes a long way.

7. Do not shoulder responsibilities or a colleague’s crisis. Listen and support, but do not let their ‘words’ colour your mind and outlook.

8. Start by treating your colleagues with silent respect. Let time decide your friendship.

9. Stay away from a gossiping colleague. And farther away from a ‘friendly’ colleague who warns you against others. Remember, you are there to work, not to get caught up in group politics.

10. Personal growth fosters professional growth. Irrespective of how you feel towards the organization, if you go disillusioned to work, your skills will suffer, and you may never deliver your best.


Don’t be sad

February blahs and blues, whatever you want to call it, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or, ‘SAD’, can rear its ugly head with many symptoms that can sometimes drag into March.  Many people experience them during the winter months when there is less exposure to sunlight. Some signs of SAD are mood swings, sluggishness or exhaustion, lack of interest, and weight gain.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body. One of its roles is to help regulate sleep. The amount produced depends on how much light there is in a 24 hour day. When it’s dark, the body naturally produces more Melatonin to induce sleep.

With the decrease of light in the winter, the body maintains a higher level of melatonin throughout the day, which is why many feel tired, and get moody during winter days. Your body thinks it should be sleeping.

Some are affected more than others. You can help yourself through this period by drinking plenty of water, continuing to exercise, and watching your diet. Cutting down on, sugar, refined carbs, and high-fat foods is a great start.

Getting out into the light slows the body’s production of Melatonin. Long walks, taking in the fresh air, and leaving sunglasses off to get as much light through as possible is rejuvenating, refreshing, and helps to keep the production of Melatonin at a manageable level.

Serotonin is another hormone produced by the body. Widely known as the ‘feel-good’ hormone, or the body’s self made tranquilizer. The more the body produces, the more relief you can get from your symptoms of SAD. A meal with a healthy dose of simple carbohydrates also increases the production of serotonin, which also leads to a better sleep, and positive attitude. What better way to start your day. By testing saliva, Medical research has also shown a rise in serotonin levels in individuals after Massage.

There’s another natural way to ease stress, and leave you with that feel-good feeling. Oxytocin, also called, the ‘cuddle hormone,’ is another feel good hormone. I think of it as “feeling the love”. Just spending time with friends and/or lovers, releases this powerful elixir. So eat, drink, sleep, dance, do the ‘hug thing’—lots—and feel that positive hormonal buzz to get your body, mind and soul, out of the ‘SAD’ness doldrums of the winter months.


Do You Want Some Barbershop With Your Doughnut?

Tim Horton’s is as Canadian as you can get. It’s a headquarters for business meetings, social meetings and even dating meetings. Canadians love to go to Tim’s and love the social life there.

Now, one Tim Horton’s store has a special happening to entice you into their Oakville store: a group of men who sing Barbershop a Capella have started spontaneously crooning during their visits to Tim Horton’s. Imagine if you scurried through the freezing winter air and shook yourself as you opened the door to a Tim Horton’s near you and thought, wow, what’s going on here?

What’s going on is an Oakville group known as The Entertainers. They are men singing Barbershop and have been Barbershopping for the last 44 years. It’s their habit to sing at their local donut shop every week following their rehearsals. What’s outstanding about these men and their group is that a videographer taped a Tim’s performance and posted it on YouTube a couple of weeks ago on January 7. Since then, the video has had—are you sitting down—206,000 views.

We all love to see spontaneous things happen, don’t we? It makes us feel that we’re part of something special. So imagine sitting in a coffee shop and suddenly this group of men starts singing out loud. It’d certainly get my attention.

It’s a beautiful little serendipity to experience during your ho-hum day. There is magic and there is a wonderful warm feeling that you’ll take away with you after you’ve lingered too long over coffee just because this was such an enchanting moment.

Some people might wonder if this could be a publicity stunt. Now, come on. Ditch your attitude by listening to a group that probably makes big bucks singing for free. Singing just for the pleasure of singing. Singing because it feels so good.

Perhaps the generosity of this group of singing for free just highlights how much more rewarding our days might be should we all adopt this attitude.

The original YouTube video that garnered 206,000 views of this wonderful group featured them singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King.

Yeah, I can.


Detoxification is not an extreme sport

When you hear the word “detox,” does it conjure up images of unappealing juices or thoughts of dragging yourself around feeling drained, achy or nauseated?

If a really uncomfortable detox has been your experience, it was likely too severe and overwhelmed your body’s detoxification pathways. It is essential that your body is able to effectively eliminate the toxins that get released, which does not always happen if you go too hard right out of the gate. Another issue that can arise from fasting cleanses that last more than a couple of days is nutrient deficiency. The body requires protein plus numerous vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to sufficiently detoxify and function normally.

With all of that to deal with, why worry about detoxification? Perhaps you’ve avoided trying one because it seemed to be too much of a hassle and isn’t that what bodies do anyway? It is, and the liver is particularly active in this regard, but these days the toxic exposure is exponentially higher than previous generations faced.

In addition to the natural by-products from bodily processes that have to be dealt with, consider the following sampling of toxins to which the average person is exposed every day:

Dietary: antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy, mercury in fish, pesticides and herbicides in non-organic foods including animal feed, over-the-counter and prescribed pharmaceuticals, food additives like colours, flavours and preservatives, chemical components from packaging (e.g. BPA in plastics and food can linings), contaminants in water, coffee, alcohol

Environmental: air pollution, chemical exposures at the workplace, household cleaning and “freshening” products, personal care items, perfumes and cosmetics, off-gassing from carpets and furnishings, cigarettes

And the lists go on. Supporting the body’s natural, daily detoxification processes is a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle and can keep you sleeping well, full of energy and on the path to long-term good health.

A formal detox period can also be a useful tool in kickstarting weight loss or as part of a yearly or semi-annual cleanup. Spring is a good time to undertake this in keeping with the natural rhythms of the changing season. Once the detox is over though, choosing not to go back to old habits and instead keeping the cleaner food intake is perhaps the most important part of all.

Visit again tomorrow for some simple tips for a gentle starter detox.


Deep calming breaths

This week has been one hell of a week. My father is once again seeking contact and this time he’s attempting to do so through a lawyer; my little brother was in an accident; and work has been bananas. Needless to say I’m taking a lot of deep calming breaths in between shots of whiskey.

I don’t handle certain types of stress well. Work is something I can handle; I am an expert in my field and I know how to deal with any situation that comes my way, but family stress is something that sends me off the rails. Through everything Mr. Unexpected has been a star. He is calm and understanding, lets me rant until I’ve exploded crazy all over the room and not once has he told me to stop because he understands that I need to let the crazy out.

When I first told him about the lawsuit he was a little blown away, understandably so, but it wasn’t long before he was helping me devise a plan to get through it. He is my calm in the storm; he is the reason that I am still standing instead of sitting in a puddle of sad on the floor.

I’ve never been in a relationship like this. I’ve had great love but I’ve never had a real partner, I’ve never had someone that I knew would be there for me whatever the situation.

There is a huge difference between having a man-friend and having a partner. Knowing that you have someone there who will help you, support you and love you is what makes the online dating, the terrible first dates, the heart stopping break-ups and the devastating loss all worth it. For the first time in my life I am not afraid to ask for the treatment I deserve and I’m not afraid that asking for it will make him run in the opposite direction.

Love isn’t enough to sustain a relationship; love without support is all heat and no substance.

This week has felt like a bit of a nightmare. If I didn’t have the support network that I do I think it would have swallowed me whole, but according to Mr. Unexpected giving up is not an option and that is non-negotiable.

I’m grateful to all the men that came before. They gave me perspective and that stops me from taking my relationship for granted. I am incredibly lucky to have someone in my life that not only loves me but supports and respects me.

So, world, what else have you got for me? Whatever it is, I can take it.


Curly fires spies

Here’s another story of weird news that leaves me shaking my head.

I’ve just read about The Psychometrics Centre, a Strategic Research Network of the University of Cambridge. The first thing I had to do was to look up the meaning of psychometrics: “Science of psychological measurement. Psychometricians design and administer psychological tests both to generate empirical data on mental processes and to refine their understanding of measurement techniques and the statistical analysis of results. Major concerns include test reliability and validity and standardization of results.”

In other words, Strategic Research Network = a new kind of spying. It turns out that Michal Kosinki and David Stillwell of the Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge could accurately predict, with varying degrees of success, whether someone used drugs, smoked, had divorced parents and leaned liberal or conservative.

And they can accomplish this all from your “likes” on Facebook! And incidentally, this Psychometric Centre page on Facebook, which I often use as a barometer of success, has only 375 “likes”. I’m not sure that small number will add a lot of credibility to this whole weird concept.

The study took the Facebook “likes,” which stay embedded in a social network page, of 60,000 volunteers in the United States. It looked at “photos, friends’ status updates, pages of products, sports, musicians, books, restaurants or popular Websites. The volunteers had from one to 700 likes each, with the average at 170.

The team was able to predict with 95 per cent certainty what race a person was, 93 per cent for gender, 88 per cent for sexual orientation, 82 per cent for religion, 73 per cent for smokers and 60 per cent for divorced parents.

Their findings? “The best predictors of high intelligence include ‘thunderstorms,’ ‘The Colbert Report,’ ‘science’ and ‘curly fries,’” the study said. “To be honest, we were mind blown when we saw the results for the first time,” Kosinski told Lesley Ciarula Taylor, news reporter at the Toronto Star.

Oh, really.

So, what does it mean if I love thunderstorms but hate science? And don’t even get me started on Stephen Colbert. And if I like straight cut fries instead of curly fries, am I suddenly not so smart anymore? What kind of science do I have to like? The science of psychological measurement perhaps, or would that be too incestuous?

Or what does it mean if I like curly fries and I am Stephen Colbert? Has anyone asked Mr. Colbert this important stuff? Does he realize that his quest for stardom has just been moved ahead several points with these survey findings? How does he feel about curly fries?

Graduates of Cambridge University have won a total of 65 Nobel Prizes, the most of any university in the world. But Kosinki? Don’t buy your ticket to Sweden just yet.

The social scientist in Kosinki imagines a day when a person’s Smartphone will be able to predict what they want far more accurately than a spouse, something he finds exciting “but also creepy.”

Creepy. Right.


Coaching towards a new you

Type “how to create change in yourself” into Google and countless sources on how to become a better person pop up. Whether it’s the cause of a break up, a new job opportunity, or a move, people will look to any source possible, in order to discover what it takes to make a positive lifestyle change. If these countless words of wisdom don’t prove to be of worth, know that there is always someone nearby to help guide individuals along the journey of self-transformation.

A life coach is invaluable in the process of making lasting change in the lives of others. Claire Coltsmann is the owner of Reach Coaching, a Toronto-based coaching company. Coltsmann has 10 years under her belt as a certified life coach, and she continues to work with numerous clientele with varying issues. Her clients are aware of the obstacles that change can bring, especially a major change within oneself.

“As change can be difficult, sometimes people need help,” says Coltsmann. “When a life coach is contacted, it is usually when something happens that usually creates a need for change. You need to ask the clients, ‘Are you ready for change?’”

Lack of motivation and uncertainty when tackling change is normal, but the sole motion of setting both long and short-term goals is a step in the right direction. Jenni Dunning, a writer at the Toronto Star, wrote an article last February titled “Life coach helped Toronto Star writer escape demons and despair.” Dunning wrote the article as a reflection of previously distressing times, claiming that the use of a life coach has helped her overcome her self-doubt. Her troubles began during a time of unemployment back in 2009 when the recession hit. Upon being referred to a life coach by a friend, Dunning was able to learn a great deal about herself and was able to construct an ideal vision of what she wanted out of life.

The objective of a life coach is to connect with clients by providing them with useful tools and exercises to assist in structuring change. This process varies depending on personal requirements. The session may take place in person or over the telephone, and either way there are limitless opportunities to explore and improve areas of one’s life.

When someone understands the importance of moving forward and maintaining confidence, it can only bring forth stronger self-realization.

“As a life coach, it is important to gather the best of who you are and how you operate. Problem-focused coaching is crucial in the process of identifying what you want to create, instead of looking at the past,” says Coltsmann. “The energy is focused on present and future. From there you are able to apply what you learn to overcome challenges.”

Change does not have to be a lonely or debilitating process. By developing a clear perception of one’s goals and dreams, that alone is a promising beginning of a prosperous future.


Catholic Church has chosen their Pope

The Catholic Church has a new leader.

At 7:07 CET, white smoke billowed from the Sistene Chapel, announcing to the world that the conclave had finally come to an agreement. Four previous ballots had failed to result in a victor.

Although the new pope has yet to be officially revealed, he is set to appear on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica within the hour.

The new pope has his work cut out for him, as the Catholic Church has been facing a lot of scrutiny in later years after numerous controversies involving corruption and sexual assault in the church.

Update: the new pope is Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina. Bergoglio, or pope Francis, is the first Latin American to head the Roman Catholic Church.