The Joys of Productivity

Bosses everywhere strive to achieve a level of healthy productivity in their workplaces. By that, we mean that employees are healthy in a manner that is sustainable for both the company and their personal well-being. However, as you may have encountered in one of your employment roles over the years, it is possible to become far too busy to be effective as an employee or function well as a human being. However, going too far in the opposite direction is not good either as tempting as it may be at times.

Do what you can to find the right balance because being productive is very good for you on the whole. Here are a few reasons why:

You can learn many new things

Keeping busy means almost inevitably trying and learning new things. If you do not do very much, or you simply do the same things over and over, you pass up on a great chance to learn new skills. This will also help you become more open to trying new things.

It keeps your brain healthy and active

Have you ever heard the phrase “use it or lose it”? Well, it can apply to your brain as well. Learning to do new things and performing activities that keep your brain active and stimulated can help to maintain its health.

You can help you do better at work

Even in workplaces that do not have video cameras on at all times, supervisors notice whether employees are being active and productive. If you are simply sitting around and doing the bare minimum of work, it will be noticed whether you think it is or not. Employees who take the initiative and go above and beyond usually are the ones who get rewarded. That can mean either a raise or a promotion.

Don’t Forget to Relax

That probably seems like an odd title for an article. I mean, who forgets to relax? Well, you might be surprised to know that many of us are not taking the necessary time to relax each day. That can have consequences for both our physical and mental well-being. Here are just a few reasons why you need to set aside some time each day to do nothing but relax.

Heart health

We all know that high blood pressure is bad for your heart. There are many things that can cause this condition, including a lack of proper relaxation. So, sitting around and “doing nothing” can actually have some heart benefits. Just do not do it excessively because you still need a proper amount of exercise every day.

Brain health

Just like you can overdo it with your body, it is entirely possible to overwork your brain. That affects your decision-making skills and accuracy, and not in a positive way. Also, failure to properly relax can lead to such mental health conditions as depression and anxiety, as well as frequent and debilitating headaches.

Sleep health

Trying to sleep when your mind and body are not in a state of relaxation often results in substandard sleep or even no sleep at all. Not getting a proper rest at night negatively impacts both your mind and your body, and can have seriously negative effects on both.

Stomach health

You have probably heard the expression “my stomach is tied up in knots.” While that does not literally happen, prolonged tension is bad for your stomach because it can lead to conditions like ulcers. Prolonged anxiety can also make you feel sick to your stomach, which is certainly unpleasant. No one likes to feel ill, so take some time to relax and allow your inner systems to slow to a crawl.

Ways That You Can Save Time

Many of us are so busy, it feels like we barely have a chance to sit down and rest. Even so, it still seems like there are always things that don’t get done. There must be a way to get more hours out of the day! Well, technically, there isn’t, but there are things you can do to save time each week. Here are a few to keep in mind:

Plan Ahead

Make a list of things you need to get done and figure out the most efficient ways to do them. That way, when some free time comes your way, you can jump right in and get started on them.

Be Flexible

If you need to do work on your computer, consider getting a laptop. That way, you can work almost anywhere.

Turn Off Your Phone

You would probably be horrified to learn just how much time you spend each week looking at social media. Turn off your phone at several points in the day and just concentrate on the job at hand. If you have to turn off your phone and put it in another room, then do so.

Cook for Many, Even If It is Just You

We can spend a lot of time preparing meals, so why not spend a little extra time one or two days, and then no time the rest of the week? Make a large portion of one or two meals and then freeze the rest, which you will then eat over the course of the next few days.

Get More (and Better) Sleep

It is hard to overestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. If you are tired, you not only work more slowly but also with less and less accuracy. Try your best to get 7-8 solid hours of sleep every night.

The Benefits of Writing

Almost all of us perform some type of writing during the course of a typical day. This may be filling out forms, creating reports, answering emails, or drafting memos. Then there are those among us who write for living or for pleasure. Those falling into the latter categories earn some additional benefits from learning that the average person does not.

Jump Start Your Brain

If you have trouble getting started in the morning, writing can be a good way to jump start your brain. It does not have to be anything complicated; even just writing out a few sentences about what you plan to do that day or even your hopes and dreams can get things rolling in a positive way.

Expand Your Vocabulary

Many people tend to use the same words over and over because those are the ones they are most comfortable with. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is also no reason why you should not expand your vocabulary.

A broader vocabulary makes you more efficient and effective at most any job. It will also improve your conversational skills and that will make you a more interesting person to talk to.

Make You More Marketable

You may be excellent in your line of work, but it never hurts to have a backup plan. In this day and age, increasingly few vocations are evergreen thanks to ever-changing technology. Entire types of career can and will disappear in the future. That means the competition for the remaining jobs will be more intense, so they will ultimately go to the candidates with the best qualifications.

Being a good writer can make you a candidate that stands out from the pack, even if writing is only a part of your job duties. Supervisors like well-rounded employees who can more than pull their weight; being a good writer will help you achieve that status.

Should You Be Allowed to Obscure Your Identity Online?

People do all kinds of different things on the internet and, in some cases, they are also all kinds of different people. Facebook has a strict policy that you must create an account under your real name in order to use the site, while Twitter does not. In general, most websites allow you to enter whatever name you like and people take advantage of that.

For example, they may be participating in a political forum and espousing their liberal views. Using a pseudonym allows that individual to remain protected, theoretically, and that might prevent them from getting in trouble with a conservative boss at work. Or someone who is thinking of coming out, might seek information from an LBGTQ forum where their identity can remain a secret until they decide they are ready to share their sexual orientation with the world.

These examples are fine, though it must be pointed out that many people abuse the privilege of online anonymity. Some do this for malicious purposes, such as trolling or other forms of harassment. Others do it to indulge in illegal activity, such as downloading pirated movies and TV shows, or other more serious criminal pursuits. You don’t have to be tech savvy to disguise yourself online either: video private networks (VPNs) are subscription services that provide users with the option of IP addresses in multiple countries. Want to watch something on the BBC iPlayer, but don’t live in England? Simply click on a UK IP address provided by your VPN and the BBC does not know the difference.

Governments and corporations take a dim view of such activity. Russia and China announced that VPNs will be banned in those countries by the end of the year. This is unfortunate because it will rob citizens of the chance to speak openly and potentially criticize those authoritarian governments. But, of course, that is just the sort of openness they seek to oppress.

Ikea Popping up in Toronto

I recently wrote about how everyone’s favourite affordable furniture store Ikea had announced plans to expand the number of locations it has in Canada. Well, if you live in the downtown Toronto area and love Ikea, you have a treat in store: an Ikea pop-up cafe is opening on Queen West this week!

It won’t just be a mini store; Ikea is using the occasion to emphasize the fun aspects of their brand. In fact, the pop-up is officially called the Ikea Play Cafe, so be prepared to shop, have fun, and eat. Yes, you can get meatballs, but there will also be such choices as frozen yogurt, chicken and veggie balls, waffles, chips and more!

The fun aspect is equally creative. Do you like pinball? Well, the pop-up offers a giant pinball machine made entirely out of Ikea kitchen products! There is also an inventive tic tac toe game.

Surprisingly, Ikea does not have a downtown location, though they did a similar pop-up store last year on King Street West.

There have been mixed opinions over such retailer experiments. Some consumers like to be able to experience what a retailer has to offer, without having to journey outside the downtown core. However, others who oppose corporate stores feel that pop-ups represent an intrusion that adds nothing to the local culture and hurts traditional, independently-owned firms that rely on regular traffic to keep the doors open. What is your opinion? Do you think these Ikea promotions are fun and helpful or result in a more homogenized and less interesting consumer experience? Press the comment button and let me know!

The site closes on June 27th and the company said they currently have no plans to open a permanent cafe. However, you never know: if enough people come out, you might be able to enjoy that Ikea convenience and ambiance downtown any day of the week!

The Rent Fairness Act 2017: Who Wins and Who Loses?

Rents have soared in much of Canada, including many parts of Ontario. If you lived in a building built before 1991, you were protected by provincial guidelines that limited the amount that rents could be increased each year. If not, you were subject to the whims of landlords and that has meant some major shock: rents sometimes go up hundreds of dollars at a time.

The Ontario government recently responded with the Rent Fairness Act 2017, which extends rent protections to all buildings, no matter what year they were constructed.  This no doubt a relief to those in newer buildings, but will not help tenants whose rents went up prior to the act coming into affect.

So, who are the winners and losers here? Tenants would certainly seem to be in the former category. However, they could also end up being losers in the long run.

Some industry representatives have stated that the new rules will dis-incentivize builders from constructing rental housing. The thought here is that it will take much longer for them to recoup and turn a profit through these controlled rents vs the one-time sale of a condominium.

What are your thoughts on this? I’m of two minds. If you cannot afford a house or a condo, it seems like you are throwing money away by renting an apartment. However, if renting is your only option, apartments are a better choice because condo renters have almost no rights.

Also, if you are retirement age and downsizing, renting is not such a bad option, given the controls that the government has put in place.

As an apartment renter in a fairly expensive Southern Ontario city, I welcome these additional controls, even though I already live in a building that is exempt. Everyone needs a little more peace of mind these days and knowing that your rent will remain manageable helps to deliver that.

 

TIFF and the Bell Lightbox: Heaven for Cinephiles

They are still accepting submissions, so we are quite awhile from getting the final line-up for TIFF 2017. But it’s hard not be excited by the imminent arrival of this celebration of worldwide filmmaking. It really makes September much more interesting and, in a way, helps with the sadness I always feel when summer is wrapping up.

The festival was established in 1976 on a far more modest scale than the internationally recognized behemoth we know today. The initial attendance for that 1976 event was only 35,000; can you believe that?

Today, TIFF all but rivals the Cannes Film Festival in terms of its size, the number of films screened, the number of major movies selected, and the importance of the stars and directors who attend. Many a movie has gotten a major launch in theatres because it was so well-received at TIFF.

However, TIFF differs from Cannes in a number of important ways. Unlike that European festival, TIFF is not really as much of a competition. It also costs notably less for Hollywood companies to launch their films in Toronto vs France.

Like Christmas, TIFF comes but once a year. However, there is always the Bell Lightbox. An official arm of TIFF, the Lightbox is almost always in operation and consistently offers an interesting slate of both new and old films. Projection and sound quality is top notch in each of the screening rooms, and most of the audience are dedicated cinephiles. That is nirvana for those tired of the boors in multiplexes who are always playing with their phones during screenings. At one Lightbox movie I attended, someone pulled out a phone and they were admonished within ten seconds. Yes!

So, be sure to enjoy everything TIFF has to offer, but don’t forget about the Lightbox. Check out the latest TIFF schedule here; I’m particularly excited by the upcoming festival dedicated to French crime thrillers! Alain Delon!