Tag Archives: Sustainability

An Alternative to Coffee During the Afternoon Lull — Meditation

No doubt you’ve come across articles that explain that we have a tendency to fall into an afternoon lull. There have also been a number of article that offer a solution to beating this afternoon lull. However, I’ve yet to see any of these articles offer what could be the best use of that time, yet — meditation.

The benefits of meditation are endless not the least of which is mitigating the effect of cognitive biases. So, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, why not try doing a quick 2-, 3-, 5-, or 10-minute meditation when that afternoon lull comes along. In fact, to up the stakes, I’d be interested to see some research on this. My bet is that meditation would be more effective (and sustainable) than coffee in picking you up. Of course, researching this might prove a bit difficult, but I think it’s doable. Let’s break it down.

I’d want to see three groups: meditation, coffee, and control. Of course, we’d need to have a representative sample, controlling for people who already have a proclivity towards meditation and/or coffee. If at all possible, it’d be great to have two meditation groups, actually: one that already regularly meditates and one that doesn’t.

Initially, I hypothesized that meditation would be more effective. We’d need to determine how we were going to measure effectiveness. I suppose one could consider the remaining hours at work, as the pick-me-up during the afternoon lull is likely a way to get one to the end of the day. In that sense, we’d also want to control for the amount of hours that people continued to work after the meditation/coffee break. At a minimum, it’s something we’d need to measure to maintain internal validity.

I also hypothesized that meditation would be a more sustainable solution to the afternoon lull. Again, how are we going to measure this. My thinking would be including some sort of fatigue/health factor in the study. I suspect that those inclined to have a cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up are probably already drinking coffee to start their day and as a result, might just be taxing their system by having that extra hit of caffeine in the afternoon. Conversely, plenty of research has been conducted on the health benefits of meditation. So, not only would some folks be eliminating the overtaxing nature of a second dose of caffeine, they’d also be reaping the benefits of meditation.

Twenty Online Talks That Will Change Your Life, Part 2

Yesterday, I began going through one of The Guardian’s articles about 20 online talks that could change your life. We got through the first 10 talks yesterday. In this post, we’ll look at the last 10 talks.

11. Shaking Hands With Death – Terry Pratchett

12. The Voices in My Head – Eleanor Longden

If you have no experience with schizophrenia, Longden’s talk will certainly change that. It’s important to note, not everyone comes as ‘far’ as she did. Nonetheless, I hope her story fosters empathy within you.

13. Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101 – Albert Bartlett

I don’t remember when I first saw this lecture from Bartlett, but I know that it was probably one of the first lectures I watched on the internet (maybe 15 years ago?). If you’re captivated by headlines like “Crime Doubles in a Decade,” or you’re confused about inflation then you’ll learn a lot in the first half of the video. As someone who majored (second major) in sociology, I can certainly empathize with the idea of a Malthusian catastrophe. I suppose I’m putting stock in the fact that something will change before it gets to that. You may be tired of hearing that people of time X couldn’t have predicted what life would be like in time Y, but I’d say that this is a big factor in why I think we’re not hurtling toward the future that Bartlett explains. Of course, I could be wrong, but I really think that something will change before it comes to this.

14. The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class – Elizabeth Warren

15. The Secret Powers of Time – Philip Zimbardo

If you’ve ever taken PSYC 100, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Zimbardo. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, his famous experiment will: the Stanford Prison Experiment. I remember watching the RSA Animate version of this talk a couple of years ago. Zimbardo shines a light where you might not have been looking: your relationship to time.

16. The secret to desire in a long-term relationship – Esther Perel

17. Printing a human kidney – Anthony Atala

In 2011 when this talk was given, the idea of 3D printing was brand new. To some, it may still be. I remember talking about it last year in the context of rapid technological change. If you’re still fuzzy on 3D printing, this is an enlightening place to start.

18. Do schools kill creativity? – Ken Robinson

If you’ve ever watched a TEDTalk, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of this one from Ken Robinson. As of this time last year, it was the most watched TEDTalk – ever – with almost 15,000,000 views. If you haven’t seen this one, spend the next 20 minutes doing just that.

19. Sugar: The Bitter Truth – Robert Lustig

20. Moral behavior in animals – Frans de Waal


If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

What Do You Stand For?

In skimming through this week’s The Economist, I noticed a rather intriguing letter. I’ve included it below:

Go west!

SIR – I am a water-treatment operator in Fort McMurray, in the heart of Alberta’s oil-sands country, and I read your piece about our boom town (“The sands of grime”, November 17th). There are labour shortages here and we really do need 100,000 skilled tradesmen, as you said. But I’m worried that articles like yours might frighten off workers by writing about, for instance, our “ultra-low temperatures”.

Of course it’s cold here. It’s Canada. Last night was -27 Celsius (-17 Fahrenheit) and I went out without my jacket zipped up; you get used to the cold. And it is expensive to buy or rent property, which is why many people share apartments. In order to attract more workers the site camps are improving their facilities and financial packages.

My grandfather owned an iron foundry in Britain’s West Midlands. I was always taught that dirty hands make clean money. If you tell someone here that you are out of work you will get no sympathy as so much employment is available. Over the past 20 months I have earned $300,000 and spent a few weeks on vacation in Miami, a few more in Virginia and a few more in Toronto. It certainly beats overturning cars and waiting for some Russian or Arab billionaire to buy my local football club while collecting benefits.

The oil-sands boom is happening, like it or not, so why not make some money during this gold rush. Come on out and get your hands dirty.

Simon Moss
Fort McMurray, Canada

The letter-writer makes some good points, but as I considered the closing thoughts, I struggled with imagining myself as someone working in the oil-sands of Canada. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that oil is an important part of life (and the economy) as it stands today, but I just don’t know if I could bring myself to work for a cause that I didn’t whole-heartedly support. When I started my MBA back in the fall of 2011, one of my first thoughts was that I would graduate and work for a firm for which the mission was wholly congruent with mine. This was a strong contributing factor that led to me interning with Ashoka this past summer.

While providing energy/goods is a noble mission, I don’t know if I want to be directly part of it in this way. That is, I don’t know if I would want to use my skills in this way. However, I wouldn’t absolutely rule out working for a firm/organization that is in this industry. My way of reconciling something like this would be working for the firm’s department/area responsible for corporate social responsibility.