Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

get ready for your speech/ workaholics

Sept. 30, 2017 "How to get ready for your next big speech": Today I found this article by Greg Wells in the Globe and Mail:

Physiologist and exercise medicine researcher at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, author of Superbodies and The Ripple Effect.

The skill of communication in the era of social media, leading without a title and brand awareness has never been more important. Steve Jobs knew how important a speech can be.

He practised for days before presentations. More recently, Elon Musk has delivered presentations for Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity initiatives. These talks have led to the exponential growth of his companies and, possibly, a different future for humanity.

Despite the importance of communication (or maybe because of it), public speaking remains one of our greatest fears. Jerry Seinfeld said once that an average person at a funeral prefers to be in the casket than give the eulogy.

I don't think it has to be that way. If you apply the science of human performance, you can improve your ability to deliver powerful messages, and improve your mental and physical health at the same time. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Prepare relentlessly

When I was asked in 2010 to be the on-air sport science analyst for the Vancouver Olympics, I had almost no TV experience. Before the Games started, I asked other commentators how to prepare. The best answer I received? "Relentlessly."

As a result, I made it a rule to rehearse my segments until I could perform them at least 10 times in a row with no mistakes. This translated into three to four hours of practice for a single three to four minute segment.

Bart Egnal, president and CEO of the leadership communication firm the Humphrey Group, says that great speakers deliver their presentations many times before the actual event. He also recommends recording a video of yourself and reviewing it to discover how you can improve your delivery.

Preparation is a key factor for elevating your confidence for the stage, camera or meeting room and performing with more positive energy and relaxation.

Tip #2: Get a great sleep

Research is clear that we need seven to eight hours of sleep to be our healthiest and have the lowest risk of disease. Interestingly, we need the same amount to perform at our best.

We encode memories when we sleep, so if you want all that rehearsing to stick, sleeping will make it happen. Sleep also improves creativity and problem solving. To come up with new solutions to old problems or to answer tough questions with clarity and insight, make sleep a priority.

The night before a big presentation or meeting, make sure you defend your last hour before sleep. Turn off your computer, put away your phone, stretch for a few minutes, take a hot bath with Epsom salts, meditate and read some fiction to get your mind off your work.

Defending your last hour is a powerful technique for improving sleep, performance and, ultimately, your health.

Tip #3: Eat to perform

High performers know that the way they eat has a direct effect on how well they think.

Brains are incredible organs that can integrate senses with feelings, transfer experiences into long-term memory, and learn and create new connections to support complex thought and reasoning. Nutrition can either improve or hinder those mental performances.

To give yourself the best possible chance of delivering a great speech, adopt a few key nutritional strategies:

1. Compared to their well-hydrated peers, dehydrated subjects in a study exerted a higher level of neuronal activity in order to achieve the same performance level. To perform at your best with the least amount of effort, get and stay hydrated. Always take a water bottle to meetings or presentations.

2. Use caffeine as a tool, not a crutch. The peak benefits of caffeine are reached 30-60 minutes after ingestion, so time your tea or coffee to boost your performance.

3. Have a small meal with healthy carbohydrates (slow-digesting carbs packed full of nutrients and fibre), lean protein (lentils, legumes, quinoa, organic meat) and healthy fats (cold-water fatty wild fish, nuts, avocados, olive oil, coconut) about 90-120 minutes before your event. Avoid simple carbohydrates (the white stuff) as much as possible. My go-to meal before speaking is wild salmon, steamed spinach with olive oil, and quinoa.

4. Have a micro-snack about 15 minutes before go time. I use nuts and blueberries for this as they provide some healthy fats, fibre and slow-digesting sugars for energy during the presentation.

Tip #4: Activate the mind-body connection
When I read his biography, I noticed that Steve Jobs conducted his meetings while walking around the Apple campus. If Jobs took people for a walk, they were more creative, had better energy and thought more clearly.

Turns out Jobs's experience is backed up by the research. Scientists at Stanford University found that walking boosts creative inspiration and that creative output can be increased by an average of 60 per cent. You can do this as well. As little as five minutes of exercise improves mental performance. Go for a walk before that presentation. Do a few flights of stairs. If you need to solve a problem, move your body, stretch or lift some weights in the hour before you tackle the challenge.

Applying the science of human performance can improve your ability to deliver powerful messages effectively and enhance your mental and physical health at the same time. Try these protocols before your next critical meeting or presentation.

Workaholics, take heart: Long hours may not always be bad for your health: Today I found this article by Virginia Galt in The Globe and Mail:

Working to excess has never been viewed as particularly healthy – quite the opposite, in fact.

However, new research out of Simon Fraser University suggests it’s not necessarily harmful if people are logging the extra hours by choice – whether out of professional pride, to launch a career, for the intellectual stimulation or because they simply love the job.

“Engagement is the key,” said Lieke ten Brummelhuis, an assistant professor at SFU’s Beedie School of Business and lead author of Beyond Nine to Five: Is Working to Excess Bad for Health?

The study, co-written with Nancy Rothbard of the University of Pennsylvania and Benjamin Uhrich of the University of North Carolina Charlotte, was recently published in the Academy of Management Discoveries journal.

Their study of 763 Dutch employees of an international financial company found that long hours, per se, don’t lead to adverse health outcomes among non-workaholics if their work behaviour is more a result of preference than compulsion.

Workaholics who compulsively put in longer hours than necessary despite not liking their jobs were the most likely workers in the study group to have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, putting them at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, the researchers found.

Engaged workaholics, on the other hand, “work excessively and compulsively, but also enjoy their work and report feeling vigorous, absorbed and dedicated while working.

This isn’t to suggest that employers should boost work hours on the assumption that their hardest-working employees will happily take on even more, Prof. ten Brummelhuis hastened to add.

(She defines excessive hours as 10 hours or more above the weekly average in any given market).

But it does point to the buffering effect of job satisfaction and engaging work, particularly in occupations in which employees work long hours either by choice or necessity.

The study also underlines the importance of recovery time between demanding work stretches. “Workaholics are more likely to keep obsessing and worrying about work, even when they are not technically working … which may interfere with their ability to sleep,” leading to distress and fatigue, the authors wrote.

“Non-workaholics may be better at switching off. … After working extended hours, they may feel satisfied, sleep well and hence feel recovered the next morning,” the researchers said. But they also need uninterrupted downtime between deadlines, Prof. ten Brummelhuis said in an interview.

At Vancouver-based accounting firm Manning Elliott, the hours typically extend beyond nine-to-five during peak work periods, managing partner Alden Aumann said. Employees sometimes work two or three long weeks before a lull, “and then they hit it again,” he said in an interview.

“It’s the nature of our business, quite frankly … Some people can’t work that way.” But the firm has no trouble attracting and retaining employees, who have considerable flexibility over when and where they do their work.

“It depends on your client deadline and who you are working with in that particular engagement. We don’t timeclock punch; it doesn’t make sense for us. The work occurs when you need it done.”

His firm’s approach to flexible work hours, time to recharge between assignments and worklife balance was recently featured on the Chartered Professional Accountants Canada website.

“In public practice, we have a lot of peak load periods,” Mr. Aumann told the CPA. “If a client needs it now, we find a way to do it.”

Still, “you can’t work at peak all the time,” he said, and the firm’s accountants are encouraged to take time off in their less-busy periods. Some of his employees are quite gung-ho and want to put in the most hours, Mr. Aumann said.

He has gently intervened on a couple of occasions. “You have to kind of gently pull them back a little bit because they could burn themselves out without noticing it.”

It’s a delicate balancing act for managers, satisfying the desire of some of their most motivated employees for new challenging work while not overloading them, Prof. ten Brummelhuis said.


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