Filtering by Tag: productivity

Oooh, Listen to the Music!

We're giving you an excuse to listen to your playlist at work - it helps you be productive!

Do you have any tasks that are repetitive and grueling? Checking emails might be one thing many people grunt about. What about data entry? Paperwork? Editing and review? If you've done a specific task for a long enough time, your brain starts to yawn and you might lag. But studies are showing that music can have a great effect on your work.  The University of Windsor, Canada released the results of an experiment which "indicated that state positive affect and quality-of-work were lowest with no music, while time-on-task was longest when music was removed." In other words, music can help you be more efficient.

The benefits aren't just in efficiency. The right song can also spur your creativity - if it's not too loud! The Journal of Consumer Research announces that "results from five experiments demonstrate that a moderate (70 dB) versus low (50 dB) level of ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products." It's probably something we've all suspected, but the data brings it home. Adapt your music for the mood most appropriate to the work at hand (energetic or contemplative?) and keep the volume at a moderate level - neither too low or too high. 

As a general rule, if you need to focus (and the task is not repetitive and requires more mental exertion) avoid an abundance of lyrics and stick to music you're familiar with. This limits the distractor factor while still stimulating you. 

As a last note, some people talk about the "Mozart Effect," a phenomenon that supposedly increased the IQs and learning potential of young children when they listened to Mozart. There was a lot of controversy over this, and what it is really based on are studies showing temporary learning improvement in adult brains. However, further studies have indicated that Mozart's music isn't the only kind that can help peak your brain - it seems that many different kinds of music that strongly resonate with you can help your cognition. 

Take these tips, and experiment with them in the workplace. With a little rhythm and beat, your "engine" should run more smoothly. 

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Eating Your Way to Success, Part 2: Superfood Edge

If you’ve left the Standard American Diet and started eating whole foods, congratulations! You’ve made a challenging yet important step towards improving your life.  Hopefully, your colleagues are noticing, too! In this post, we’re going to offer tips for getting an extra edge in health and performance. Are you ready to step it up a notch?


These are nutritional powerhouses that give significant benefits. There are many types of superfoods, some of them obscure and expensive, and others unsuspecting items on your plate. For example, have you ever heard of maca, lucuma, and kamu kamu? Maybe not. But did you know broccoli, blueberries, and the same seeds used in Chia Pets are considered superfoods?

We'll focus on just two items that give the most ROI. Growing or making them yourself doesn't require much time and saves you a ton of money in the long run. 


Kefir: The Russian Elixir

This fermented milk beverage is believed to have existed for centuries in Eastern Europe and has a long track record of increasing longevity, fighting off disease, and promoting wellbeing. This is most likely due to cultures of friendly, probiotic bacteria (up to 32 different strains) that proliferate in it. Probiotics are now esteemed as vital for optimal health. The Harvard Medical School states, “Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.” 

While scientific research of kefir is still in its infancy, there are studies on rodents that indicate kefir could slow tumor growth and protect against radioactivity. Plus, it has a host of nutrients, such as protein, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Homemade kefir is simple to make and can have up to 22 more strains of probiotic bacteria than its store-bought counterpart. After your initial batch, you'll only need to pay for the milk for each cycle, since the culture can be reused.

A Note about Grains

Kefir cultures come in “grains,” which resemble a hybrid of cauliflower and cottage cheese. There is also a water kefir spin-off that comes from a different set of grains (resembling small crystals), yet has about the same amount of probiotic strains. The main differences are that water kefir has a higher sugar content and lacks some of the nutrients found in milk kefir. But it is more versatile – you can combine it with any fruit juice and sweetener to get unique nutritional profiles and flavors. Coconut water kefir is a popular choice since it has nearly half the calories of most fruit juice kefirs.

Kefir grains can be easily found on Amazon, Etsy, or Kefirlady. 

Click on these hyperlinks to learn how to make milk kefir and water kefir.


Lion’s Mane: Nature's Brain Food

This odd mushroom, also resembling cauliflower (albeit with teeth), has been a powerful ingredient in Ancient Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Its most notable effects are in cognitive enhancement and memory, making it a nootropic, or brain booster. Japanese Buddhist monks once used it to help their concentration in meditation. Can it help you in work?

It seems so. The Huffington Post discusses a Japanese study on the mushroom, "Giving lion's mane to 30 Japanese patients with mild cognitive impairment resulted in significant benefits for as long as they consumed the mushrooms." Scientists have discovered that lion's mane stimulates Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which helps build and maintain nerve cells. It also improves myelination, referring to the coating around neuronal branches (axons) that contributes to nerve processing. Like the kefir studies, research into lion's mane is also just beginning. But the long-documented history and results so far make a compelling case. 

For best results, it is recommended to take lion's mane in powdered form, mixed into hot water to make a tea. Or you can grow your own and eat the mushroom fresh. 

Concluding Points

Take this as your launchpad to learning more about nutrition, superfoods and nootropics. Remember that supplements of any type, even organic ones, are not a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle - which is why they are supplemental!

Please keep in mind that there are many foods and supplements touted as miraculous, and they're often insanely priced. Be discerning and selective. Look into quality research and history. At the same time, there are some foods that just haven't been researched yet. Experiment for yourself to see what works, and pay close attention to your body. Awareness is key!

Here's a brief list of evidence-based superfoods and nootropics for you to explore:

  • Fish
  • Barley
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Blueberries
  • Bacopa

You truly can eat (or drink) your way to success!

This information is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please consult your medical practitioner if you have any concerns about how the foods discussed will affect you. 

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Eating Your Way to Success

Did you know the World Health Organization estimates that proper nutrition would increase productivity by 20 percent? It seems incredible, but simple changes in diet can have a profound effect on work performance. 

The Standard American Diet consists of copious fast food, junk food, microwave meals, sodas, and candy - in short, anything loaded with artificial ingredients or devoid of real nutrition. Consuming this type of food impedes our cognitive abilities and overall health. We seem to save money and time, but in the long run, a poor diet steals from us through medical costs and lower productivity. 

We all have a rough idea of what’s bad for our bodies. Do your best to ditch:

  • Refined foods (usually white)
  • Highly processed foods (usually with long lists of ingredients)
  • Most fats and oils (e.g. lard, margarine, corn oil, and processed vegetable oil)
  • Excessive sodium (above 2300 mg a day)
  • Excessive amounts of meat, particularly red meat (stick to small portions of poultry or fish)
  • Excessive sugar, in particular refined, white sugar and all types of corn syrup

What is ideal for optimum nutrition? Here are some guidelines:

  • All vegetables, in large portions
  • All fruits, in moderate to large portions
  • Whole grains in moderate portions (brown or wild rice, quinoa, barley, spelt, oats)
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes in small to moderate portions
  • Healthy oils, such as coconut, olive, canola, and sunflower oils

As a general rule, try to prepare as much of your food as you can with the freshest ingredients possible. Seek out organic produce, as it is grown in richer soil, is pesticide-free, and non-GMO. There are many ways to buy quality produce economically, such as:

  • starting or joining a Food Buying Club
  • asking for “seconds” from local farmers
  • growing some of your own at home or in a community garden
  • searching for great deals at various stores and farmers markets

Final Tips

It is important to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. A very helpful tool is a nutrition tracker, which you can find online or in a mobile app store. Some top-rated ones are MyFitnessPal, CRON-O-Meter, and SparkPeople

If you’re clueless on how to prepare healthy meals, there are excellent resources out there. You can take the 10 Day Pledge or receive free meal plans on The Whole Foods blog also has free recipes and weekly meal plans. 

Treat your body with care, and it will treat you well in turn with increased energy, improved mental function, and well-being!

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

What kids can teach us…

Kids say the darnedest things, like "Is putting flowers in one shoe against the law?" or "I bet this hot dog is full of MSG and GMOs. I'm gonna get fat." I certainly wouldn't piece together the puzzle of this world we live in and come up with THAT!  

I see a Portlandia episode coming up… 

I swear, kids see possibility everywhere. Nothing is too fantastic for them. Where do they get this stuff? Where does all this creativity come from?


When I look inside my brain at what I think is possible, I'm always surprised. I can be fairly cynical. I'm often shooting down big ideas, changing my plans ever so slightly so as to avoid a big mistake (or a big win), or outright assuming certain things won't happen!

I think I had more creativity back when I was a kid, back when more was possible rather than impossible.

How many times have you hesitated to think big, and then kicked yourself in the butt later for not going for it? Where are you holding yourself back? 

Reflect on this: Write out those areas where you're holding back. What would need to be extant for you to step into your power? Think back to when you were a kid. What would your kid-self do? 

Maybe you were on to something…

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

3 Ways to Have Fun and Be Productive

Have fun

Summertime for me is about having fun and reconnecting with my sense of play and wonder in the universe. I like to have highly structure 'work' time abut my totally unstructured, unplanned 'play' time to keep my creative juices flowing.

And Be Productive

Here are three ways to have fun AND be productive this Summer:

  1. Add a 'play' break to your calendar and stop working when the time comes. Sit and think about what you'd do if you were your 5-year-old self and have 30 or 60 minutes to do whatever. How would you spend your time? Go do it!
  2. Stuck on a problem? The shower's not the only place where inspiration can strike! Pull out a blank sheet of paper, some crayons or colored pencils/markers and start drawing your 'problem' and potential solutions. Don't be afraid to doodle while you're thinking, it's OK to give your mind a break from focused problem solving. Sometimes, that's where the breakthroughs lie…
  3. 4 Words: Conference call exercise routine. If you're feeling antsy while on a conference call, and you're imagining the warm wind that hits your face as the breeze blows through the trees outside, then GET UP! Start moving around. Do some push-ups or twist and turn your joints—ankles, knees and toes count too! Do me a favor: make sure you're on mute first!

Have some fun this Summer and watch your energy level rise as you free up your mind with playful distractions that actually make you more productive. What's your favorite way to play at work?


Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

How to lead while putting out fires

“Leaders must have … an armor of confidence in facing the unknown — more than those who accept their leadership. This is partly anticipation and preparation, but it is also a very firm belief that in the stress of real-life-situations one can compose oneself in a way that permits the creative process to operate.”

-Robert K. Greenleaf in "The Servant as Leader"

It’s 9:10am and you have a meeting in 20 minutes. Two huge issues came into your email.

You punch out a few responses basically stalling until you read the other 60 unread messages. Panic strikes. You’re sure one of those 60 emails has something useful, but finding it is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Leaders push up against this kind of situation in two ways: the first is severe anxiety bordering on panic attacks, the second is to get quiet, get curious, and get creative.

Good News: Your Brain Is Stronger Than Your Think

There’s an area of our mind that subconsciously processes all the information available to us, and it’s so much stronger than our thinking mind. This is the area that can hold all the various decision points one can make given the (usually limited) information available. You can literally  ‘feel’ the right answer. Yes, I said ‘feel’. It’s not a conscious process and this area of your mind communicates to you through your emotions.

Get quiet

Find a place to detach from the direct impact of the situation. This will permit enough mental space to allow for creative problem solving. Create an environment devoid of distractions so you can ‘think’ and ‘feel’ at the same time.

Get curious

Ask yourself the burning question that you need an answer to. So often, we don’t know what question we’re trying to answer. Once you have the right question, write down any thoughts that come to mind for the first two minutes. (Don’t go check your email if you draw a blank for a few seconds. You and I both know your mind is constantly going.) Look deeper into those ‘blank’ spaces, you might ‘feel’ something significant. Try to translate what that feeling means and write it down.

Get creative

Once you have your list of thoughts, start piecing the puzzle together. All you have to do is move this thing forward the best way a human knows how. Remember, just because someone else is armed with an email account and the ability to rapid fire messages at you does not mean they’re getting stuff done. Leaders do their best work by being patient, remaining calm and understanding their feelings and their thoughts in order to come up with the best solution.