TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Biggest Myths About Being a Great Leader

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A lot of people who think they understand leadership have fallen for some common myths and misconceptions

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Whether it’s the cause of business-school orthodoxy, or maybe it’s the odd directions of media attention or maybe it’s just a quirk of the popular imagination, there are so many myths that people believe about leaders and leadership.

The truth is leadership is a privilege—maybe even a calling. It’s something that has to be earned and learned over time.

Make sure you’re not building your own leadership on any of these commonly held myths and read on to uncover the truth:

1. The myth of entrepreneurial leadership

It’s easy to assume that all entrepreneurs are leaders, but just because someone has a great and timely idea and can organize and operate a business, the truth is they aren’t necessarily a leader. Even if you’re a world-class winner as an entrepreneur, you may find it hard to get people to see you as a leader within your organization. (This is a huge factor in the failure of so many start-ups.) You may need to work on your communication skills or expand your focus to include motivating the people on your team and helping them develop their own skills.

2. The myth of management as leadership

Another widespread myth is that leadership is equated with management. They’re actually two widely different (if interrelated) pursuits.

If you’re a manager, you’re focused on maintaining systems, processes, and best practices. But if you’re a leader, you’ll find that much of your time is spent working to influence people. They’re both important roles, but honestly they’re not the same thing.

3. The myth of trailblazer as leadership

Just because you’re standing in front of the crowd, you’re not necessarily the leader.
In fact, it may be a bad sign.

The best leaders take their place alongside their people, helping propel them forward to a shared mission and vision. They may even be behind them, watching their backs. There’s not a lot of apparent ego in the mix.

4. The myth of position as leadership

The No. 1 top myth about leadership is the idea that leadership resides in certain positions: If you’re a at the top, you’re a leader. If at the bottom, there’s no room for leadership.

In reality, the truth is, leadership has absolutely nothing to do with position, and you don’t have to look very far to find examples of leadership (good and bad) at every level. The warehouse worker organizing a holiday charity drive for her fellow employees? That’s a leader. The CEO who pockets a bonus, then heads off for a vacation so she’s not around when the salary freeze is announced? Not so much.

So the next time you see something typically labeled leadership, slow down and take a closer look.

1. True leadership is about influence, nothing more and nothing less.
2. True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed or assigned.
3. True leadership can never be mandated, only earned.

And the best proof is not the leader’s personal success but the success of those who follow.

TIME relationships

Why You Need to Talk About Your Partner’s Credit Card Debt

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

The modern dating scene is tough — we know that all too well. Finding a great partner feels like hitting the jackpot, so you might be tempted to overlook certain serious red flags in the name of love. But, what if you’re ready to take the next step with your partner and discover that he or she is deep in credit card debt? This is an issue you definitely shouldn’t dismiss — money is one of the main reasons couples fight. Failing to address your partner’s debt before you move in together or get married could cause heartache down the road. So, should you move forward or hit pause? Here’s how to decide.

Consider The Why
Discuss your financial situations. It’s important to get to the bottom of why he or she is dealing with debt. Asking specific questions about how the balance was incurred will give you a better sense of your beloved’s overall level of financial responsibility.For instance, did your partner face a major emergency that they didn’t have the cash to cover? In this case, the debt can be chalked up to an expensive, one-time event. It doesn’t indicate a pattern of irresponsible financial behavior. But, if your partner carries credit card debt due to reckless spending, you should give this some thought. If you budget carefully and live within your means, you might have a hard time coupling up with someone who doesn’t share your values.

(MORE: Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About My Credit Card Debt Anymore)

Consider The How
Next step? Consider how your significant other is dealing with the shortfall to decide if the relationship is worth pursuing. Even if a mountain of credit card debt is the result of frivolous spending, your partner may have realized the blunder. If your mate is taking steps to pay off the balance — moving to a smaller apartment, going out less, taking on an extra job — count these as good signs. Everyone makes mistakes, and working hard to correct a financial misstep means your partner is trying to get on the right track.However, if he or she seems unconcerned about the debt and isn’t making an effort to pay it off, you should take a step back. Credit card debt is a serious financial burden, and your partner should be treating it as such. Ignoring a lingering balance could signal a lack of judgment when it comes to money.

(MORE: Do You Really Need A Credit Card?)

In The End, It All Depends — But Tips Help
Money is a highly personal and emotional topic, so only you can decide if your partner’s credit card debt is a deal-breaker. The important thing is to discuss the issue before taking a major step in your relationship, and keep the lines of communication open. This will help you assess the direction of your partnership and keep you informed about how your mate’s financial situation is evolving.If you want to help improve your partner’s credit card habits, consider sharing these tips: Keep a budget and track your spending — this will keep you from spending more than you can afford to pay off. Pay your bill in full by its due date — you’ll stay out of debt and keep your credit score healthy. Never use more than 30% of your available credit — this will help you achieve and maintain good credit. Read your monthly statement carefully — you’ll be able to spot fraud if it occurs.

The Takeaway
Understanding why your partner is in credit card debt and how he or she is dealing with it is an important step to take before getting serious. Consider it one more stepping stone on the road to finding “the one.”

(MORE: How to Keep Your Finances Safe After a Breakup)

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Habits That Will Actually Change Your Life for the Better

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Do these five things, and watch your mindset change

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Why do most people fail to stick to something challenging, like losing weight or getting in better shape? They don’t start small. They immediately go all in.

They change everything, which pretty soon results in not changing anything.

Why going all in never works

The temptation to go all in is understandable. Take losing weight. Losing weight is hard. So we decide the only way to succeed is to adopt a complicated, comprehensive program of diet and exercise that requires significant changes.

And within a day or two at most that comprehensive program starts to feel oppressive. Sticking with every single change starts to feel impossible.

So we start slipping.

First we slip in small ways, like when we’re running behind one morning and don’t have time to cook egg whites so we gobble a couple of doughnuts in the car. Or our kid has a school event so we can’t fit in our evening jog. Or we need to bring work home so we don’t have time to stop at the gym.

And soon nothing has changed. We’re back where we started. Well, not quite where started–now we also feel bad about ourselves for failing to stick with something we committed to doing.

Sound familiar?

Most comprehensive weight-loss programs work. Most comprehensive fitness programs work. The problem doesn’t lie with the programs–the problem lies in the fact those programs require such major changes to our daily activities and lifestyles. It’s impossible to make every change overnight. So when you miss a workout or screw up a meal it starts to feel like you’re failing completely.

And soon our comprehensive program is in tatters and we think, “If I can’t do it all, there’s no sense doing any of it.”

So we quit.

Here’s a better approach. Don’t immediately go all in. Don’t waste your time adopting the latest trendy diet or the current fitness fad. No matter how incredible the program, go all in and you’re incredibly unlikely to stick with it.

Instead, just start with making a few simple changes to your day. You’ll lose a little weight, feel a little better, and then find it a lot easier to incorporate a few more healthy habits into your routine.

Building slowly over time will help you create a new lifestyle–in a relatively painless way–that you will be able to stick with.

So for now just make these five changes:

1. Drink a glass of water before every meal.

Everyone needs to drink more water. That’s a given. Plus when you drink a glass of water before you eat you’ll already feel a little more full and won’t be as tempted to eat past the point of hunger.

2. Eat one really healthy meal.

Pick one meal. Just one. Then change what you eat. If it’s lunch, eat one portion of protein that fits in the palm of your hand, a vegetable or fruit, and four or five almonds.

I know that’s not a lot of food, but it’s healthier than what you’re eating now and, just as important, it lets you take small steps toward better controlling your portions at every meal.

Other examples: Pack a can of tuna and two apples. Or bring a skinless chicken breast and some cucumbers. Just make sure you prepare it ahead of time–that way you won’t have to decide to eat healthy. You just will.

3. Use your lunch to be active.

It doesn’t take 30 minutes or an hour to eat. So make your lunch break productive.

Go for a walk. (Better yet, find a walking buddy or do like LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner and have walking meetings.) Or stretch. Or do some push-ups or sit-ups.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something. You’ll burn a few calories, burn off some stress, and feel better when you climb back into the work saddle.

And you’ll start to make fitness a part of your daily lifestyle without having to add to your already busy schedule.

4. Eat one meal-replacement bar.

OK, so most protein bars taste like flavored sawdust. But most are also nutritious and low in calories, and they make it easy to stave off the midafternoon hunger pangs you’ll inevitably feel after having eaten, say, a light lunch.

Don’t get too hung up on nutritional values; just pick a bar that includes 10 or 15 grams of protein (think protein bar, not energy bar) and you’ll be fine.

Eating a midmorning or midafternoon meal replacement bar doesn’t just bridge the gap between meals; it’s an easy way to get in the habit of eating smaller meals more frequently, another habit you’ll eventually want to adopt.

And, finally, a bonus habit to toss in once a week:

5. Have fun completing a physical challenge.

It would be great if you could consistently hit the gym four to five days a week, but if you’re starting from zero instantly transforming yourself into a gym rat isn’t realistic.

Instead, once a week pick something challenging to do. Take a really long walk. Take a long bike ride. Take a testing hike.

Just make sure you pick an accomplishment, not a yardstick. Don’t decide to walk six miles on a treadmill; that’s a yardstick. Walk the six miles to a friend’s house. Don’t ride 20 miles on an exercise bike; ride to a café, grab a snack, and then ride back home.

The activity should be based on an accomplishment; it’s a whole lot more fun to say, “I hiked to the top of Bear Mountain,” than it is to say, “I walked five miles on the treadmill at an 8 percent incline.” Accomplishments are fun; it’s like they’re things you decided to do. Yardsticks are boring; it’s like they’re things you had to do.

Every time you complete a weekly challenge you will have burned calories, improved your fitness level, and reminded yourself are still capable of doing some really cool things.

Once you accept you are still capable of doing cool things–no matter how much you’ve let yourself go physically, it’s true–you’ll find all the motivation you need to make a few other positive changes.

And one day you’ll realize you actually have gone all in … and you didn’t even notice.

TIME psychology

What Makes Something Funny? Can Humor Improve Our Lives?

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Ever notice that we take our comedians seriously and we think our politicians are liars? Is something wrong there?

Chris Rock, Louis C.K., and Patton Oswalt not only make you laugh but they usually have you nodding your head thinking, “Yeah, life is like that.” Meanwhile, you take everything an elected official says with a grain of salt.

Research is finally starting to catch up to what you’ve known for a long time.

Why do you find things funny?

Humor is the brain rewarding us for finding errors and inconsistencies in our thinking.

Via The Boston Globe‘s review of Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind:

Hurley and his coauthors begin from the idea that our brains make sense of our daily lives via a never ending series of assumptions, based on sparse, incomplete information. All these best guesses simplify our world, give us critical insights into the minds of others, and streamline our decisions. But mistakes are inevitable, and even a small faulty assumption can open the door to bigger and costlier mistakes.

Enter mirth, a little pulse of reward the brain gives itself for seeking out and correcting our mistaken assumptions. A sense of humor is the lure that keeps our brains alert for the gaps between our quick-fire assumptions and reality.

This is why you think good comedians are also telling the truth about life. They’re pointing out the inconsistencies and craziness, the errors we take for granted until they’re pointed out.

You know the old saying “it’s funny because it’s true”? It’s correct. We laugh more when we feel the jokes are true. The more error correction, the bigger the reward.

Chris Rock’s humor about how men and women relate is so accurate it’s been written up in scientific papers. Tina Fey’s Palin imitation changed how people voted.

All forms of play are about learning.

Via Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul:

Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates an arena for social interaction and learning. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents.

Most animals stop playing and learning once they reach adulthood. Humans are unique in that they have the capacity to play all their lives. Why? Nature designed us to be lifelong learners:

We are designed to be lifelong players, built to benefit from play at any age. The human animal is shaped by evolution to be the most flexible of all animals: as we play we continue to change and adapt into old age.

So making laughs and guffaws sounds a lot more impressive now, huh? It probably doesn’t surprise you too much to hear that funny people are smarter than average. Students who are playful do better in school:

Playfulness was associated with better academic performance (i.e., better grades in an exam). Also, students who described themselves as playful were more likely to do the extra reading that went beyond what was needed to pass the exam. This can be seen as first evidence of a positive relation between playfulness in adults and academic achievement.

Why do women always cite “sense of humor” as something they find attractive in a man? Because humor is a hard-to-fake sign of intelligence. (In fact, you can predict how many women a man has slept with by how funny he is.)

Humor can improve your life

Humor isn’t just an entertaining distraction. It improves many facets of life and we’d be better off with more of it.

Couples who reminisce about shared laughter are happier. In his book Just Kidding: Using Humor Effectively Louis Franzini presents research that salespeople who use humor close more deals.

A fun workplace was more attractive to prospective employees than compensation or opportunities for promotion. Researchers believe that humor can help teams bond, as well as increase the quantity and quality of communication while building trust.

Via Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries:

A host of studies indicates that humor creates positive group effects. Many focus on how humor can increase cohesiveness and act as a lubricant to facilitate more efficient communications, like Bob Petersen’s story team. Researchers have developed a general view that effective humor can increase the quantity and quality of group communications. One reason for that is that humor has also been demonstrated to increase trust.

Humor improves our mood because it makes us think, which interrupts negative emotions. (Jokes can actually mentally disarm us because the brainpower required to process the laughs can take away from critical thinking during an argument.)
People who use humor to cope with stress are healthier.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

People who spontaneously use humor to cope with stress have especially healthy immune systems, are 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, experience less pain during dental surgery and live four and a half years longer than average…On the basis of the results, the researchers recommended that people laugh for at least fifteen minutes each day.

What’s interesting — and something we often forget as adults – is it seems we all may need fun in our lives:

Via Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul:

But when play is denied over the long term, our mood darkens. We lose our sense of optimism and we become anhedonic, or incapable of feeling sustained pleasure… There is laboratory evidence that there is a play deficit much like the well-documented sleep deficit.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join 25K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

You want to laugh? Here are a few of my favorite bits of “error correction” (all NSFW):

-Louis C.K. on turning 40 and children.

-Patton Oswalt on why AA meetings are better than Weight Watchers meetings.

-Eddie Izzard on World War 2.

-Lewis Black on America and milk.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Questions You Have to Ask During a Job Interview

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Don't be afraid to grill hiring managers. Chances are, they're hoping you will

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Earlier this month, I was interviewing a prospective designer for my company. The candidate asked, “Who does wireframing for your app, the product team or the design team?” A simple question. But it kicked off a great discussion about our processes and how he could contribute to the team.

I remember thinking, “Hey, we are already working together…” This candidate is now an employee and a good fit for our company. His simple question opened the doors for us to have a genuine conversation about each other’s motivations, needs, passions, and work philosophies. In my 20-plus years in the recruitment industry, I am still surprised by how rare this crucial conversation is in a job interview.

There’s no doubt candidates who ask questions have a better chance at landing their dream job. Here are eight of the best questions I’ve heard from candidates:

1. What role will I fill?

When it comes to an employee’s role in a business’s strategy, the job title explains only so much. You are filling a void on the living, breathing team. Is this company hoping for an ideas person, a mentor to other employees, a creative force, a rule follower, a rule breaker? Get to the specifics of “who” your position is supposed to be.

2. Why does this role matter to the growth of the company?

Use this question to explore the expected level of engagement. Are you more comfortable being in a low- or a high-impact role? Do you want to be in a role that is universally respected within the company or are you OK being the undercover hero?

3. Who would my colleagues be?

The best interviews include three to four team members. If that is not the case in your interview, use this question to gain insight into team dynamics and personalities. These are the people you will spend every day with, so they need to pass what Tom Gimbel calls “the airplane test“—someone you would enjoy sitting next to on a long flight.

4. What would I be doing that makes your job easier?

This question has two benefits—you will find out who is going to lean on you the heaviest and what you will need to do to keep the other teammates happy. The answers to this question will be the immediate problems each team member is hoping you will solve.

5. What are additional important skills I will need to do this job well?

What are the soft skills needed for this particular job? Find out if the company needs someone who is also a self-starter or works well in teams. This is also an excellent time to bring up any additional skills you have that are appropriate for position.

6. How does the company measure success?

Identifying how your progress in this position will be measured will give you a better idea of whether or not you will be successful. Get specifics on what your deliverables will be per project. Ask about common work habits of people who have had this position in the past whom the company considered successful.

7. What would you expect from me this month, in three months, and in a year?

Chances are that your employer has a trajectory for your role in mind. Find out what you will need to deliver in the next coming months. Ask yourself if this pace feels doable for the way you work.

8. What is your mission?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask. Research shows that employees are most happy when their goals align with those of their employers. Get philosophical here and find out why you are both here in this room and if you want the same things.

Repeat your questions for each hiring manager you meet, because you will get different responses from different people. As a CEO, I am often the last person in the round of interviews. It happens time and time again that I will say, “Do you have any questions for me?” and get a polite “No, I got a lot of my questions answered.”

I didn’t get my questions answered though. Keep the conversation going. If you want to work for my company, you have to ask for it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Hate Mornings? 6 Small Changes That Will Fix Everything

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Here are quick remedies to the biggest obstacle to having a perfect day

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

The first few minutes of your morning are the most important of your day and can set the tone for positivity and productivity. Ideally, you have an app or clock that taps into your natural circadian rhythm and wakes you during your “best time” within a certain window. Getting jarred out of a deep REM slumber to the sound of a blaring alarm clock sets you up for a negative day brimming with fatigue and crankiness.

But getting the right alarm clock is only part of the battle.

Here are six ways to start your morning better while kicking bad habits that destroy good sleep hygiene.

1. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of no screen time

Besides turning off an alarm that might be on your phone, resist the urge to check your email or social media. It sets you up for a day of being enslaved to technology, and your morning time should be reserved just for you. This might mean disabling notifications on your home screen so you’re not tempted by that Facebook update or mounting emails.

2. Swap out the coffee for lemon water

Lukewarm water with a fresh lemon squeezed into it has numerous benefits–but you need to drink it first thing in the morning. It starts your metabolism, which burns fat while sustaining muscle, cleanses your mouth and throat, and gives you a boost of energy. Then wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth, drinking, or eating. This might be a toughie for caffeine addicts, but you can manage 30 minutes and it’s a great way to reduce the need for a coffee fix.

3. Sit up correctly

There are many “bad ways” to get out of bed, but only one best way, if your body allows for it: Roll over onto your right side, then push yourself up into a sitting position before standing with a straight back (no hunching). It’s the gentlest way to get up, takes the pressure off your heart and back, and is a great, easy ritual to start your morning right.

4. Set and affirm your goals for the day

While stretching in bed or prepping your lemon water, set some feasible goals for the day, but limit them to three. This might include packing your lunch instead of eating out to save money, committing to that noon yoga class, or scheduling the doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off.

5. Stretch

It seems so obvious, and yet so many people ignore it. You can do this in bed, using a simple stretched-out-legs-and-arms-overhead movement. You can indulge in a supine twist on a padded floor, or you can practice whatever feels right for as little or as long as you like. Your body’s just been booted down for hours–you can’t expect it to be warmed up, energized, and raring to go right away.

6. Meditate

Don’t skip over this one just because it sounds boring or like you don’t have time for it. Meditation is only as strict, long, short, boring, or annoying as you make it. A “successful” meditation in an entire lifetime might be only a few seconds. However, sitting in a comfortable position and focusing on clearing your mind–even if it’s for less than a minute–can help your mental clarity and spiritual well-being and set the stage for the day.

You probably already know which morning habits aren’t serving you, so why keep doing them? Instead, focus on what really makes your mornings better and prioritize them.

TIME psychology

What Are the 3 Steps to Becoming Stress-Proof?

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Know What Really Works

Most of the things you instinctively do to relieve stress don’t work.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

The APA’s national survey on stress found that the most commonly used strategies were also rated as highly ineffective by the same people who reported using them. For example, only 16 percent of people who eat to reduce stress report that it actually helps them. Another study found that women are most likely to eat chocolate when they are feeling anxious or depressed, but the only reliable change in mood they experience from their drug of choice is an increase in guilt.

So what does work?

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.)

2) It’s All About A Feeling Of Control

As is often said, stress isn’t about what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. This is true.

We’re not as stressed when we feel in control. Again, the emphasis is on feel. Even illusory feelings of control can eliminate stress. (This is the secret to why idiots and crazy people may feel far less stress than those who see a situation clearly.)

Anything that increases your perception of control over a situation — whether it actually increases your control or not — can substantially decrease your stress level.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Steve Maier at the University of Boulder, in Colorado, says that the degree of control that organisms can exert over something that creates stress determines whether the stressor alters the organism’s functioning. His findings indicate that only uncontrollable stressors cause deleterious effects. Inescapable or uncontrollable stress can be destructive, whereas the same stress that feels escapable is less destructive, significantly so… Over and over, scientists see that the perception of control over a stressor alters the stressor’s impact.

Why do people choose to become entrepreneurs when working for yourself often means more hours for less money? Control:

A number of studies show “work-life balance” as the main reason people start their own small businesses. Yet small business owners often work more hours, for less money, than in corporate life. The difference? You are able to make more of your own choices.

Do things that increase your control of a situation ahead of time. According to one study, the stress management technique that worked best was deliberately planning your day so that stress is minimized.

The best way to reduce job stress is to get a clear idea of what is expected of you.

The trick to not worrying about work stuff while at home is to make specific plans to address concerns before you leave the office.

3) You Need Some Stress To Be Your Best.

Heavy time pressure stresses you out and kills creativity. On the other hand, having no deadlines is not optimal either. Low-to-moderate time pressure produces the best results.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

If managers regularly set impossibly short time-frames or impossibly high workloads, employees become stressed, unhappy, and unmotivated—burned out. Yet, people hate being bored. it was rare for any participant in our study to report a day with very low time pressure, such days—when they did occur—were also not conducive to positive inner work life. In general, then, low-to-moderate time pressure seems optimal for sustaining positive thoughts, feelings, and drives.

In his book The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin discusses one of the key elements that pro athletes like Jordan use to perform at their peak: spontaneous relaxation.

“…one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods.”

They’re not Zen masters who experience no stress. Far from it. But they’ve taught themselves to turn it on and off. The pros are able to fully relax during the briefest periods of rest. This prevents them from burning out during hours of play.

Via The Art of Learning:

The physiologists at LGE had discovered that in virtually every discipline, one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods. Players who are able to relax in brief moments of inactivity are almost always the ones who end up coming through when the game is on the line… Remember Michael Jordan sitting on the bench, a towel on his shoulders, letting it all go for a two-minute break before coming back in the game? Jordan was completely serene on the bench even though the Bulls desperately needed him on the court. He had the fastest recovery time of any athlete I’ve ever seen.

One Last Thing:

I’m stressed RIGHT NOW!!! What’s the quickest, easiest thing to do?!?!?!

Watching a video of a cute animal can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

In an innovative study, Deborah Wells examined whether merely looking at a video of an animal can have the same type of calming and restorative effects as those created by being in its company… compared to the two control conditions, all three animal videos made the participants feel much more relaxed. To help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure in less than a minute, go online and watch a video of a cute animal.

Here you go:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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Related posts:

During what average daily activity are you most likely to be full of potential creativity?

5 reasons why humor is more powerful than you would ever guess

Why do life-threatening situations make some people more calm?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME advice

How to Turn Your Inbox Into a Work of Art

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Labels, labels, labels

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

I don’t want to brag, but my email inbox is one of my most complimented possessions. It baffles me when people regularly say things like, “It got lost in my inbox,” or “I have 839 unread emails.” How do you survive? How can you be productive with that kind of virtual baggage hanging over your head all day? That said, I know things can get out of hand and there are people in the world who receive far more emails than me. But with a combination of time-saving and simple labeling tactics, you too can have an email inbox that’s the envy of all your frazzled friends.

1. Get Gmail.

It was Angela from the appropriately short-lived Bravo show Gallery Girls who once declared that she would only date someone who had an iPhone and a Gmail account. I’m not saying I agree with her because that girl was a lunatic, but Gmail is king for a reason. If you’re still slumming it on Optimum Online or Hotmail, I can’t help you. Get a gmail address, it’s well worth it.

2. Enjoy your new automatic filter.

Once you’ve just switched to a Gmail account per my advice, you’ll notice that Gmail automatically categorizes your email into three tabs: Primary, Social, and Promotions. This will instantaneously make your life better. (Unless you’re an email marketer, in which case it makes your life a little bit harder.)

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This beautiful Gmail development automatically separates out any emails from Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, GoodReads, and the like into your Social tab, and anything related to your online shopping habit (speaking for myself now) into Promotions. Boom, automatic improvement.

3. Labels, labels, labels.

Here’s a little look into my soul, also known as my email labels. It turns out this list is a pretty accurate representation of my priorities, each job and project with a different label. This is actually a new account for me, but in college I had label groupings as well—so inside of “My Projects,” for example, there would be a whole list of specific projects.

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This way, my inbox is cleared of everything except items that are in process or still require an action or response. Anything I may need for reference later, but am currently done with goes straight into the archives, and anything else goes straight to Trash. At any given time I have less than 50 emails in my inbox, and it’s beautiful.

(MORE: How to Write a Cold Call Email)

4. Filter your incoming messages.

Open an email from someone who you communicate with often. Hit “More,” “Filter Messages Like These,” “Create Filter With This Search,” “Apply the label…” Don’t forget to “also apply filter to matching conversations.” Now whenever that particular person sends you an email, it will automatically be marked with your label of choice. You can create filters based on other characteristics as well, but sender tends to be the simplest. At this point I receive very few emails that aren’t automatically labeled.

5. Delete like you’re on hoarders.

I’m warning you because I definitely do this: Don’t get too archive-happy. I know it feels nice to use all these pretty labels you’ve set up for yourself, but most of the time when you’re finished with something, you can just trash it.

6. Designate specific time for email.

This is a time-saving tip I got from the amazing Kate White. Even though I know how difficult it can be, don’t try to respond to emails constantly. Instead of wasting time every five minutes reading emails when you don’t actually have time to respond, set aside time in 15 (or more) minute intervals to read, delete, label and archive, or respond and take action to your incoming emails. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you only handle each email you receive once. You see it, read it, take whatever action is necessary, and move on to the next. Otherwise, you end up wasting time re-reading emails and also run the risk of missing something when you look at it on the go and think, “Oh yeah, I’ll get to that later.”

7. Don’t respond to email on your phone.

This one is straight from another email pro, Carly Heitlinger, also known as the College Prepster. “99.9% of the time, a response can wait,” she writes. “Typos always happen from phone and it’s too easy to misread something, not check my calendar properly and send out wrong information, or forget to reply to the whole thread.” Yes, yes, a million times yes.

(MORE: A Clever Way to Cut Down on Email)

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Things You Should Be Doing to Have an Insanely Productive Week

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A few pointers that could radically change your week

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

A productive week depends largely on what you focus on every working day and how much time you allocate to activities that take up your time (i.e. busy work). Working harder does not necessarily mean you are being productive. There will always be a better way to complete that task. Find it, work smarter and get more done in your working week.

These are a few things can do to have an insanely productive week this and every other week.

1. Stop planning, start doing.

It’s okay to make time to plan what needs to be done in the week or month but when you get back to the planning table often, you lose precious productive hours.

So instead of plan, just do it. The option to work on a task in the future instead of now seem comfortable but not prudent. While you keep telling yourself you don’t have to do it now, that task won’t go away. And somebody will have to eventually account for it. So instead of procrastinating, get on with it and check it off your to-do list.

Related: 8 Steps to Having Wildly Productive Mornings

Also, are your meetings really worthwhile? Most people spend too much time in meetings, when they should be working and getting things done. To ensure you are making the most of your time, create a time budget. This will help you realize how much time you are losing to meetings or planning when you should be doing actual work. You will be surprised at how much you can get done every week if you start tracking how much time you spend planning or meeting.

2. You don’t have to say “yes” to every request.

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.” — Warren Buffet.

Saying “yes” to a request seem easier than a simple “no”. Yet every time you agree to do something for somebody that brings low or no result, it makes it difficult to have a schedule you can really control. You don’t want that. You can achieve more if you know what you have to do, when you have to it and what you expect to accomplish. All that can be done in controlled schedule.

3. Don’t be a perfectionist.

If you keep chasing perfection, it could take you longer to get your tasks done – and you will most likely be less productive than you planned. The reason being is when you activity strive for perfection you spend more time on a single task than required, causing your other responsibilities to get pushed back. This will cause you to lose time and possibly annoy your immediate boss in the process. Perfectionism is even higher when you don’t account to anyone but yourself, as the fine tuning never ends.

Related: 10 Ways to Become the Most Productive Person Around

4. Get everything out of your head.

Don’t rely heavily on your memory. It will fail you when you need it most. Instead, write things down.

There are hundreds of options for taking notes — everything from the good old sticky notes to applications like Evernote, Any.do, andWunderlist. By jotting down everything that needs to get done in the week, you will have a better picture of what needs to be accomplished – and set priorities accordingly.

5. Review and measure your accomplishments.

Just before you close the week and prepare for next week, review your achievements, along with everything else that needed to be done, to see if you really got work done. Get back to your to-do list and check them off and find out what you were not able to do and why. Celebrate your accomplishments, take note of everything you postponed and learn from your mistakes. You will be better prepared for the following week.

Related: 4 Ways to Max Out the 40-Hour Workweek

TIME leadership

The 10 Worst States for Women

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The United States is one of just a handful of nations where maternal mortality actually rose over the last decade

This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247WallSt.com.

Based on recently released Census Bureau data, women made up almost half of the workforce last year. Yet, even working full-time and year-round, they were paid only 79 cents for every dollar men made. The wage gap varies considerably between states. Women receive 86 cents for every dollar men make in New York, for example, while in Louisiana, women are paid just 66% of what men earn.

Income inequality is only one of the challenges women face. Across the nation, women are less likely to serve in leadership roles both in the private and public sectors. Health outcomes among female populations also vary considerably between states. Based on 24/7 Wall St.’s analysis, Mississippi is the worst state for women in the nation.

Click here to see the 10 worst states for women

In all of the worst rated states, women were less likely than their male peers to hold private sector management positions. In two of the worst states — South Dakota and Utah — women held fewer than one in three management jobs. According to Ariane Hegewisch, study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women are discriminated not just in base pay, but also lack career opportunities available to men. “A lot of [the wage gap] is also promotions, recruitments, and networking,” Hegewisch said. Perceptions of performance can also be affected by gender, meaning “the more the pay is related to performance and bonuses, the bigger the wage gap.”

Women in the worst rated states were also less likely to have leadership roles in government compared to women in the rest of the country. Only six of the 10 states had any female representation in Congress. Many of these states were among the nation’s worst for female representation in their own state legislatures as well. State Senates usually have between 30 and 50 Senators. Of the 10 states on this list, however, only Kansas had more than 10 female senators.

While the United States is among the most developed countries in the world, it was one of just a handful of nations where maternal mortality actually rose over the last decade, according to a recent study published in The Lancet, a respected medical journal. Pregnancy related mortality rates vary considerably between states.

To determine the worst states for women, 24/7 Wall St. developed on a methodology based on the Center for American Progress’ 2013 report, “The State of Women in America.”

We divided a range of variables into three major categories: economy, leadership, and health. Data in the economy category came from the U.S. Census Bureau and included male and female median earnings, the percent of children enrolled in state pre-kindergarten, state spending per child enrolled in pre-kindergarten, and education attainment rates. The leadership category included data on the percent of women in management occupations from the Census. It also includes the share of state and federal legislators who are women, and states that currently have female governors. The health section incorporated Census data on the percent of women who were uninsured as well as life expectancy. Infant and maternal mortality rates came from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Data on the expansion of Medicaid, as policies towards maternity leave, sick days, and time off from work came from the National Partnership for Women and Families.

State rankings on each of these measures were averaged to determine a score for each category. Possible scores ranged from 1 (best) to 50 (worst). The three category scores were averaged to create an indexed value that furnished our final ranking.

These are the 10 worst states for women.

10. Kansas
> Gender wage gap: 79 cents per dollar (25th best)
> Poverty rate, women: 15.2% (23rd lowest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 24.8% (25th highest)
> Infant mortality rate: 7.5 per 1,000 births (15th highest)

A typical man in Kansas earned $45,463 last year. The median earnings among women in the state, on the other hand, were just $35,869, or 79% of male earnings. The ratio was roughly in line with that of the nation. In addition to economic inequality, women in Kansas were far less likely than women in other states to hold leadership roles. Nearly 64% of management positions, for example, were held by men, one of the higher rates nationwide. Women, by contrast, held 36.2% of management occupations, one of the lower rates. Unlike the majority of the worst states for women, however, Kansas has a fair number of female state-level politicians. Of the 40 state senators, 12 are women, more than all but a handful of states.

ALSO READ: The 10 States With the Worst Quality of Life

9. Alabama
> Gender wage gap: 79 cents per dollar (12th worst)
> Poverty rate, women: 20.5% (5th highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 14.3% (4th lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 9.2 per 1,000 births (2nd highest)

With just five women out of 35 in the Alabama State Senate, and just 15 women out of 105 members in Alabama’s House of Representatives, few states have less of a female presence in their legislature. Alabama also ranks poorly in several measures of health that impact women. The state had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, with 9.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. Alabama also had one of the lowest female life expectancies in the country, at 78.2 years as of 2010. The state also lacks any of the family-friendly workplace health policies identified by the National Partnership for Women and Families.

8. Indiana
> Gender wage gap: 74 cents per dollar (7th worst)
> Poverty rate, women: 17.5% (20th highest)
> Pct. in state legislature: 20.0% (16th lowest)
> Infant mortality rate: 7.4 per 1,000 births (16th highest)

While nationwide women earned roughly 80% of a man’s salary last year, women in Indiana earned less than three-quarters of a man’s wages, one of the worst pay gaps nationwide. Child rearing may be occupying what might otherwise be paid labor for women in Indiana, as the state offers little support for new mothers. State-funded preschool is not available for children under five years old. Also, less than 25% of women had completed at least a bachelor’s degree as of last year, one of the worst rates in the country and much lower than the nearly 30% of women nationwide.

For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

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