Book Review: What I Talk about When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

We are currently living in unprecedented times. What we viewed and defined as productive and efficient has changed. The change most likely occurred completely out of your control. During this time, I will be offering book reviews of books that I found helpful in making micro changes in my work and personal life. These reviews are by no means the ideal or perfect way to live during a pandemic but an offering to explore how you will return to your new normal.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Found this book at one of my local Little Free Libraries along one of my many walks over the past couple of weeks. I love running. I enjoy memoirs. Figured I would give this book a chance. I am sharing this review with this community because I know there are many highly efficient and productive people out there that are runners. We all need to take a little break from these current times so enjoy this review and considering picking up this book.

Right now, I’m trying to calculate how many years I have been running. I started sometime around 2005 and took some breaks in between. I have been running consistently for three years now I feel awesome. That’s all thanks to my trainer who I feel like I would be wasting his time if I just stopped running and working out. I don’t like wasting time. Why did I started running in the first place? I really can’t remember. Now I can’t remember what it is like not to run.

“What I mean is, I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run – simply because I wanted to. I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.”

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running

I can relate Haruki. I get you. Back to the book review, this book felt slow at first. Kind of like that warm up first mile trying to loosen up your legs. I wanted to say let’s get moving. And then all of a sudden this book just started to flow like when you get your running rhythm.

For me, the hardest part of running is getting started followed by the first mile. After that it’s all mind over matter. Can I keep my mind from convincing me to quit? Can I keep my breathing nice and steady? Like Haruki pointed out, you can always tell the beginners. Their breathing is labored.

Haruki took me through his training process for running as well as writing. He chronicled races over a few years. I love how he talks about why he runs every single day. It got me to thinking that somethings are just easier to be done every day. I might start running daily rather than three times a week.

“I’ve tried my best never to say something like, Running is great. Everybody should try it. If some people have an interest in long-distance running, just leave them be, and they’ll start running on their own. If they’re not interested in it, no amount of persuasion will make any difference.”

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running

His recount of running an unofficial marathon between Athens and Marathon Greece for an article he was writing was awesome. It was like you were there with him. The emotions, the sweat, the sights. While I have never ran a marathon, I have gone through similar emotions running.

“The gym where I work out in Tokyo has a poster that says, “Muscles are hard to get and easy to lose. Fat is easy to get and hard to lose.” A painful reality, but a reality all the same.”

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running

If that poster isn’t the truest thing written. It’s why being consistent in any practice is important. I recommend this book for any runner out there. You will totally relate to what goes through Haruki’s mind while he is running. You have been there and it’s great to know that you aren’t alone.

“Reaching the finish line, never walking, and enjoying the race. These three, in this order, are my goals.”

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running

Regardless if you purchase the book or borrow it from the library, one of the best ways to support your favorite authors is to review their books on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

Book Review: Project 333 by Courtney Carver

We are currently living in unprecedented times. What we viewed and defined as productive and efficient has changed. The change most likely occurred completely out of your control. During this time, I will be offering book reviews of books that I found helpful in making micro changes in my work and personal life. These reviews are by no means the ideal or perfect way to live during a pandemic but an offering to explore how you will return to your new normal.

Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More

by Courtney Carver

Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More

When we finally get back to the office, that first day back will be exhausting for sure. To start you will likely stand in front of your closet trying to figure out what to wear, what fits, and what will be comfortable. Just choosing an outfit will likely be exhausting and you haven’t even gotten to the office yet to deal with the proverbial office Karen. Now might be the time for you to reconsider what you keep in your closet and drawers because we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, yet the decision fatigue is based upon looking at 100% of our clothes to make those decisions.

assorted clothes in wooden hangers

“In 2006, after months of debilitating fatigue and vertigo, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. My attempt to do more, own more, and convince people that I was more didn’t resonate with my heart and literally broke my body. All the excess that contributed to a stressful life may not have caused my disease, but it did exacerbate the symptoms. After my diagnosis, I turned my focus to eliminating stress. Not managing it, or reducing it, but getting it out of my list. It was killing me and my relationships.”

Courtney Carver, Project 333

Courtney Carver introduced Project 333 in her book, Soulful Simplicity. Project 333 was born out of necessity to reduce stress that triggered her Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms. Courtney challenged herself in dressing with 33 items for three months. She was fearful that her co-workers would notice some repeats. She thought about what people would think and then she realized that people are not thinking about her or what she is wearing.

One example in her book reviewed the list of items in Pamela’s Project 333. Based upon mathematics, Pamela had 25, 176 unique combinations of outfits. Do you really think someone is going to notice now? What are you waiting for? Try creating your personal Project 333.

black backpack on white chair beside cabinet

Courtney does a great job in explaining the benefits of embracing Project 333 by providing examples from others who accepted this challenge. It is clear after reading this book that people have more time in the morning, save money, have more attention for things that matter, receive more compliments, and find that their confidence increases. She also explains the mental piece of why we accumulate so many clothes and how we feel when we plan to reduce our wardrobes. Courtney explains the “how to” process of creating your own personal Project 33 wardrobe without judgment.

Adults make on average of 35,000 decisions a day.

If you are looking for a fun challenge that will set you up for success when you return to the office, check out Project 333. I am giving away my personal copy of Project 333 to one lucky reader of this blog. Email me at with a picture of your closet. A winner will be chosen at random. Due to shipping, I can only offer this to those readers living in the United States.

Regardless if you purchase the book or borrow it from the library, one of the best ways to support your favorite authors is to review their books on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

Book Review: Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein

We are currently living in unprecedented times. What we viewed and defined as productive and efficient has changed. The change most likely occurred completely out of your control. During this time, I will be offering book reviews of books that I found helpful in making micro changes in my work and personal life. These reviews are by no means the ideal or perfect way to live during a pandemic but an offering to explore how you will return to your new normal.

Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein

Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life

Two years ago before it became cool, I completed my own personal KonMari tidying event at home based upon Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Some co-workers looked at me with a side eye of judgement and some with intrigue. The personal results of performing the KonMari tidying event are beyond words. It is one of those things you have to experience it yourself to completely understand it.

“Clutter also adversely affects health. According to a study by scientists at UCLA, being surrounded by too many things increases cortisol levels, a primary stress hormone. Chronically high level of cortisol can make use more susceptible to depression, insomnia, and other mental disordered as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.”

Joy at Work

Last month, Marie Kondo released a work version called the Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life. As an obvious KonMari enthusiast, I picked up a copy of this book from the library and started to take in all this book had to offer. The Joy at Work walks the reader through the traditional KonMari tidying event. It focuses on typical office clutter rather than clothes and kitchen gadgets. Marie included clarification on the number of books one should own. Please note that the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the Marie Kondo Netflix series never stated the number of books you should own.

Joy at Work takes readers through the typical messy office and desk. Similar to KonMari, the reader is to collect all of the pens and make decision about each pen to determine if it should stay or if it should go. Then the reader is to move onto other office and desk items. After going through the physical items, the Joy at Work works through the digital clutter. For example, do you have a computer desktop full of documents and other icons? If so, consider organizing those into folders or simply deleting them. The book does a great job with warning the reader that you should in fact follow your company’s document retention policy. Just because an email does not spark joy for you doesn’t mean you can simply delete it. In those instances, consider having an email folder to dump all of those emails.

“Research finds that the more time you spend on email, the lower your productivity and the higher your stress levels.”

Joy at Work

On the topic of email, one of the largest struggles that I have found at work is email. This book focuses on how disruptive email could be during the workday. It was noted that a single email interruption would take you 26 minutes to get back to the project you were working on prior to checking that single email. The Joy at Work offers suggestion on how to minimize these disruptions.

Overall, I found this book to have great insights, research, and suggestions to improve just about all work environments. If you are frustrated with the clutter or how your workday goes or just looking to improve your day, this is the book for you.

Apple Magic keyboard beside Apple Magic mouse

Regardless if you purchase the book or borrow it from the library, one of the best ways to support your favorite authors is to review their books on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

Additional Resource:

Spark Joy Podcast: Episode 128 – Joy at Work, Organizing Your Professional Life by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein

Managing Your Energy to Maximize Your Productivity – Part 4: Spiritually Energy

Over the past couple of weeks, I have written on ways to manage your energy in order to maximize your productivity through physical, emotional, and mindful energy. Physical energy was likely easiest to understand. It is about sleeping 8 hours, eating the right foods, exercising. Let’s face it, if you are hungry or tired, you are not yourself. It is nearly impossible to be the person you want to be under those conditions. Sure you might be able to fake it for a little bit but it is not sustainable. When I wrote about emotional energy during the second week it might have felt a little woo-woo for you. I explained the difference between responding versus reacting and identifying triggers to your negative behaviors. Last week, I pulled out more woo-woo and suggested that you start meditating and developing personal rituals during the mindful energy piece. Yes, I wrote on a professional blog to take a seat for a couple minutes and breathe! If Steven Jobs can mediate and create on the level that he created, there is no reason why you cannot mediate either. Maybe this is where I should insert some hashtags.

#sorrynotsorry #mindfulness #gratitude

closeup photography of cairn stone

This week’s topic is managing your spiritual energy in order to manage your energy to maximize your productivity. Spiritual energy at work? In the office? With co-workers around? YES! YES! YES! In this context, spiritual energy means recognizing meaning and purpose in what you do. It’s about asking yourself the question “What do I want to be remembered for?” You likely do not want to be remembered as the person that was never present for life or the person that was tied up with emails on your phone.

To access the energy of the human spirit, people need to clarify priorities and establish accompanying rituals in three categories: doing what they do best and enjoy most at work; consciously allocating time and energy to the areas of their lives—work, family, health, service to others—they deem most important; and living their core values in their daily behaviors.

Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy

Do not do things that you are good at and do not enjoy doing. For me, I am good at doing journal entries that does not mean that I enjoy them. I enjoy working on large data sets and find that I do well at. On the other hand, I always wished I could work in the medical field. I could barely handle a bloody nose so working in the medical field will not happen for me. We all need to find our sweet spot in work and in life. That spot is where you feel effective and inspired not drained and depleted.

How do you know if you need to reevaluate your work?

  1. Do you feel that you spend more time on work that you least enjoy doing?
  2. Do you find that there is a difference between how you want to spend your time versus how you actually spend you time?
  3. Do you find that others dictate your work?
  4. Do you feel that at the end of the day you did not have the time or energy to make a positive difference?

If you said yes to any of the questions, consider reevaluating your work and your approach to work.

Need a review of how to manage all aspects of your energy in order to maximize your productivity? If so check how all of the articles in this series.

Managing Your Energy to Maximize Your Productivity – Part 3: Mindful Energy

Over the past two weeks, I wrote about managing your physical energy and emotional energy.  The key to managing your physical energy was sleeping, eating a nutritious breakfast, working out regularly, and not skipping lunch or breaks at work.  For mastering your emotional energy comes to deciding to respond vs. react to a situation.  This week I will be writing about maximizing your productivity through mindful energy.  

Mindfulness is not all woo-woo as you might think.  Think about walking into the office where all of the bosses are at a meeting for the day and then a couple of your co-workers are out of the office too.  Overall, the office is very quiet.  Rather than starting your morning at the water cooler chatting, you start with a hard project first.  Two hours later, you realize that not only did you finish that hard project in less time than you expected but also you got it done without any interruptions.  How do you feel?  You probably feel like a total badass and go grab a coffee to celebrate.

Now picture walking into the office with everyone in the office, the phone rings every 22 minutes, emails keep popping up every 3 minutes, and that one weird person that loves to reheat fish from another department wants to show you their pet rock collection.  How long do you think that hard project is going to take you today?  Maybe it is going to take more than a day to complete.  How do you feel?  Worn out, tired?

All of those distractions cost your company at least a day or two of your salary.  Distractions are expensive.  As I have previously written, you are more efficient and productive if you designate time to single-tasking by working one project at a time. 

How do you fix this problem?  First, you need to create personal rituals.  Second, you need to communicate your personal rituals.  Lastly, you need to stick with your personal rituals and adjust if they do not work. 

Personal Rituals:

  1. Practice meditation.  If you think you do not need meditation or that it is nuts, you need it more.  Remember that Steve Jobs practiced meditation and he still had time to develop amazing technology. 
  2. Relocate.  Consider going to an empty conference room for an hour or two to complete a project.  Do not take email and phone distractions with you.
  3. Be present.  If you accepted a meeting, be at your meeting.  Being on your phone during a meeting is wasting everyone else’s time.
  4. Schedule e-mail.  Turn off the email pop-ups, dings, and buzzes and schedule periodic time to check emails.  Consider checking email after you complete each project or complete a meeting.  
  5. Tackle hard projects first.  Before you check your voicemail or open your email as soon as you walk into the office, decide to tackle hard projects first.  The night before you should leave yourself a note on what needs to be completed so that you can start immediately. 
  6. Do Not Disturb.  We are more connected than ever these days by phone, email, voicemail, text, internal messaging systems, etc.  Schedule time spots in your schedule to be completely unavailable.

Communicate Rituals.  Listen going off the grid might sound awesome to you.  Your team will be questioning a whole lot of things.  Instead, communicate your rituals.  Explain how long your team should expect you to be unavailable.  Offer an alternative means of communication.  For example, you will not be checking emails between 1-2 pm each afternoon so that you can work on a report that is due by the end of each day, communicate just that.  Offer your team an alternative means of communication for urgent matters via phone.  How many emergencies do you think really occur?  Not many as you think.

If I were to ask you the following four questions, how would you respond?

  1. Do you have difficulty focusing on one task at a time? Are you easily distracted?
  2. Do you feel that you spend more time reacting to fires rather that value added, long term projects?
  3. Do you take time to reflect, plan, and think?
  4. Do you take work home with you on the weekend, nights, and/or vacations?

If you said yes to any of these questions, please consider adding a mindful ritual to your day to improve you personal productivity.

mindfulness printed paper near window

Check back next week when I wrap up this four part series on managing your energy to maximize your productivity, where I discuss how to increase your spiritual energy so that you could be more productive.

Managing Your Energy to Maximize Your Productivity – Part 2: Emotional Energy

Last week I discussed how to maximize your productivity when you manage your physical energy.   The key to managing your physical energy was sleeping , eating a nutritious breakfast, working out on a regular basis, and not skipping lunch or breaks at work.  This week I will outline what impacts emotional energy and steps you can take immediately to improve your emotional energy.  Personally, I believe that physical energy is the foundation for emotional energy. 

We have all been in situations when things appear to be a complete disaster and we have a choice to react or respond to the disaster. 


How to Response vs. React by Lee Colan on Inc.

  • When you simply react, your emotional instinct is in control, with little thought of the long-range consequences.
  • When you respond, your brain is fully engaged, and your self-awareness is high.  You have the long-term consequences in mind.

It is completely appropriate to react by pulling someone to safety if they are about to be hit by a bus.  It is rarely acceptable react by lashing out and yelling during a meeting or at others.

Usually our goal is to respond to a disaster rather than react.  We can typically respond when we feel positive emotional energy.  Identify the trigger.  First, identify triggers to negative emotional energy.  Did you not sleep well last night? Did a news article make you feel anxious or irritable?  Consider personal impact.  Ask yourself does this truly impact my life?  Will the outcome impact my life in 6 months?  Here are some steps to build and maintain positive emotional energy. 

  1. Breathe.  Breathe in for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 6-8.  Repeat several times. 
  2. Show appreciation.  Express appreciation towards others.  Send an email, handwritten note, or publicly acknowledge your appreciation for a co-worker or friend.
  3. Story re-write.  Did that stranger really see the coffee mug in your hand and purposely slam on their breaks so that you would spill your coffee all over your new pants?  Or is it possible they slammed on their breaks to avoid hitting a pothole? 

Re-writing the story might be the most important step to building and maintaining positive emotional energy when you start with asking your self “What are the facts?”

Check back next week when I discuss how to be more mindful to be more productive.

Managing Your Energy to Maximize Your Productivity – Part 1: Physical Energy

Show of hands, how many of you feel exhausted?  Feel guilty by not balancing work and life?  Wished you didn’t miss that spin class last week because you worked late?   Can’t remember the last time you slept a full eight hours?  If you said yes to any of these questions, you are not alone.   There appears to be this sense that we must continue to work longer and longer hours at work.  Some bosses may judge performance based purely on the number of hours you were at your desk in order to determine promotions and raises and rarely consider the actual work that you accomplished.  Others are in an industry with shrinking returns and a constant threat of job eliminations. 

What happens when you work longer and longer hours without replenishing your energy?  Engagement declines.  You are easily distracted.  Productivity decreases.  Companies see high turnover rates.  And medical costs, those increase.  Just think about the need for sleep aids, high blood pressure, and anxiety medicine.  Your personal relationships may suffer.  You might just look like an extra in The Walking Dead.  Well maybe a Walking Dead extra but with better style, but still the Walking Dead.  Even though we don’t know each other personally, I feel that it is safe to assume you want more from your life.  You want to enjoy your job, work hard at your job, feel healthy, and have strong personal connections outside of work. 

During this four-part series we will explore how to increase your energy physically, emotionally, mindfully, and spiritually so that you can be the most productive versions of yourself.  The Energy Project case study at Wachovia Bank in 2006 proved how invaluable sleep, healthy food, and strong relationships are to our overall well-being.  The case study focused on executives and high-level management in different industries.   While technology has changed over the past 14 years our need for sleep, healthy food, and strong relationships has not changed.

Based upon the case study by The Energy Project at Wachovia Bank, there are four sources of energy.  Our four sources of energy are the body, our emotions, our mind and our spirit.  The body represents our physical energy.  Spend a little time at your office coffee bar or water cooler and you will notice some patterns.  At least one person will comment that they didn’t get enough sleep last night, forgot breakfast this morning, feel overwhelmed by their to-do list, and cannot focus on one task at a time, or wish they had more time for *insert a fun personal hobby here*. 

I remember a few years ago, I slept less than 8 hours a night on a regular basis, I had no idea which state I was in at times because I traveled often, rarely worked out, gained a bit too much weight, and constantly felt hangry with eating less than desirable food choices.   Maybe you need to change jobs.  Maybe you just need to establish routines.  If you find yourself envious of someone with boundaries that support their physical energy, maybe it’s time to look inward. It took me a little bit of time to establish a routine that worked for me.  Your routine should include sleep, taking breaks throughout the day, eating well, and exercising. 

Are you still skeptical about the benefits of caring for yourself?  Unsure if all of this stuff really stands up to the hype?

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, sleeps 8 hours a week.  His net worth is $120.9B in 2020.  Bezos is quoted in the Business Insider as saying the following:

  • “I prioritize it,” Bezos said of sleep. “I think better. I have more energy. My mood is better.”
  • “As a senior executive, you get paid to make a small number of high-quality decisions,” he said. “Your job is not to make thousands of decisions every day. Is that really worth it if the quality of those decisions might be lower because you’re tired or grouchy?”
  • “If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion. When you’re talking about decisions and interactions, quality is usually more important than quantity.”

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post, collapsed from sleep deprivation exhaustion and broke her cheekbone, wrote the Sleep Revolution after she personally realized the benefits of sleep.  Huffington is quoted as saying:

  • “We take now better care of our smartphones — we know exactly how much battery remains in our phones. If you had asked me the morning I collapsed, ‘Arianna, how are you?’ I would have said, ‘Fine.’ Because being perpetually tired has become the new normal.”

Do you want to hear why Bezos finally agreed to come out and talk about sleep? Arianna Huffington explains in her weekly Thrive Global Podcast.

If high net worth business leaders find value in getting sleep, why not prioritize sleep for yourself today?  Once you prioritize sleep, other healthy habits will appear.  You will become more productive.  Be able to make better decisions without being fatigued.  Respond rather than react.  Here is an overview of what I do to prioritize sleep and increase my physical energy.  I am one of those American’s who does not run on Dunkin’ yet start the morning with a smile. 

  • Before Work: Wake up at 5am, drink a full glass of water, practice yoga for 30 minutes, and make a homemade breakfast. 
  • During Work:  Have my phone send me three reminders each day to stand up and stretch.  I have lunch with some awesome co-workers and bring a health homemade lunch daily. 
  • After work: Meet with a personal training two days a week and run two additional days after work, no phone after 7pm, and go to bed at 9pm

If you are still not convinced, review these questions.  If you answer yes to any of the following questions, consider establishing or adjusting your routine to support your physical energy. 

  • Do you sleep less than 8 hours and wake up tired?
  • Do you skip breakfast or eat something less than nutritious for breakfast?
  • Do you skip workouts (cardio 3 times a week and strength 1 time a week)?
  • Do you skip lunch, eat at your desk, and/or skip breaks throughout the day?

Check back next week when I discuss how to improve your emotional energy to be more productive.