Yearly Archives: 2015

13 tricks to lead a simpler, happier life

Eliminate clutter, increase productivity, and be a happier person.
Flickr/Gabriela Pinto

Last year, Business Insider published a list of easy ways to simplify your life, featuring comments posted on the Quora thread, “How can I make my life simpler?

Since then, the thread has ballooned to nearly 700 answers, with users from all over the world weighing in on how to eliminate physical and mental clutter, increase productivity, and ultimately be a happier person.

We picked out 13 recent responses that offer creative strategies for streamlining. Read on to find out what you can do to make your daily life a little bit easier.

Jacquelyn Smith/Business Insider

1. Make time for “meta-work.”

Advance planning is key to simplicity because it helps prevent the panicky feeling that you’re not focusing on what’s most important.

“Organizing your to-do list or clearing out your desk don’t seem like productive things to do,” writes Haider Al-Mosawi. “I call them ‘meta-work.’ They don’t substitute for actual work (you want to do the tasks on your to-do list), but they do help cultivate mental clarity and allow you to become more productive when you are working.”


2. Learn to prioritize.

Now that you’ve crafted that to-do list, it’s time to pare it down, says Nistha Tripathi, by eliminating any nonessential tasks.

Tripathi quotes Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”

Flickr/Garry Knight

3. Abandon the idea of a “bucket list.”

Don’t see your life as a race to accomplish goals that other people have set for you.

Writes Jim Stone: “If you read an article titled ‘100 movies you must see before you die,’ don’t buy into it. If you do, you’ll either wind up watching 70 boring movies to get to 30 good ones, or you’ll feel guilty about not finishing the list. Either way, it adds to your mental burden.”


4. Be early for appointments.

“This will help you to make your time of travel a time of rest and relaxation instead of stressful,” says Olivia Skumps.

And simplifying your life is all about eliminating unnecessary stress.

If you’re having a hard time being punctual, let alone early, you can try some simple but effective tricks like overestimating how long it will take to get ready and planning for worst-case scenarios.

jazbeck / Getty

5. Use the 10-year test.

The fact that you turned in your project proposal 30 seconds late might seem devastating right when it happens. But a decade later, you’re unlikely to even remember it.

Here’s Nelson Wang’s tip: “Ask yourself, will this matter in one year, five years, or 10 years? If it won’t, you need to stop stressing out about it. Move forward.”


6. Don’t leave unfinished business.

“When I look around my house,” says Tanya Zyabkina, “most of the ‘junk’ is simply a material representation of a decision that has not been made or a project that has not been finished. That parcel box on the floor? Still thinking whether to return it. Stack of pictures on the desk? Need to finally frame them.

“Make that decision now. Take the action right away. Don’t let unfinished business accumulate.”

Zyabkina’s suggestion sounds similar to David Allen’s “two-minute rule“: If you get an email that can be dealt with in two minutes or less, deal with it now instead of letting it linger in your inbox.

The basic idea behind both strategies is to make decisions whenever possible instead of putting them off.

Wikimedia Commons

7. Automate most of your day.

“If you want to make your life more simple,” writes Mike LaVere, “automate as much of your day and routine as possible. “

LaVere cites a phenomenon known as decision fatigue, explaining that willpower is a finite resource and the more you use it, the less you have left.

That’s why you should eliminate as many choices as you can, from what you eat for breakfast to what you wear to work.

In fact, Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg say they wear the same outfit every day because they have to focus their energy on making other, more important decisions.

marc falardeau/Flickr

8. Learn to say “no.”

“If you don’t want to do something, just say no,” writes Amrisha Vohra. “You don’t need to keep everyone happy.”

We know: It’s not that easy. Remember that you can still be polite by saying something like,”I’m sorry I can’t right now but will let you know when and if I can.”

You can also turn the question around to the person asking. For example, if your supervisor asks you to take on more than you can manage, you can respond, “I’m happy to do X, Y, and Z; however, I would need three weeks, rather than two, to do a good job. How would you like me to prioritize them?”

Scott Olson/Getty Images

9. Focus on what you can control.

So you’re running late for work because of a traffic jam ahead. Getting angry is natural – but not especially productive. You’d be better off taking a breath and using that time to mentally prep for a meeting later that day.

Writes Gary Wu:

“Your days are filled with random events that are out of your control. Getting emotionally and mentally worked up over them is a waste of energy. … You may not be able to control what happens to you, but you can control how you react. That itself can often be the deciding factor between outcomes.”

Flickr/daniel sandoval

10. Craft a personal mission statement.

Rohan Sinha recommends having a “vision” for your life that you update regularly.

Think of it as an abbreviated version of the personal statement you’d submit to a grad program: What do you hope to accomplish and why is it important?

In fact, The New York Times reports, a mission statement can be a better predictor of change than a New Year’s resolution. That’s because, with a mission statement, you identify the motivation behind the changes you’re hoping to make.

Flickr/João Lavinha

11. Spend time alone.

“Start spending time with yourself,” says Abhinav Shahi. “This is the most important thing, as you and only you know what is best for you and what do you want in your life.”

Make sure you leave your phone behind so that you truly experience solitude and engage in deep introspection.


12. Do one thing you love for five minutes every day.

“When you are happy you will bother less about the complexities,” writes Mohd Arshad.

This idea is backed by scientific research, which suggests that trying deliberately to feel happy backfires – but that organizing your day to include activities you like improves well-being.

Flickr/Mike Tungate

13. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness “teaches you to live in the present, to do whatever you are doing with utmost passion and devotion,” says Rhishita Jha.

The main idea is to unclutter your mind by zeroing in on what you’re thinking, feeling, and doing right now, as opposed to the anxieties of yesterday or tomorrow.

You can start a mindfulness practice simply by paying close attention to your breathing and noticing what you’re sensing in any given moment.

Here’s why the drug that helped Jimmy Carter get ‘cancer-free’ is such a big deal

Eric Thayer/Reuters

Former US President Jimmy Carter announced on Sunday that his latest brain scan showed no sign of cancer, a few months after revealing that he had been diagnosed with melanoma that had spread from his liver to his brain.

Carter was being treated with a cancer drug called Keytruda that uses the immune system to fight off cancerous cells.

Keytruda, made by pharmaceutical company Merck, was originally approved by the FDA in September 2014 to treat melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer that can also show up in other organs of the body, as it did in Carter’s case.

In someone with melanoma, certain proteins called PD-1 stop the immune system from doing its job and fighting the cancerous cells. Keytruda works by getting in the way of those proteins, allowing the immune system to access the cancer cells. Then, with the help of radiation therapy, which works to shrink tumors by killing cancer cells, it can knock the cancer out.

The drug is delivered intravenously every three weeks, costing about $12,500 a month.

And the drug isn’t just being used in cases like Carter’s. Keytruda, which got approved to treat a form of lung cancer in October, is also being explored to treat a number of other cancers, including head and neck, breast, and bladder cancers and Hodgkin lymphoma.

It’s also not the first cancer immunotherapy drug. Scientists have been seriously exploring using the immune system to battle cancerous cells for decades as an alternative to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. But it’s taken a long time for the treatments to be effective in humans.

On Monday, Merck also announced that it has initiated two final phase trials using Keytruda in patients with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that affects a type of white blood cell called plasma cells.

In November, the FDA approved three multiple myeloma drugs, including another cancer-immunotherapy drug called Empliciti.

Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley: Donald Trump is a ‘fascist demagogue’

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Monday declared that Donald Trump is a “fascist demagogue.”

Following Trump’s suggestion on Monday afternoon that the US should institute a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” for the time being, the presidential candidate tweeted that Trump had “remove[d] all doubt.”

O’Malley, who has lagged behind front-runner Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) in primary polls, has repeatedly criticized Trump for his inflammatory remarks about immigration.

“The fact of the matter is, and let’s say it in our debate – because you’ll never hear this from that immigrant-bashing carnival-barker Donald Trump – the truth of the matter is that net-immigration from Mexico last year was zero,” O’Malley said during the Democratic presidential debate last month.

Trump – who has dismissed O’Malley as a “disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby” – immediately responded in a tweet.

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is launching a new company in the spring

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo arrives for the the annual Allen and Co. media conference Sun Valley
Thomson Reuters

Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is stepping away from social internet businesses, but he’s not leaving the startup world entirely.

On Kara Swisher’s Re/Code Decode podcast, Costolo was deliberately vague about his plans for a new company to be launched next spring.

“I’m going to try to bring software to a space that hasn’t traditionally leveraged software,” Costolo said. “I’ll call it the personal wellness space, but that doesn’t give you much detail or any clarity and that’s fine.”

Costolo’s career includes founding a dot-com business SpyOnIt that tracked changes on websites and alerted you in real-time. The internet entrepreneur then went to Google before he joined Twitter, where he worked his way up to CEO.

The “personal wellness” space doesn’t sound like it will have much overlap with his previous career, but Costolo refused to elaborate much more on why he’s going into that area.

“I have a specific idea around this space that I think could benefit massively from software being brought to bear there, so that’s what I’m going to do,” Costolo said on the podcast.

Yum Brands CFO Patrick Grismer will retire in February

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Yum! Brands has announced the retirement of CFO Patrick Grismer.

Grismer has served as CFO at Yum since 2012 and worked in various senior finance and planning positions at the company since 2002.

Grismer will remain with the company until February 19, 2016. He will help finalize the company’s 2015 Form 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He will also present at the company’s upcoming investor conference in Plano, Texas, on December 10, Yum! Brands said in a press statement. The company will conduct a search of internal and external candidates to identify a successor. No further details about the search have been revealed at this time.

“Pat has added tremendous value as CFO of our company and has been an excellent partner to me,” said CEO Greg Creed. “I respect his personal decision to move to be geographically closer to family members, and I wish him all the best.”

Yum! Brands operates more than 41,000 restaurants in more than 125 countries and territories. The company’s restaurant brands include KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.

In October, Yum Brands announced that it would split into two publicly traded companies.

The first company, Yum China, operates as a franchisee in mainland China while Yum Brands operates the company’s three restaurant brands throughout the rest of the world.

There’s a patch that could fix your allergy problem

Courtesy of DBV Technologies

An estimated 1.5 million children in the US are allergic to peanuts, an allergy that can often be so severe that the child who’s allergic can’t be in the same room as a peanut without their body freaking out and shutting down.

To counter that extreme reaction, researchers are working on a patch that works to lessen that severity. And it’s just become the first of its kind to enter phase 3 clinical trials, the last human trial needed before the FDA gets a chance to evaluate and (hopefully for the company) approve it.

DBV Technologies, the French biotechnology company behind the patch, calls the approach to treating severe allergies an “epicutaneous immunotherapy,” which means the immune-system-targeting drug is delivered through the skin. DBV is the first company to use this technology.

Inside each patch is a sprayed-on sample of peanut protein. Once you put it on, the protein makes its way into your immune system through your skin. Since it’s delivered this way, the allergen never makes it to the blood stream, which would cause the allergic reaction you’re trying to avoid. Ideally, when worn daily for a year or so, the patch makes it possible for people with peanut allergies to consume a small amount of peanuts, according to David Schilansky, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. For example, if someone who started using the patch initially couldn’t tolerate eating 1/10th of one whole peanut, she could ideally eat roughly a handful of peanuts without any reaction after a few years of daily use (the exact timeline for the patch to take effect is still being pinned down, says Schilansky).

Still, a small improvement could make a big difference.

“When you cannot afford more than a 10th of a peanut that’s really progress,” Schilansky told Business Insider.

That’s very different from the way allergies are typically treated in practice: Before this immunotherapy method, the only way to lessen an allergic reaction was through “desensitization,” a process in which you gradually introduce small amounts of the allergen into your body, in the case of peanut allergies, by eating the peanut outright. The problem with this method is that it can be very risky since it can cause an allergic reaction that spreads throughout the body through the blood stream. Other, more common methods, for treating allergies have been focused around treating the symptoms of the allergic reaction; i.e. using antihistamines like Benadryl or shots of epinephrine in extreme cases.

What causes allergies?

Allergies are your immune system’s response to a substance that may not be harmful to others. They’re the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the US. According to the CDC, an estimated 4-6% of children in the US have food allergies, with peanuts being one of the worst offenders.

The patch is being studied for its effects on children aged four to 11 who can benefit the most from having less severe allergies.

Allergies can be constant and life-threatening, Schilansky said. With children, the problem can be even scarier. Schilansky said that the piece of mind that comes with knowing your child won’t have an extreme allergic reaction is what DBV’s Viaskin is all about.

“This is a new method of immunotherapy,” Pierre-Henri Benhamou, DBV’s CEO, told Business Insider, which means there will be a lot of room to expand. Up next, Benhamou said the company is continuing research on using the patch for other food allergies such as milk and eggs – among the most common food allergies – and other non-food allergies that are connected to asthma. And after that, DBV plans to explore allergy vaccines that would ideally keep allergies from happening.

The Phase 3 trial, which will set DBV up for the FDA to decide whether it wants to approve the patch, is taking place in five different countries, and DBV plans to enroll more than 330 children.

The Philadelphia 76ers may have just veered from their radical rebuilding strategy in a huge way

Mitchell Leff/Getty

The Philadelphia 76ers appear to have put an end to their “Process” – that is, their blatant tanking to achieve high draft picks and rebuild the roster.

On Monday, 76ers owner Josh Harris announced that the team has hired Jerry Colangelo as a “special advisor” to their basketball operations.

This, of course, immediately raised questions about the status of general manager Sam Hinkie, who began the Sixers’ radical rebuild.

Hinkie seems OK with it:

While it’s unclear if this is a demotion, clearly it’s a turn in a different direction. Hinkie, for over two years, has been in charge of a plan where the 76ers intentionally don’t win games and make any moves necessary to acquire more draft picks. Colangelo has served as the director of U.S.A. Basketball, a program with the sole purpose of winning.

It never seemed as though Hinkie’s plan or job was in jeopardy, but clearly ownership wants the team to begin making moves. The Sixers have just one win this season, and despite several high draft picks, they don’t seem to be any further along in their plan than when they started.

There are promising building blocks in Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Robert Covington (and perhaps Nik Stauskas), but nobody is certain of the future of Joel Embiid, and Okafor and Noel’s long-term fit is an unknown.

It appears the 76ers want to starting bringing this rebuild along, getting closer to winning actual games, and they’ve brought Colangelo in to do so.

The 76ers could be in line for several draft picks this season, and if they draft wisely and sign some players in the offseason, it will be interesting to see just how quickly the team can make a move into competitiveness.

JOB CUTS: A bunch of senior Morgan Stanley staff are leaving

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The job cuts at Morgan Stanley’s fixed income business continue.

The US bank, which is looking to cut 25% of its fixed income staff, has been cutting staff on Monday in London and New York, according to people familiar with the matter.

There is now a growing list of staff affected by the investment bank’s restructuring, with emerging markets one of the areas hardest hit by the cuts.

Scott Francoeur, head of emerging markets credit sales in New York, is among those to have left the bank, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mukesh Murarka, the global head of emerging markets structured trading in London, has also left, according to the people.

They join a number of former colleagues in exiting the bank.Bloomberg reported last week that job cuts were taking place.That report said Kay Haigh, the bank’s global head of emerging markets, was leaving.

Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Dell’s CMO explains why men need to step up at work to reduce gender bias

Dell CMO Karen Quintos.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to diversity in the workplace and ensuring that women have equal opportunities to advance.

Recently, Business Insider spoke with Karen Quintos, the CMO of Dell, about the changing work environment and what it takes to drive real change at all levels.

Quintos joined Dell in 2000 and spent her first 10 years in various executive roles. She was named Dell’s CMO in 2010.

“The world today needs more inclusive thinking, and women naturally bring traits to the table that … help companies succeed,” Quintos says.

“As the most senior woman at Dell I owe it to other women, either women here or those who aspire to work here, to create a culture that will make them successful,” she says. “I have two daughters, and I really believe that a lot of the barriers and obstacles that women in my generation had to address will be removed when they enter the private or public sector.”

Quintos discusses what it will take to ensure diverse voices are represented and the important role that men play in women’s advancement.

Business Insider: How does Dell create an inclusive and welcoming culture for female employees?

Karen Quintos: We have focused on diversity for years. We have performed training programs, led employee-resource groups, and we put a strong lens on diversity for our annual succession planning. There are also goals and objectives at the leader level for interviews we conduct both internally and externally. We also implement scorecards at senior levels to gauge progress.

Recently, we joined a program called MARC, which stands for Men Advocating For Real Change. MARC is based around training at all levels of the company, and focuses on the natural biases that we all have. It is as much about training men as it is about training women. The program features half- and full-day training courses you conduct with your peers. We’ve all done it – even Michael Dell has completed the training program with his direct reports.

We sit around a room, and they take you through a number of exercises to make you aware of the societal and cultural things that impact your natural biases. It sensitizes you to other people who have been raised in certain ways or think in a different way. You end up saying, “I didn’t know they had this in their life. I didn’t realize how lonely that must be.”

What changes do you see when a company begins developing more female leadership?

The biggest thing I see is that you bring a broader point of view, and then a more inclusive dialogue and conversation starts taking place. I joined the Lennox board in Dallas, and the CEO has been very committed to having a much more diverse board for several years now. He wasn’t interested in me because of my gender. He wanted me on his team because of my marketing operations and diversity background.

When I joined the Lennox team there was also an African-American woman who was brought into the mix. The company now has a broader vetting of experiences and insights. That diversity isn’t just about women – it’s about age, it’s about gender, and it’s about experiences.

What needs to be done to bring more women into STEM programs and tech?

We need more role models, and they have to be present in homeschool, high school, college, and graduate school. There is also a need for role models to be more visible for women where all possibilities in the workforce exist.

Companies also need to play a significant role. There are certainly cultural and societal barriers that have been in existence for a long time. Businesses must address barriers at every turn and create opportunities for women as they enter the field postgraduation.

There are also things inherently natural to women that need to be addressed in asking for the job. For example, being much more proactive in declaring that they want to move into certain roles. Women must choose to become more visible and vocal.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is recognized for her unwavering confidence, even in the face of adversity.
Thomson Reuters

What’s the No. 1 trait women need to succeed in the workforce?

Confidence. It’s confidence in yourself and it’s confidence in taking the experiences you have garnered and turning those experiences into points of view that can really help to deliver business value. Confidence is one of those attributes that not a lot of women are taught early on in their lives and careers.

One of the conversations we’re having at Dell is how do you better arm these girls at 15 to 18 years old to be confident and assertive and know what it is that they want. Equally important is that if they don’t get it, don’t be afraid to circle back and ask again.

How important is sponsorship for women looking to advance their careers?

Sponsorship or advocacy is huge. I kind of knew who my sponsors or mentors were, but I didn’t realize how strong they were advocating for me when I moved into the CMO role five years ago. Advocacy and sponsorship really do matter, sometimes more than mentorship. Mentors can also be a sponsor, but don’t confuse the two, because sometimes a sponsor might not be a mentor, but they still campaign on your behalf.

You need to have an advocate that is in a position of influence so when jobs are being discussed, key roles are being negotiated, and key individuals are being put on a list to be considered for future roles, they are in those discussions and advocating on your behalf.

If you are not on a list for promotion your sponsor needs to be honest enough with you to explain why you are not on that list. If there is a misalignment of your expectations and what the feedback is, they must be willing to play a proactive role to help you in addressing where those gaps exist.

What can men do in their roles to bring more diversity to the table?

Culture matters a ton. Men need to play a significant role in creating a culture where women think they can succeed. They need to be brave to call out bad behavior and have the courage to point to those things that just don’t make sense.

If you are consistently sitting in a meeting and everyone in the meeting is a man, and that has been the case for multiple years, there is something more going on than a simple pipeline issue or the fact that women are not putting their hands up and asking for certain jobs. That is where culture matters.

When men really care about changing the trajectory of women in positions of power, they need to get it in their heart and their head that you will get to a better business outcome. That’s how you move the needle.

Men need to have courage and be brave. Guys have to be willing to call out the bad behavior and not accept no for an answer. They have to ignore the argument that “we can’t find the women.” Ultimately, it’s about courage and leadership.

This low-carb pasta that was invented a year ago is now sold in 1700 stores nationwide


A high-protein pasta made from chickpeas is gaining popularity.

Banza, a startup based in Detroit, created a new pasta made out of chickpeas. It has two times as much protein and four times as much fiber as traditional pasta has. It also has half as many carbs as traditional pasta has.

Co-founder Brian Rudolph graduated from Emory University in 2012. He went to Detroit with Venture for America, a program that aims to “build companies and revitalize communities through entrepreneurship,” according to its website.

During the program, Rudolph taught himself how to make pasta in his apartment. He experimented with different recipes to figure out how he could make a more nutritious version of pasta.

He eventually tried chickpeas as his base, and he was pleasantly surprised by how much it tasted like pasta. He even tricked his roommate into thinking it was regular pasta.

Banza’s chickpea pasta was born.

In 2015, Banza took home a $500,000 prize at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Contest, a business competition.

Banza has nine people on its team. It has expanded quickly in one year. Its pasta is now sold in 1,700 grocery stores in the United States, including Whole Foods, Kroger, Meijer, Fairway, Wegmans, Shoprite, and Eataly.

The pasta comes in a variety of shapes: penne, rotini, shells, and elbows. An eight ounce box costs $3.49.One serving of Banza’s chickpea pasta contains 14 grams of protein, whereas regular pasta has only seven grams of protein. Banza’s pasta has 24 grams of carbs per serving, and one serving of regular pasta contains 40 grams of carbs. Banza’s pasta does not contain any gluten, grains, or soy.

“Regular pasta is one of the biggest offender of overeating,” a Banza team member told Business Insider. “We look to Chobani as a business model because they reinvented regular yogurt and made Greek yogurt a popular trend. We hope to be able to do the same with Banza.”

Banza is on a mission to reinvent products with healthier ingredients. It plans to expand its product line beyond pasta in the future.

People who have tried it seem to think it’s a good alternative to regular pasta.