The post-interview period can be a particularly worrisome and stressful time.
A hundred questions cross your mind: did I make a good impression? Did I say what the interviewer wanted me to? When will they get back to me? Are they even going to call? What happens then?
If you’re not the sort who can sit back, relax, and wait for an answer after sitting through an interview, there’s a psychological tool to help stave off the temptation to check your inbox every five minutes: mindfulness.
Why mindfulness helps with your application
University of California psychologists Kate Sweeny and Jennifer Howell have discovered that mindfulness can make it easier to deal with nerve-wracking waits, according to psychology journal Psychologie Heute.
As part of their study, the researchers asked 240 law students waiting on news of their admission to the bar to complete a questionnaire.
In the first part of the questionnaire, participants were instructed to complete the so-called “Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory.”
This enabled the researchers to assess which of the students tended to lead a mindful life. “These ‘mindful’ participants were basically less concerned about the results,” the study said.
There was one thing that particularly struck the psychologists: mindful people prepare themselves for a potentially negative outcome but only towards the end of the waiting period.
It’s counterproductive to assume directly after an interview that the results may be negative. Basically, if you keep running through your mind what may have gone wrong during the interview, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
In the second part of the questionnaire, participants were told to do mindfulness exercises at least once a week for 15 minutes or to meditate with “Loving Kindness Meditation.”
“Participants who struggled the most during the waiting period experienced an improvement specifically through mindfulness exercises,” according to the study.
Steps for mindfulness
Mindfulness is the ability to pay full attention to the present. This means avoiding worries, doubts, fears, and uncertainties.
Meditation can be a helpful tool, and its uses aren’t restricted to interviews and exams.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs found out about the technique on a trip to India. There, he learned to be mindful through meditation, changing his view of the world, of design and creativity, and shaping his success.
I loathe the sound of my alarm clock. It makes absolutely no difference which sound I set it to, I’ve tried everything: my favorite song, birdsong, a relatively neutral ringing.
I simply cannot stand the sound.
I’m not a serial “snooze button-pusher” nor am I the sort to leave a smartphone ringing for three minutes before getting up to switch it off. There really is no sound I dread more than that of my alarm clock.
I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one who feels that way; I imagine many late risers who regularly have to get up early feel similarly.
That’s precisely why I want to know what it’s like to get up without an alarm clock in a normal working week.
I’m doing this not just for fun but also because I want to prove something: I wrote an article about how a year of getting up at seven in the morning from Monday to Friday (an hour earlier than I’m used to) had been bad for my health and had prompted people to write to me from all over the world – from New Zealand to the Netherlands.
I’ll admit that some went to the effort of writing to me just to let me know how much of a whiny millennial I was but the majority seemed to feel the same: people were saying their productivity was adversely impacted when they had to get up earlier.
Don’t fight your body clock
The good news is that we’re not imagining these problems; there’s a scientifically recognized phenomenon called “social jetlag” that’s responsible for your symptoms.
Every human being has a body clock and everyone’s ticks differently.
That’s why some of us are “early birds” and some of us are “night owls”.
If we constantly work against our body clock, it can have negative health consequences.
What happens when you finally listen to your body clock?
He took 13 participants to camp in the Rocky Mountains for a week.
The aim of the study was not simply to get people out of their everyday lives and allow them to get up without an alarm; it was also to minimize the influence of artificial light.
Wright came to the conclusion that the participants’ “social jetlag” saw an improvement after just one week and that their sleep rhythm had adapted to sunrise and sunset (although I should probably start clarifying now that I didn’t sleep in the forest for a week then go to work every morning).
What I did was this:
I tried to get up without an alarm clock.
I kept light pollution to a minimum (i.e. no television and typing on the mobile phone after sunset, as little lighting as possible)
I kept the blinds open so daylight would enter the room.
I warned my boss and colleagues I might be late for work in the morning but I assumed I wouldn’t suddenly sleep past 11.00 am the next morning.
I usually get up at eight in the morning, or so I thought. When I’ve set my alarm after 8.00 am in the past, I’ve often woken up before the alarm has even started going off. But then again, maybe I’ve been wrong all along.
I was in bed at 11.00 pm and woke up on Monday at 8.06 am.
When I arrived on time at nine that day, a colleague asked me if I’d started my experiment. When I said I had, most couldn’t believe it, with some saying: “You’re more punctual than you are getting up with an alarm clock!”
In truth, I did cheat, just a little: I didn’t quite rely on my body clock.
When I awoke to the sight of bright sunlight in the morning, I flinched and checked the clock.
It said 7.05 am, so I turned over and dozed off for another hour. I decided not to check the clock until I felt ready to get up.
The first morning didn’t go too well: it turns out it’s just as hard to do without artificial light as it is to get up without an alarm clock.
I just couldn’t resist the temptation to turn on the light in my room in the evening.
There are perks to steering clear of your smartphone or skipping TV in the evening: you automatically go to sleep sooner because the artificial light doesn’t keep you awake (or perhaps you just fall asleep because you have nothing to do?)
Our body follows a biological rhythm that’s centered around daylight and this rhythm can vary from person to person – and even from animal to animal and plant to plant.
“There is hardly a single function in the body that isn’t centered around the rhythm of the day. Our body clock regulates all of our internal processes – be it the concentration of calcium, magnesium or potassium in the blood up or the presence of enzymes,” says Till Roennerberg, professor at the LMU and considered one of the leading experts in the field of the human body’s internal clock.
Roenneberg distinguishes between two types of sleepers: larks (early risers) and owls (as the name suggests, more nocturnal people), in between which there are many varying degrees.
On Tuesday, I’d gone to bed at 11 the night before and woke up at 8.03 am.
I cheated, but again, it wasn’t deliberate! At half-past seven, I briefly woke up, checked my watch and then dozed for another half an hour.
I don’t know why I kept waking up – I think it may have been fear of oversleeping and not turning up at the office until past 11.00 am.
There’s a simple reason for waking up without an alarm clock: it’s healthier because the hormone melatonin regulates our body’s day-night rhythm.
When the melatonin concentration in the blood rises in the evening, we get tired. When it dips again in the morning, we wake up.
The problem with alarm clocks is they often pull you out of sleep, even though your body’s melatonin level isn’t at a high enough level for you to wake up naturally. That’s why we often feel shattered all day long.
Of course, it’s still only my second day of the “no alarm clock” routine, but I feel uncannily fresh and awake. Tuesday is also my weekly barre-workout day (it’s essentially a mixture of ballet and workout).
At the end of the lesson, we always do about 100 different forms of sit-ups and two minutes of planks.
Normally I’m completely exhausted during the last set of exercises and can barely hold my arms up, but my workout was easier than ever.
The dance class ends at 9.00 pm and I already know it won’t be easy for me to fall asleep today – I usually have that problem when I do sports in the evening.
On Wednesday, I woke up at 8.00 am exactly after going to bed the previous night at about 11.30 pm, prior to which I’d been awake for quite a while.
I’d done it. I hadn’t looked at my watch in the morning. I got up when I thought I felt rested and awake, and only checked the time afterward.
My colleagues say it’s possibly the most boring experiment of all time, mostly as I wake up so consistently. However, this also confirms what I’d predicted: 8.00 am is my time and I need at least eight hours of sleep.
To prep myself for the experiment, I actually took part in a conference on chronobiology.
Chronobiology is the study of the internal clock and has been a serious subject for some time. Three scientists received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in October 2017 for their research in chronobiology. They succeeded in deciphering the genetic mechanisms that emanate from the internal clock of fruit flies.
Not only did I learn at the conference that we are more similar to fruit flies in terms of our internal clock than we think; I also learned that the internal clock changes according to age (older people sleep less and usually get up earlier) and that it ticks a little differently in men and women. Our internal clock even determines how effective medicines work for us.
After a day with scientists from LMU, Harvard, and Oxford, I almost had the feeling that our whole life was ultimately determined by our inner clock. Those who permanently fight it are more susceptible to diseases.
I’m so optimistic that I’ll be able to get up at eight o’clock without an alarm for the rest of the week that I arranged to meet an eBay seller at nine in the morning the next day to pick up a vacuum cleaner.
As it turns out, I was a little too optimistic the day before. I woke up at 8.48 am after going to bed at midnight.
When I made the appointment with the eBay seller, I was unaware that I would end up in a cocktail bar with my colleagues later that evening.
When I drink alcohol, even if very little, I sleep very poorly. I only had a small beer and a gin and strawberry cocktail and yet there I was in bed, lying awake until well past midnight.
When I woke up in the morning, I still assumed it was probably around eight o’clock again. But then came the shock: it was 8.48 am. Not only was that day the first I would get into work after 9.00 am, I was also late to pick up the vacuum cleaner.
I showered, brushed my teeth, got dressed and put on my makeup in less than 12 minutes (I’m setting a personal record for that by the way).
Thankfully, the seller wasn’t in any hurry that morning and was waiting for me.
On Friday, I went to bed at 11.30 pm and woke up at 8.35 am. I slept a little longer than on the first days of my experiment, but on Fridays, it’s not a big deal as I work from home.
I feel now as though I have a pretty good idea of when I’m asleep in the morning and when it’s time to wake up. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I could sense it was about 8.30 am.
Maybe it’s also something to do with getting used to daylight in the room after five days. I’ve noticed I barely felt tired during the week. Usually, I find myself very lethargic after lunch or in the late afternoon and notice that I often have to yawn.
The week left me feeling very rested every day and feeling tired around half-past ten at night
I went to bed on Friday night at about midnight and ended up waking up on Saturday at 8.17 am.
Isn’t that remarkable?
Even though it’s a Saturday and I have the chance to sleep for as long as I want, I feel totally rested and awake at 8.17 am – much to the chagrin of my boyfriend who had come home from a business trip on Friday and probably would have liked a lie-in.
This Saturday I’m Facetiming my family in Austria. My mother tells me – without knowing about my experiment – that I look very fresh and that the dark shadows under my eyes, which I often have, have almost disappeared.
The fact that I’d been waking up almost every day at the same time – without an alarm clock – shows I have found my inner clock, to some extent. And it shows my current lifestyle fits well with my inner clock but, of course, this isn’t always the case.
In March, researchers at the University of Colorado published a study according to which people who frequently switch between day and night work are 40 percent more likely to develop Type II diabetes. Previous studies have concluded that people who suffer from social jetlag have a higher risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity.
German researcher Till Roenneberg, therefore, advises companies to create working time models that fit their employees’ internal clock.
On Sunday, I went to bed at 00.55 am and woke up at 9.38 am. I’d gone to the cinema for a late show, meaning I went to bed later than usual the day before. Sunday was the only day that week I didn’t wake up before nine.
My week without an alarm clock had a definite effect on my fitness. My boyfriend and I went to the mountains for lunch to go hiking. We decided not to take an easy walk, but to climb a summit of 1,668 meters. We managed to cover 580 meters (or 170 floors according to my health app). And I realized how easy everything was. Even the steepest passages, I climbed with such ease that my boyfriend – who was just a little envious – was panting behind me. I’d been hiking the previous week and had found hiking trails that were much flatter were much more difficult for me.
Back to using the alarm clock
I woke up at 5.40 am after having slept at 22.15 pm. Welcome back to reality. Being rudely awoken at that time to catch a train after the experiment I’d done, now I remembered how terrible the sound of the alarm clock was.
But it’s not just that. I noticed how fatigued I was all day after having to get up so early. It’s like the day is running away like a blurry film before my eyes. I’m already looking forward to going back to bed in the morning yet when I go to sleep at night, there’s no salvation.
Luckily, I already know I don’t have to get up until eight the rest of the week. The fact that this time matches my internal clock has been clearly demonstrated over the past week.
I usually woke up naturally between eight and half-past eight – even without an alarm clock and at the weekend when there was no compulsion to get up.
Of course, Till Roenneberg and other experts in chronobiology would probably criticize me, as my self-test would not be suitable for a scientific journal.
I can only speak from my personal experience this week but it’s showed me I’m much fitter and more productive when I listen to my body clock.
Robots aren’t just becoming more graceful, sophisticated, and precise; they’re becoming more autonomous, too.
From serving coffee or cocktails, designing tattoos, and keeping people company to exploring the rocky cavities of Mars and the Mariana trench, the list of tasks robots can perform is constantly growing.
And now, robotic hands may also be able to self-repair with a new intelligent foam called AiFoam.
The smart foam is artificially innervated.
This means that – similarly to how human skin can heal itself when bumped or wounded – if used within robotic hands, they could heal themselves or recognize nearby objects by detecting their electric fields, Reuters reported.
AiFoam is a highly elastic polymer created by mixing fluoropolymer with a compound that reduces surface tension.
When the robot hand is cut, the spongy material fuses into a single piece.
To replicate the human sense of touch, the researchers embedded microscopic metal particles and added tiny electrodes under the foamy surface.
When pressure is applied, the metal particles move closer inside the polymer and change their electrical properties.
Electrodes connected to a computer detect these changes and tell the robot what to do.
“There are many different applications for this material, especially in robotics and prosthetic devices, where robots need to be much smarter when working with humans,” explained lead researcher Benjamin Tee of the National University of Singapore.
“When I move my finger close to the sensor, you can see that the sensor is measuring changes in my electric field and responds accordingly to my touch,” explained the researcher.
Hands can measure not only the amount but also the direction of the force.
This is a huge breakthrough towards smarter, more interactive robots, which could benefit users of connected prostheses, enabling them to use robotic arms and hands in a more intuitive way to grasp objects.
AiFoam is the first material that combines self-healing properties with proximity and pressure sensing.
After a couple of years of development, the developers hope to have it on the market and applied to robots within the next five years.
In recent years, robotic arms and legs have taken off: MIT developed a technique in 2018 to connect gestures and brainwaves to prostheses, while the market for medical exoskeletons has been growing steadily.
Other new products include the Luke arm created by Deka for the military agency DARPA, and Hero Arm, ‘ a 3D printed, electrically coded myoelectric prosthesis made by Open Bionics.
The prosthesis has already been tested in clinical trials with children in the UK.
There is also YouBionic’s Arm, which uses 3D printing to cut costs.
Whether it’s crying babies, loud neighbors, or simply endless thoughts running through your head, sometimes you just can’t fall asleep.
Regardless of how hard you try, the consequences the following day are always unforgiving: crippling fatigue, poor concentration, and – above all – struggling to think of anything other than your bed.
However, as researchers from the University of California at Berkeley found, sleep deprivation can have serious social consequences, and they aren’t just limited to how you perform at work or throughout the day.
It isn’t just your health that suffers from night-time restlessness; you can end up completely sabotaging your social life too.
Sleeping too little leads to reclusive behavior
Led by postdoctoral fellow at the Walker’s Center for Human Sleep Science Eti Ben-Simon, the team found that a lack of sleep can lead to unsociable and reclusive behavior – and that it can have the same effect on the people around you.
According to the researchers’ findings, published in Nature Communications, people who sleep badly more often are lonelier as a result.
While it’s already a well-known fact that social isolation can cause sleep disorders, it hasn’t been clear whether a lack of sleep could also lead to people feeling lonely.
The less you sleep, the more physical distance you need from others
To conduct their study, the scientists performed an experiment in which one group of subjects didn’t sleep for a night, while another group was allowed to sleep in.
Both groups received a video the following day in which they were faced with people approaching them, where they had to gauge how close was “too close”.
The results were pretty clear: those who hadn’t slept felt their space was invaded between 18% to 60% faster than those of the group who had.
This led participants to create more of a social distance between themselves and others if they missed sleep on a given night, according to the researchers.
Too little sleep leads to unsociable tendencies
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to prove that the results weren’t accidental.
While the “near space” networks in the brains of well-rested participants didn’t show any abnormalities, those of the other group were “braced” and on alert for potential threats.
Not only that, but the “theory-of-mind” network, an area of the brain responsible for empathy and sociability, was less pronounced in those with sleep deprivation.
Interestingly, the results showed that those who were suffering from sleep deprivation didn’t just have issues with shying away from those around them.
Another experiment, in which researchers used videos to evaluate people who had slept well and those who hadn’t, showed that those who hadn’t were perceived by viewers as worse in terms of their potential for cooperation and sympathy.
Your own lack of sleep can have a knock-on effect on those around you
“The less sleep you get, the less you want to socially interact,” said Matthew Walker of the University of California.
“In turn, other people perceive you as more socially ‘repulsive’, further increasing the grave social-isolation impact of sleep loss,” he continued, saying: “Sleep deprivation can turn us into social lepers.”
Worse still, those who have to deal with people suffering from a lack of sleep – or even, in the case of this study, those who watched videos of them – also end up being “infected”, leading to an almost viral transmission of the feeling of social isolation wherever there’s a lack of sleep.
“It’s perhaps no coincidence that the past few decades have seen a marked increase in loneliness and an equally dramatic decrease in sleep duration,” said Ben-Simon.
“On a positive note, just one night of good sleep makes you feel more outgoing and socially confident, and furthermore, will attract others to you,” said Walker.
Nowadays, it seems we’re getting more and more critical when it comes to ingredients. From organic ingredients and excess sugar to “E numbers” (or food additives) and salt, the list of contents to worry about seems to be growing exponentially.
McDonald’s attracts plenty of customers – it said in its operations manual years ago that it sold 75 hamburgers a second – but the fast-food giant is by no means off the hook when it comes to this sort of scrutiny.
In 1999, a man named David Whipple started an experiment to see how many preservatives there were in a McDonald’s burger. In 2013, he showed the world his burger 14 years after putting it in a kitchen cupboard – and it still looked almost exactly the same.
“The reality is that McDonald’s hamburgers, french fries, and chicken are like all foods and do rot if kept under certain conditions,” he said. “Essentially, the microbes that cause rotting are a lot like ourselves, in that they need water, nutrients, warmth, and time to grow. If we take one or more of these elements away, then microbes cannot grow or spoil food.”
Many are still fixated on the notion that a McDonald’s burger is pumped full of preservatives.
To see how the burgers are made, Insider toured a McDonald’s factory in Günzburg, Germany, where an average of five million burgers, from the Big Mac to the Quarter Pounder, are produced every day.
This is how they’re made.
The Günzburg factory is one of the largest of OSI, one of the biggest suppliers of hamburgers for McDonald’s.
When McDonald’s was starting out in Europe, OSI set up in the German village of Günzburg.
The factory isn’t officially part of McDonald’s, but there are important agreements between the two companies.
“About 90% of the production of this factory is for McDonald’s,” said Eunice Koekkoek, a McDonald’s representative.
It’s immediately apparent from the smell when you enter the factory that it produces masses of hamburgers — even the reception area smells of beef.
Hygiene is incredibly important within the factory.
Employees who have had a stomach bug aren’t allowed to work until they’ve investigated the cause with their doctor, in order to prevent bacteria and viruses coming into contact with the meat.
There are no preservatives in the meat, so the quality requirements that apply at the factory are very strict.
To prevent objects from ending up in the meat, nothing is allowed to go loose in the factory — that means jewelry must be removed, and plastic pens are also out of the question.
Before entering, you have to put on protective clothing and wash your hands thoroughly. As I wanted to make notes, I was given a clipboard and a pen. They were both made of metal because in the final phase of the production process the burgers go through a metal detector — so if that pen were to end up in the meat, it wouldn’t go unnoticed.
The meat is checked to ensure there are no bones.
At the factory, it’s mainly large pieces of meat coming in. McDonald’s requests this from slaughterhouses, as larger pieces of meat reduce the risk of contamination because they have a smaller surface area that could be contaminated by bacteria.
After being checked, the meat is put in containers of about 500 kilograms (about 1,100 pounds) each.
This space is filled to the brim with these kinds of containers, yet all that meat is processed within a day.
Forklift trucks are constantly driving to and fro to collect new containers of meat.
Almost 500 containers a day are needed to make enough burgers, so a lot of work is required to get them to the right place on time.
The meat is then minced.
While the blenders grind the meat, the machine ensures that any small pieces of bone are eliminated.
A total of eight containers of meat weighing 500 kilograms each (that’s 40 to 50 cows) can be processed at the same time — so if you eat a McDonald’s hamburger, it’s actually not from one cow, but dozens.
The minced meat ends up in a separate container to be used for the burgers.
Only when the minced meat looks like spaghetti is it perfect.
Another machine shapes the minced meat into burger patties.
A mix of fresh and frozen beef means the burgers can be brought to the correct temperature more quickly. That way, they also hold their shape more easily — there’s no binding agent in the meat.
These machines can also produce vegetarian burgers. “This has even been done here for another McDonald’s country,” Koekkoek said.
Right now, the factory is seeing an increase in production. But should the demand for meat decrease in the future, OSI could easily turn over its earnings model, it said.
These machines are incredibly cold.
Ice forms on the machines, and water vapor in the air condenses.
On average, about 5 million hamburgers roll off the belt each day.
Fewer people than you might imagine are required to keep the production process going.
A total of 200 people work at the factory, but about 45 to 60 people are present per shift.
The factory can make about 30 million hamburgers a week — its actual output is just slightly below that at the moment.
McDonald’s and OSI normally don’t use this full capacity, mostly to ensure they can use the extra in case demand suddenly increases.
A few burgers are always tested.
For McDonald’s hamburgers, the fat content has to be 20%. For comparison, minced beef available in supermarkets can contain a maximum of 25% fat.
Hamburgers at the factory are grilled and tasted to see whether the taste, structure, and texture are up to McDonald’s standards.
To grill the burgers, the factory has an exact replica of the kitchen you’d find in a McDonald’s outlet. It’s essential for food safety that the burgers reach a temperature of at least 69 degrees Celsius (156 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s why a burger at McDonald’s can never be cooked “medium rare.”
Once frozen, the hamburgers disappear into blue plastic bags and then into boxes.
One of the 40 quality checks is a metal detector. No plastic objects are allowed in the factory — so if an employee needs a pen, for example, it must be made of metal. That’s so that any loose objects in the factory that accidentally end up in the burgers will be immediately noticeable before they leave.
If a customer complains that they’ve found something in their burger, McDonald’s first question is where and when the burger was bought.
“We first check whether we’ve received similar complaints within the same time frame at the same location, and we investigate what may have happened during the production process,” Koekkoek said.
“After this investigation, the complaint is often resolved. Due to numerous quality checks at OSI, it’s almost impossible for anything to turn up in the meat. In the event of a serious complaint regarding food safety, we immediately examine the entire chain — but that rarely happens.”
The boxes show exactly when a burger was produced, where the meat came from, and where the burgers are headed. So if there’s something wrong with the meat, it’s easy for McDonald’s to know within a few hours which slaughterhouse and farm the meat came from.
The boxes show exactly when and where each hamburger was made.
Because cows are registered at birth, everything that happens to them is recorded, and every change of owner is registered. Using a special code on the box, you can even find the exact cow the meat came from.
“We make sure cows are always slaughtered in their country of origin,” Koekkoek said, “so they don’t need to be transported far.”
For German hamburgers, 60% of the beef comes from Germany, 35% is Dutch, and 5% is from Poland.
“In the Netherlands, for example, we don’t supply enough beef to produce hamburgers that are purely Dutch,” Koekkoek said. “That’s why we use some meat from Germany and Poland. But if we use the word ‘Dutch’ in a name for a limited-edition burger like the Dutch Deluxe, for example, we guarantee that all the meat comes from the Netherlands.”
The meat used for the hamburgers complies with European and national standards, McDonald’s said.
“We take animal welfare into account, but we can’t decide on our own to switch to organic meat, for example,” Koekkoek said. “That said, every step McDonald’s takes towards sustainability has a huge impact on the 37,000 restaurants we have around the world.”
Once boxed, hamburgers are stacked by another machine and wrapped in plastic.
Before the boxes disappear, another sticker is placed on them saying where the burgers came from and where they’re going.
The distribution center is conveniently next door to the factory.
On the same industrial estate, you’ll also find the factory where the buns for Germany’s hamburgers are made.
The village of Günzburg is an important area for McDonald’s.
The burgers are taken to from the distribution center to McDonald’s restaurants.
The burgers remain at -18 degrees Celsius until they’re unpacked in the restaurant.
A hamburger is typically on your plate within three weeks of the cow’s slaughter, McDonald’s said.
Koekkoek said it was largely a myth that McDonald’s burgers taste different all over the world.
“The meat, of course, derives from cows from all over the world, and real connoisseurs will taste that difference,” Koekkoek said. “But the consumer is unlikely to be able to taste the difference in the beef’s origin, due to the other flavors of the burger bun and the sauce.”
Koekkoek added: “That said, the taste experience of hamburgers all over the world may be slightly different because of the amount of salt and pepper used — some countries like more salt than others. But that’s the only difference, apart from the origin of the beef.”
Every now and then, when health care psychologist Ulrika Leons has a lot of work to get done, she’ll sneak into her office in the morning without anyone noticing.
She won’t say hello to anyone, won’t get any coffee, and just goes straight into her office.
As no one knows that she’s there, she can finally get a good few hours of work in uninterrupted – and that’s not the only unusual work practice she’s adopted; she often opens a meeting with a mindfulness exercise. She makes sure no one has their phone on their desk and if a meeting is going to take a long time, she always suggests taking a break – sometimes in silence.
While it may all sound a little strange, Leons thinks everyone should adopt the same practices she does.
“We don’t treat our brains well at work,” she told Business Insider. “We busy and distract ourselves all day long with our phones and smartwatches, all while trying to work efficiently in a busy office. We just end up exhausting our brains.”
Leons went on to explain that, at the end of the day, we end up bombarding our brains with even more new information through social media or music on the way home.
“We go home and watch a film or a series,” she said, “and we don’t give our brains a second’s rest.”
“Our way of working demands energy and it’s unnecessarily draining,” said Leons. “You don’t store information and you end up working inefficiently. If you don’t allow yourself a moment to catch your breath, you end up risking burnout.”
Burnout has started to become a bigger concern in recent years. Now it’s officially classed as a mental health issue, we should start taking steps either to combat it or to prevent it entirely.
Leons gave Business Insider three tips to take better care of your brain while you’re at work.
1. Not switching off those notifications
Many of us work in jobs that require us to use our heads, all day – this means you have to concentrate on certain tasks.
This can be hard in an office because you’re surrounded by colleagues who’ll occasionally want to quip in and or ask you a question. “What about that client?” or “Can you take a look at that email?”
While it might seem harmless, it’s disastrous for your concentration, explained Leons: “If someone distracts you, it can take somewhere between five and 25 minutes for you to fully focus your attention on your task again. It takes energy to switch between tasks all the time. If this happens all day long, you’ll be exhausted by the time you go home.”
That’s why Leons advises that you to shut yourself off from your colleagues if you want to focus: “This can be done very easily, for example, by putting in headphones. You can then agree with colleagues, for example, that if someone is wearing headphones, you really can’t reasonably disturb them for a while.”
There are other ways to ensure you’re not continuously distracted. For example, together with your employer, you could visually block work stations in your office from communal or social spaces, for example, so you don’t end up seeing everyone going for coffee.
“You can arrange for people to go into a meeting room if they want to make a phone call,” said Leons, “so they don’t disturb others.”
2. Disregarding your “attention curve”
If you know in advance that you need to work on a task that will require intense concentration for an hour, you need to think very carefully about the time of day at which you choose to execute it.
“Everyone has an ‘attention curve’ – there are times at which it’s easier to focus and times when it’s harder to. In the afternoon, most people have more trouble focusing, but in the morning it’s better,” said Leons.
Different organizations also have different day-to-day schedules.
“Sometimes, for example, there’s a meeting every morning or the office is a little busier in the afternoon. Organize your day around that,” said Leons. “If you have a number of fairly simple tasks that require only a few minutes of focus, you can often do them while the office is busy. But if you want to concentrate on something, try to do it when it’s quiet in the office and preferably in the morning.”
It may sound simple, but it does require some adjustments to your daily schedule. “If it works well, it will allow you to work a lot more efficiently and quietly in the long run.”
It also makes sense to agree with the entire company on a fixed time (or several times) during the week where everyone can work in a focused way. “If, for example, there are never any meetings on Thursday mornings, you could agree that Thursday mornings will be a time when everyone can work for a few hours without being disturbed.
3. Stop overstimulating your brain
Do you ever allow yourself to just be bored, or do you always end up reading the news while you’re waiting for the bus?
Do you ever find yourself taking your phone to the bathroom with you?
Leons explained that it’s vital to give your brain that chance to catch its breath every now and then. “If you fill every minute of every day with stimuli and entertainment, your brain never gets the chance to recover and you may be at risk of burn-out,” she said Leons.
“In the past, empty lulls during the day were a natural phenomenon,” she went on. “You’d have nothing to do while you were waiting for a bus or a train; now, we fill those moments with Candy Crush or scrolling through Instagram – and yet boredom and daydreaming are moments of recovery for the brain. People mix peace and pleasure, watching a movie might feel like you’re relaxing, but your brain doesn’t actually get a rest as a result.”
The brain must also be able to cope with the day once in a while, says Leons: “You can’t do that by coming home after working all day only to start reading or watching a movie. You really have to do just nothing – you can daydream or look out the window but you really have to do nothing.”
If you struggle with that approach, there are other ways you can approach effective resting a little more consciously. “For example, you can meditate, take a walk, or simply look around you.”
“The most important thing is to be kind to yourself from time to time and to do so in a way that works for you.”
How does Leons prefer to do this?
“Start by simply looking out the window now and then just doing nothing. Then you remember what it feels like to daydream and to be in an unfocused state. From there, you can find an activity that suits you and offers that same feeling.”
The thing about $300,000 supercars is that unless you drive them all the time, it’s hard to separate fact from fable.
To most, a McLaren 720S Spider is a concept: a thing that exists in someone’s reality but not their own, rarely and fleetingly crossing into their plane of existence when it happens to share a road with the normies. Conceptualization leads to abstraction, making the 720S less of a car and more of an earthbound spaceship (which, to be fair, it is).
But actually stepping into one of those supercars melts the abstraction away. Suddenly, the 720S is a real, physical being whose steering wheel is in your hands. It’s no longer a fable, it’s a fact – and the fact is that it’s everything you dreamed it would be.
McLaren, a British carmaker known for its deep motorsport history and iconic McLaren F1 supercar from the 1990s, debuted the 720S in March 2017 with a starting price of $284,745. A Spider version came in December 2018, allowing buyers to retract the roof for $315,000 and up.
The 720S was “the dawn of a new era” for the company, McLaren said, with swoopy styling and gaping black holes for eyes that show a slit of white when the lights blink on. It debuted as a successor for the McLaren 650S supercar and similarly derives its model name from its power figure: 720 PS, or 710 horsepower.
That comes from a 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine, which sends power to the car’s rear wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission – a type of fast-shifting automatic with two clutches but no physical clutch pedal like you’d see in a car with a traditional manual transmission.
Altogether, McLaren claims the car has a 0-to-60-mph time of 2.8 seconds and a top speed of 212 mph. (With the roof lowered in the Spider, you can only hit 202 mph. We’re not sure why you would try.)
Nearly three years after its debut, the 2021 McLaren 720S Spider still starts at $315,000. But there’s a lot of room to grow that number.
The loaner we drove recently climbed all the way to $359,820 courtesy of a few options: $1,720 orange brake calipers, a $5,940 sport exhaust, a $2,350 coat of Silica White paint, a $4,420 upgraded, 12-speaker audio system, and optional 10-spoke wheels for $3,850, among other things. On the outside, the Silica White paint and black accents felt rather modest for a supercar.
The reality of a $360,000 McLaren 720S Spider doesn’t quite hit you until you’re sitting behind the wheel, windshield facing your home that costs a fraction of what the car does (in my case). It ceases to be a car that exists somewhere and becomes a car that’s right in front of you, dihedral doors pointed toward the sky and long, swooping side vents breathing the same air as you.
That’s when you begin to learn that the 720S has two distinct modes: babying it around and letting it rip.
In the city, I preferred driving around with the top off so I could lean my head out of the window to look over my shoulder. The 720S Spider’s thick rear pillars made it impossible to check anything other than the mirror otherwise, and the car didn’t provide me with a turn-signal alert when someone was in the lane next to me.
It was a process, but you know what they say: Trust the process, even if it’s tedious.
The 720S’s four inches of ground clearance also turn navigating any bump or dip in the road into a medical procedure: anticipate the elevation change, activate the nose-lift function, then creep toward your destination with breath held and jaw clenched. Only after you’ve successfully traversed the terrain can you put the nose back down and breathe again.
There’s a kind of hilarity to how fragile such capable cars can feel when they face otherwise normal road obstacles – here’s this McLaren 720S, equal parts king of the road and the road’s biggest celebrity, creeping into a parking lot because there’s a little dip. The same car that ripped past you at the stoplight (as you took photos of it from out of your window) needs a little extra time on other challenges, so please, be patient.
But king of the road the 720S is, even if it needs a little babying sometimes.
It’s loud. It’s fast. Its cockpit envelopes you without suffocating you. It handles so well on winding roads that it’s almost tame, acting more like the smoothest, most infallible rollercoaster you can imagine than any kind of car with a human behind the wheel. You couldn’t get it out of sorts on the road if you tried.
Its side vents channel so much air through the car that sticking your hand down in them feels like putting it in a river current. Its dual-clutch transmission shifts through each gear with such vivid aggression that you’ll wonder how the car is moving without your foot on a clutch pedal and hand on a shifter.
“Does it sound as cool in automatic mode as it does when you’re using the paddle shifters?” multiple people asked upon hearing the car’s rapid, feral downshifts even in the calmest scenarios, like neighborhoods and city streets.
“That isn’t me shifting,” I’d tell them. “That’s the car.”
“I can’t believe I’m personifying a car,” my aunt said when she heard me rip past once. “But it almost sounds sad when you have to let off the gas, as if it just really wants to keep going.”
That’s because the 720S can do everything you ask of it and far more, and it wants you – and everyone else – to know that.
In small-town Texas, most people experience some sort of disbelief about the 720S – usually that it’s next to them on the road in the first place. They’ll scream at you as they drive by, wave in parking lots, rip out their phone to take photos.
Sometimes, a driver behind you at a stoplight will nudge their passenger, mouthing to them to look the car up and see what it is. The passenger will, they’ll both nod, then they’ll snap a picture before the light turns green.
Guys in Ford Mustangs will turn into male peacocks to show you how loud and fast their car is at stoplights, as if it matters at all to you, a McLaren 720S driver. You’ll cackle in response.
No matter where you are or what time of day it is, you’re acutely aware that everyone is staring at you and you’ll probably end up in photos online or group chats. One person told me his friend saw me driving the car, and without knowing he knew me, sent him a photo of it on the highway.
“Yeah, that’s my friend driving,” he responded. He was proud to say it.
People lit up when they saw the 720S, and they especially lit up when they got a chance to talk to me about it. They gasped when I showed them how its optional $9,100 electrochromic roof could tint itself blue and un-tint itself with the push of a button, or how its display screen could tuck itself down into the dashboard to remove distractions for Serious Racetrack Driving. Suddenly, everyone’s a kid again – just instead of staring at the McLaren on their wall posters, they’re staring at the one right in front of them.
It was funny how such an expensive machine – one that makes most people hyperaware they can’t afford it, because that’s the whole point – could become such a magnet for joy. But it was powerful to be that magnet.
Not everything about the 720S is perfect. Its doors don’t waste any time after a wash getting caked in grime due to the vents down the side of the car, and the interior controls are a learning curve. I couldn’t tell the difference between 65 and 74 degrees on the climate control because both were cold, and starting the car at 8 a.m. or 10 p.m. made me clench my jaw for the sake of the neighbors.
Then again, if you buy this car, you probably don’t have neighbors – at least, not nearby.
But in a supercar like this one, minor flaws don’t matter. What matters is that all at once, you’re a star. The one everyone’s looking at. You’re the ruler of the streets, whether that be driving through town or sharing the winding rural roads everyone likes to visit on Saturdays with a train of Corvettes.
That’s the reality of the 720S, and it’s pretty much everything you dreamed it would be – just with $360,000 worth of responsibility in your hands. If you can handle (and afford) that, you might as well make those dreams come true.
On first encounters, we often seek out differences
When we meet someone new for the first time, we immediately look for things that distinguish us from them, said social psychologist Hans Alves, speaking with Insider about the model his team has developed.
According to him, in our search for differences, we often find “negative” ones much more quickly and easily than we do positive ones.
“There’s practically no way to be positive,” Alves said: positive qualities, such as perceiving someone as nice or polite, are traits we’re likely to perceive as traits we share with someone new, more often than not.
As neither of those is technically a difference, they’re not particularly striking and don’t register as such.
We make our first impressions based on differences and not similarities.
It’s much easier to use negative qualities to build first impressions of someone, simply as they’re more likely to be unique to an individual.
Some people seem unfriendly and arrogant at first, others stingy, unreliable, or irritable. It’s often these qualities that stand out on first meeting a person, and that’s how prejudices are formed against another person.
Prejudices serve namely to help us categorise new experiences
“In reality, what we’re really trying to do is just classify whatever it is that’s in question, in order to enable us to understand it,” said Alves.
While the outcome of this may be negative, often this behaviour doesn’t come with any form of bad intention.
We regularly witness this phenomenon of human behaviour in everyday life.
For example, when meeting a new colleague for the first time, we tend to look for characteristics that distinguish us from them, often without realising.
Or we tend to set ourselves apart from a group of people across the road if they’re of a different ethnicity to ourselves.
While some prejudices can help us distinguish one thing from another, the fact that we look for differences means we start to establish patterns of categorizing people that lead to generalized assumptions – more simply put, we fall into the habit of thinking in stereotypes, both positive and negative.
“It’s important to remember that you’re starting off with a disadvantage,” Alves told Insider.
Whether you’re new to a country, starting a new job, or joining a new organization.
But it’s precisely the fact that we’re aware of this taking place that, according to the expert, we can at least try not to be so strongly influenced by it when meeting new people ourselves. We can actively overcome our prejudices.
“If you bear these things in mind, you may be able to put yourself in the shoes of your counterpart more easily and try to change your own perceptions so that you focus on similarities rather than differences.”
How aliens helped proved the scientists right
In order to develop their model, the scientists showed 600 subjects various images of different fictive alien groups on a computer.
There were two different types, each with different skin colors and hairstyles – aliens were chosen over real-life groups as the scientists wanted to exclude the possibility of real-life prejudices.
The subjects were asked to imagine they were traveling through the galaxy.
They met each of the two alien groups, and every alien within each group was assigned a characteristic by the computer, which a subject could read by standing beneath the aliens.
Each group had an equal number of “positive” and “negative” aliens.
The alien group the subjects would meet first was left down to chance.
All the subjects met the alien members of group A and of group B a total of six times each. In one group of subjects, the negative characteristics of aliens in group B differed to those of group A.
In the other group, the differences were between the positive characteristics.
The groups of participants decided differently whether they found group A or group B more likeable. Where the aliens in group B differed from group A based in terms of negative characteristics, the subjects liked strain A better.
Where group B had the same negative traits as group A but different positive characteristics, the subjects opted for group B, even though the number of positive and negative characteristics was equal in both encounters.
The new model suggests we perceive others negatively simply as it’s easier
Until now, scientists broadly assumed we classified new groups as negative in order to gain some form of an advantage over them.
Previous models were mainly concerned with motivation but, according to this new model, we often don’t choose consciously to perceive others negatively; we do so automatically because it’s easier to.
But why, then, do some individuals seem to approach foreign groups with more prejudice and perceive them more negatively?
It’s a good question bearing in mind the millions of refugees who have come to Europe in recent years, many of whom have faced mixed reactions. While many awaited their arrival with presents at the station, there was also fear of marches and a plethora of hateful comments circulating on social media.
According to Alves, these reactions may be independent of factors taken into account in the model. The new model is first and foremost focused on describing the general behavior of all humans.
He suggested other factors also play a more decisive role when it comes to refugees and the prejudices surrounding them, for example, how open an individual is to new experiences and how pronounced their neurotic traits might be (that is to stay, how emotionally stable they are).
Essentially, other personality traits and an individual’s background will also play a large role in how an individual perceives others.
According to Alves, the more often we encounter a person or a group, the less likely we are to notice their differences. Instead, we’re more likely to focus on shared similarities.
Any resentment and prejudice towards people we consider strangers, outsiders or “the other” is greatest where there are fewest strangers, that is to say, in situations where there are few opportunities for frequent encounters with the given group.
According to Alves, where information is often only available in a negative context, for example through television, frequent exposure to the relevant group will probably improve negative perceptions.
The solution? Consciously and proactively look for positive traits from the start
Alves is hoping to take the study further and investigate what would happen if an individual were to have more frequent exposure to such a group.
He’s hoping to answer questions about what the outcome would be if you were to live on an aliens’ planet, or what would happen if you integrated within a new group and you yourself became “the outsider” within your group.
Alves predicts that this situation would lead to the larger group seeking out similarities rather than differences. “What I’m interested in is finding out what would then happen if you were to return to your own ‘home’ group.”
Alves suggests this is interested as the “homegroup” might end up being perceived as “foreign” and may lead you to notice certain differences for the first time.
According to the expert, there are a number of things you can do to prevent yourself from being overly prejudiced and categorizing others negatively.
“In general, willpower and an awareness of this phenomenon will massively help you to counteract your own perception,” he told Insider.
You can try to be more empathic and to put yourself in the shoes of others.
If you meet someone new and look specifically for similarities, you may notice differences but, according to Alves, you’ll notice more positive characteristics than you may have initially done.
Like so many of my fellow Millennials, I’m a big fan of First We Feast’s hit YouTube talk show, “Hot Ones.”
If you’re not already familiar, it’s a typical talk show format with a twist: Instead of a standard interview, it’s an interview conducted while eating through a gauntlet of 10 increasingly hot chicken wings.
The show is primarily filmed in a studio in Manhattan, and its wings usually come from a little shop in Manhattan named “Shorty’s.”
Shorty’s got a nice shoutout from Elijah Wood on the season 15 wrap-up episode. Wood called them, “Very good wings,” to which host Sean Evans replied, “Shout out Shorty’s!”
I went to Shorty’s this week to find out exactly how good the wings are, but first I stopped by the iconic hot sauce shop that collaborates with “Hot Ones”: Heatonist, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Heatonist is a pilgrimage for hot sauce heads. The shop has collaborated with “Hot Ones” for years, and it sells several different “Hot Ones” branded sauces – including a recent iteration of the infamous “Last Dab.”
I was there for two specific sauces from the bottom and the top of spice mountain: The “Classic” hot sauce, and the “Last Dab” hot sauce, both made by “Hot Ones” and used on the show.
After picking up the hot sauces, I headed through the Queens Midtown Tunnel to Shorty’s to pick up wings. Appropriately, Shorty’s sells an order of wings as 10 pieces for $14.
Another 25 minutes later and I was back in Brooklyn, wings still warm, ready to dig in.
Critically, the wings for “Hot Ones” are ordered plain, and then tossed individually with sauce by a production assistant. The assistant, “pours hot sauce into one plastic bowl, places a wing inside, and puts another bowl on top to form a clamshell, which is then shaken vigorously,” The Verge reported in 2019. So I started by doing that!
As you can see, the “Hot Ones” saucing method is effective. Since Shorty’s wings are battered, then fried, there are plenty of little crags and crevices for the sauce to disappear into.
The good news is that Elijah Wood is right: The wings from Shorty’s are, in fact, quite good. Since they’re battered with flour – rather than straight up fried, naked chicken wings – they’re more similar to fried chicken than standard bar wings.
Moreover, the Classic sauce is pretty tasty unto itself. It’s a little sweet, a little garlicky, and surprisingly punchy from Fresno chilies. Definitely hotter than, say, Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco, but not overwhelmingly hot either.
Of note: “Hot Ones” uses different vendors for wings, and has in the past used different vendors in New York City. Sometimes guests want fish sticks, or vegan wings, instead of chicken wings.
There was only one thing left to do after trying the wings plain and trying them with the Classic hot sauce: The Last Dab.
Would it destroy me, like it had so many people much more famous and attractive than me?
Only one way to find out!
In a shocking twist, it wasn’t that hot! It’s definitely spicy, and I definitely sweated profusely after eating it, and my lips hurt a bit, but it wasn’t the soul-destroying experience that I expected.
It’s easy to understand why “Hot Ones” guests are so complimentary: The wings from Shorty’s are uniformly golden and crispy with juicy meat. They’re not too small, and not too big, and they held onto a good crunch even after a 25 minute car ride. They aren’t going to change your life, but they’re some of the better wings I’ve had in over a decade eating NYC wings.
Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (email@example.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.
A self-proclaimed “Stepford wife” who retrained as a lawyer in her 40s insists that nobody is too old to make a “life-affirming” career change.
Elizabeth Hepworth, who is still practising law aged 72, is one of several people who recounted their mid-life career changes to The Guardian.
In her early 20s, Hepworth was forced to quit studying for her degree in English, French and law because of injuries she sustained in a car accident, for which she underwent years of reconstructive surgery.
She married and had three children but described herself as “a Stepford wife” who supported her husband while he pursued his career. Her husband left her when she was in her 30s, so she got a job as a legal assistant to support her family.
This rekindled her desire to work in law, so she returned to university and qualified as a solicitor in her 40s. In her mid-50s, she was given the opportunity to train as a barrister, and said she “absolutely grabbed it”. She said she was grateful that fate had given her a chance to revisit her childhood dream.
“The one thing I would say to people is, do not consider age to be a barrier to do anything that you have always dreamed of,” Hepworth told the Guardian.
She said her career change was “life-affirming” and “refreshing.” “You have a tremendous sense of self-renewal, which goes with your sense of self-achievement, and I would recommend it to anybody,” she said.
Philip Juma told Insider that he couldn’t shake the idea of being a chef while pursuing a career in finance. Eventually he left, spending seven years working freelance before opening his own restaurant in London’s Borough Market in 2020.