Run your business with these apps

With clients across the world and in different time zones, Delhi-based chartered accountant Shitij Bahl, who runs his own taxing and accounting firm, needs to keep a lot of information handy on his phone when he’s travelling.

“You never know when I will get an urgent request from a client to see all their documents. The whole 30 MB of it,” says the 33-year-old. He relies on mobile apps to respond quickly and efficiently—Google Suite to organize team schedules and track projects; Zoho Invoice to send GST-integrated invoices quickly; and Dropbox, where he keeps all client data so it can be shared efficiently with just a link. If, like Bahl, you tend to travel on work, here are a few essential apps to keep handy.

Photo: iStockphoto
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Seven strategies to survive a toxic workplace

A toxic workplace is defined as a place which encourages bullying, snitching, excessive competition, backbiting and arm-twisting, according to Ernesto Noronha, professor, organizational behaviour, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. “Companies which deprive people of minimum wages, don’t pay overtime, offer no work-life balance, have long working hours, don’t adhere to labour laws, have autocratic bosses, encourage favouritism and lack of communication are a bad environment to work in,” says Prof. Noronha, who has extensively researched corporate bullying cultures in India.

Any of this sounds familiar? Watch out for these seven tell-tale signs of a toxic workplace. And if you’re trapped in such an environment at work, but don’t want to quit because the work profile and money are good, or for lack of better options, here’s what you can do about it.

Toxic Workplace Sign 1: You are being bullied

It could be a manager, a colleague or even your whole team emotionally abusing you, being aggressive, or intimidating you through direct or virtual communication. “This behaviour can cause you grave harm as it makes you feel powerless,” says Premilla D’Cruz, professor of organizational behaviour at IIM, Ahmedabad.

Fix it: Prof. D’Cruz recommends confronting your oppressor, telling him/her that this needs to stop now. If the bully is your manager, take your colleagues into confidence and confront the manager together. Sometimes, giving an ultimatum is enough.

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8 apps to boost your productivity and finish work early

What’s the simplest way to boost your productivity? With December, the party month, right around the corner, are you looking for ways to finish work earlier than usual? Do you find yourself struggling to meet deadlines? Are you having trouble keeping track of the day’s tasks? Or are you working longer hours to clear that pile of work so that you can head out on that year-end vacation? Here are a few apps to help you get organized and finish your work faster.

Asana

Are you constantly on the phone, giving instructions to your team? Manage them with Asana, a business app that lets you assign tasks to team members and track if these have been done. You can set up tasks, to-do lists and reminders, and comment on items or send images to the team. In addition, you can integrate the app with Dropbox, Slack, Okta.Github, Google Drive and Chrome.

Freemium plans from $9.99 (around Rs643) per person per month. Web, iOS, Android. Asana.com

Boost your work productivity to get more free time
Boost your work productivity to get more free time 
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Want to shed flab? Try BodyPump, a workout that burns fat and builds muscles

Set to a pulsing rhythm of 10 tracks, BodyPump is a workout routine that uses High-Intensity Interval Training (Hiit). In 2012, Sanjay Reddy was 23 years old and weighed 168kg. “Even for my 6ft, 3 inches height, that was obese,” he says. Bored of a gym routine, he joined Cult Tribe, a fitness centre in Bengaluru. That’s when he was introduced to BodyPump, an exercise routine put together by New Zealand-based fitness company Les Mills International.

“It was a group workout of 15-20 people with weights, set to the latest DJ songs, with constant motivation by the instructor. The music, the healthy competition within the class and the energetic movement with weights completely pumped me up, leaving me with an exciting, happy feeling,” he says.

BodyPump makes you shed weight fast

Three years later, he had shed the flab and was happy about the way the workout had changed him physically and mentally. In 2015, he participated in a Les Mills workshop in Hyderabad and became a freelance instructor for BodyPump.

Set to a pulsing rhythm of 10 tracks, BodyPump is a workout routine that uses High-Intensity Interval Training (Hiit). It is specifically designed to help build lean muscle and strength, and improve your fat-burning ability, Reddy says. It’s also the ideal workout for anyone who wants to strengthen their muscles without gaining that bulky bodybuilder look.

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Ways to spot fake news

Fake news is not a new phenomenon but social media platforms have made it much easier to spread rumours and lies.

During the demonetization move in November 2016, a WhatsApp forward convinced people, and even news channels, that the new Rs2,000 note came embedded with GPS trackers. The story turned out to be false.

According to a report in March by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the number of internet users in India was expected to cross 450 million by June—241 million have Facebook accounts and over 200 million are on WhatsApp.

Be aware of fake news

Many of these users have been mobile-first users of the internet, so they are not aware of the fake email forwards and online frauds of the desktop era. They tend to think the messages they get are genuine.

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It’s important to know the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

It doesn’t help that most fake news operators do not write stories that sound obviously false. They work with half-truths, turning them into believable news. “They fudge the numbers, Photoshop images, take a photo from an old source or from another country and try and sell it as statistics or a photo of something that it is not,” says Sandeep K. Shukla, head of department, computer science and engineering, at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and project investigator at the institute’s Center for Cybersecurity and Cyber Defence of Critical Infrastructure, a centre for research on cybersecurity.

“On Facebook and WhatsApp, people share news that looks scary, spicy or confirms their bias without even reading it.” 

Professor Sandeep K Shukla

The tools for building fake stories are getting more sophisticated. A research paper by professors at Stanford University and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, published in 2016, demonstrated how a new video-making tool can now recreate an old news clip of a politician by changing both the expression and content. Audio advancements mean you only need 20 minutes of a voice recording to replicate it.

To counter this menace, multiple fact-checking organizations have come up, all of them trying to get to the source through filtering tools, automation and collaboration. Internet giants like Facebook and Google have tied up with fact-checking organizations to check the news they show on their feeds. In September, Facebook ran advertisements in newspapers in India, Kenya and Britain, detailing tips on spotting fake news. “The future looks positive with auto-checking of suspect stories, data mining and probabilistic reasoning,” says Shukla.

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When to eat a fruit is just as important as which fruit to eat

Fruit is an important nutrient in your diet, however, when to eat it is important too. Have you been waking up to a breakfast of chikoos and chai? Munching on an apple as a midnight snack? According to experts, you’re eating the right fruit but your timing is wrong. There’s a popular belief that healthy food can be eaten whenever you want. Experts say this is not true.

To get the maximum benefits, they say, fruit should be eaten between meals, not along with lunch or dinner. That is because fruits slow down digestion, says Luke Coutinho, doctor of alternative medicine and founder of the health start-up Pure Nutrition.

Eat fruits between meals, say experts

“If you want to eat healthy, what matters is how much of what you eat is absorbed by your body. Tea and coffee have substances like tannin and caffeine that hinder absorption of the nutrients you find in fruits like banana and chikoos. In fact, fruits are best absorbed on an empty stomach, early morning, as a snack between two meals, or before or after a workout to refuel your body,” says Coutinho.

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Phone, computer, tablet—are multi-screens at work a distraction?

There was a time when Sriram Rajamani’s 1-hour, 30-minute commute to work from north Bengaluru to the centre of the city felt like a complete waste of time. Today, multi-screen devices help him use the time advantageously. “While my driver braves the traffic, I work on my laptop with a tethered connection via my phone and use it to answer emails, schedule the day’s meetings and get work done,” says Rajamani, managing director, Microsoft Research India Lab.

With the emergence of new technologies, we are all becoming multi-screen creatures, moving from one device or screen to another for all sorts of activities in a typical day. Multi-screen behaviour has become the norm, according to a 2012 consumer insight study by Think With Google, Google’s research arm on data insights. The study suggests there are two main modes of multi-screening—sequential screening, with people moving between devices, and simultaneous screening, with them using multiple devices simultaneously.

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Multi-screen behaviour has become the norm
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Give your brain a boost with these 9 smart foods

You need the right food to keep your brain healthy. A study published in The Lancet in July concluded that one in three cases of dementia could be prevented if more people looked after their brain health and strengthened the brain’s network by improving their diet, not smoking, doing exercise, keeping a healthy weight and treating high blood pressure and diabetes.

Brain health is easy

Without the right nutrition, the brain cannot produce neurotransmitters or neurochemicals like serotonin or dopamine that are responsible for mood, social behaviour, appetite, memory and even sexual desire, say Luke Coutinho, doctor of alternative medicine and founder of the health start-up Pure Nutrition. “The right foods can boost numerous aspects of mental health, including memory, concentration, intelligence, cognitive thinking, and help in the prevention of diseases like depression, Alzheimer’s, etc,” he says.

Photo: iStockphoto
Cherries, dark chocolate, eggs and banana can help to improve your mind health. Photo: iStockphoto

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7 signs that you are addicted to social media

Feel you are addicted to social media? Selfies. Holiday pictures. Links of interesting articles. Posts. Thoughts of the day. Funny cat videos. Welcome to the virtual world of social media, where people spend hours consuming content posted by others.

You are addicted to social media when
Are you addicted to social media? Find out.

Mumbai-based Prashant Gautam Nanaware is a typical example. “I take pictures of everything, including food, and post things online instantly,” says the 30-year-old communication consultant who has Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and WhatsApp on his phone, with all the notifications always on. Even his travelling is full of clicking, “instagramming”, and responding to incoming messages.

“What’s an off time? My phone’s on my bedside when I sleep; when I wake up, I see my notifications first. And I like it when my photos and posts get likes or comments.”

Prashant Gautam Nanaware

Recently, while watching Baahubali: The Conclusion, he did a live movie review on Twitter. When he participated in the Mumbai Marathon last year, he ran a Facebook Live session while running. He carries a full power bank and a charger for his OnePlusX and is online for almost 15 hours every day. “Social media has taken me over,” he says.

Like Nanaware, many of us are on the borderline of social media addiction. “Anything in excess is not good for health and can turn into severe addiction,” says Sameer Malhotra, director, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi. “If you have a persistent desire to use it, neglect other priorities of life, become restless at the very thought of not being able to log in, neglect sleep, get your eyes strained, use it first thing in the morning, and have relationship issues because of being constantly on the platform, there’s a high chance you’re an addict.”

Think you could be a borderline case too? Here are the signs to look out for.

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The boot camp workout

Here’s everything you need to know about the boot camp workout, the  military-inspired exercise routine. 

Inspired by the training given to those who join the Armed Forces, boot-camps are high-intensity workouts that deliver specific results. “It’s primarily an outdoor group activity where a cluster of people who have the same goal join together,” says J. Keshav, owner and president of BootCamp Chennai, whose 12-week outdoors boot camp costs Rs12,300. The goals of a boot camp could vary, from weight loss, building stamina and endurance to general fitness, stretching, toning or strengthening muscles. 

“In one word, it’s roughing it out,” says Bengaluru-based Wannitaa Ashok, an expert in body transformation. “A full-body cardio and strength workout that’s very effective for weight loss,” she adds. It can help increase lean muscle mass, and build muscular and cardiovascular endurance and strength while improving overall coordination and balance, she explains. An important aspect of the workout is limiting the rest time between each move, so the heart rate goes up and you burn calories faster. “You do circuits of intense exercises for about 30-60 seconds each, pausing for only a few seconds between exercises,” says Vesna Pericevic Jacob, wellness expert and founder of Vesna’s Alta Celo, a wellness clinic based in Delhi. The idea is to schedule challenging workouts that push you to your limits, improve your fitness levels and burn calories faster. 

Boot-camp: The fitness level required

Photographs by Nathan G/Mint
Boot-camp training helps build strength, agility, speed and flexibility. Photographs by Nathan G/Mint

Most fitness trainers know that people who come to them are rookies, so they scale the activities around the group’s requirements, says Delhi-based Kamal Chhikara, owner and head coach at Reebok CrossFit Robust.

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