Managing Your Mind
3975 Waldenwood • Ann Arbor, MI 48105 • tel/fax (734)761-6498 •
Geraldine A. Markel, Ph.D. •
Geri Markel
Managing Your Mind Newsletter
November 2009

Welcome to the Managing Your Mind Newsletter, where you can find information and strategies to help you manage your mind and enhance your work, life, and/or school performance.

Feel free to contact me with your questions, concerns, and suggestions. Previous issues are archived in our Newsletter Archive. Sample checklists and diagrams are archived there under The Geri Checklists.

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You'll find the following sections in this issue:



Upcoming Events

  • On Nov. 10, 2009, Geri will be presenting at 5 pm to the Western Wayne Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals, an organization for secretarial, support, and administrative staff. The mission of the IAAP is to enhance the success of career-minded administrative professionals by providing opportunities for growth through education, community building and leadership development. Geri's topic will be "Taming the Technology Tiger." For more information about the IAAP, click here.
  • On December 7, 2010, the Huron PTSO will feature the rescheduled talk by Dr. Seth Warschausky on "Attention, Organization, and AD/HD." This presentation will take place from 8 – 9 pm in the Huron High School Media Center, 2727 Fuller Rd., Ann Arbor, MI. (PTSO meetings begin at 7 pm but featured speakers come later in the program.) All are welcome to attend; for more information, contact Michelle Machiele, Co-President,


Goofs and Glitches

Geri received the following testimonial on the price of distraction: "I was paying my bills when my husband came in and started talking to me about some other bills we had due. I proceeded to pay my $25 cell phone bill while chatting. Several weeks later, I went into my bank to make a $1,000 deposit and asked for my balance. I knew I had several hundred dollars in that account, so I was more than shocked when the teller told me that I was overdrawn. I asked for a printout and saw that my phone company had withdrawn $571 out of my account, leaving me with five overdrafts totaling $165. My bank assured me that the phone company must have made a mistake. Of course, all of this transpired at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, so I had it hanging over me until Monday.

First thing Monday morning, I called my phone company and discovered to my horror that I had indeed sent them a check for $571—made out to my husband! I asked why no one had caught either of these errors, and she replied that all of their payments are processed by computers and that no human eyes ever even look at them. After owning that the error was, in fact, mine, we entered into a discussion on the inefficacy of a system that is not set up to catch such obvious errors. She finally agreed to cover the cost of two of the overdrafts and to return my check to me. Fortunately, my bank was also sympathetic and agreed to cover the cost of two overdrafts, as well, so in the end, my carelessness only cost me $33 and a lot of self-flagellation. I did learn a valuable lesson, though—from now on, I will be hyper vigilant when paying my bills and refuse to be interrupted by anything or anyone. One 'near financial death' experience (it could have been $736!) is enough to last me a lifetime."

Funny or inconvenient, let's share our experiences. If you have one to share, send it to



Strategies for Success

As the holidays approach, additional responsibilities on top of an already heavy workload may cause you to feel overburdened and overwhelmed, which can lead to procrastination and other stress-related reactions. The following suggestions from Geri's Mem-Cards: Defeating the Demons of Distraction may help you deal with the situation; obtaining the right information, clarifying priorities, and asking for help can all ease some of the stress as you balance work/life obligations.

Remember that these Mem-Cards: Defeating the Demons of Distraction decks make great stocking stuffers and holiday gifts; discounts on multiple orders. For more information, contact Geri.


Student/Parent Corner

Recent data on the graduation rates of college students at Michigan's public universities provide much food for thought. Adrea Kenyon Unitis, MPH, a learning consultant and founder of, says that,"College graduation rates and retention rates tell us a lot about how colleges and universities are addressing student needs." Unitis, who is writing an article for an education magazine on graduation rates, retention rates, and what universities need to do to help high risk students, points to recent statistics from Central Michigan University which indicate that after four years, only about 20% of a typical starting class has graduated. After five years, the number jumps to 47%; after seven years, 59% of that group has completed a degree (source). College application essay coach Debbie Merion, M.S.W., of, also recommends this report from Grand Valley State University, which summarizes retention and graduation data from Michigan's fifteen public universities. The Grand Valley list doesn't even include a 4- year figure, just 5- and 6- year graduation percentages. 6-year rates range from a low of 33.6% at Wayne State University to a high of 88% at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. In general, the data shows that at most of these institutions, it will take at least five years for half of incoming freshman to graduate—and a great many of their classmates will never receive a Bachelor's degree from their starting school.

Not all of the reasons for this graduation gap are negative: some students leave campus temporarily to study abroad or do internships. Others change their majors or even transfer to different institutions. But there are many sad stories of students who encounter study or skill issues when they reach a higher level of academic challenge; students who are unprepared for the kinds of social interactions and temptations they face in college life; students who have special needs or experience some sort of crisis during their college years; and students whose families cannot keep up with the ever-growing financial burden of tuition and expenses. Parents tend to spend the high school years focusing on whether or not their child will be accepted to his or her school of choice, but the same amount of focus needs to be spent on whether their child has all of the skills and motivation needed to persevere once they get there. Additional support in this area can enable a smoother transition as students face more complex assignments and unexpected social interactions. Have family discussions about how relevant information (such as semester grades) will be shared. Once students are on campus, parents should pay attention to those phone, text, or email communications: look for changes in mood, ask about their work, and listen to their concerns (or to their brush-offs, for example, the hasty, "Oh, it's fine. No problem."). Parents can suggest support systems on campus if they seem to need help. Keep in mind that special opportunities like foreign study, co-op programs, or research projects will require extra financial and academic planning. Families don't necessarily need to be hung up on the exact number of semesters it takes a student to complete a degree; however, the goal is to make steady progress toward fulfilling degree requirements while cultivating new skills and identifying a passion for an area that will lead to an initial career path or to graduate level study.

Work/Life Corner

In October, the nation reacted with dismay and disbelief when two Northwest Airlines pilots failed to land at their destination airport—in fact, they flew 150 miles past it while ignoring both cockpit warning devices and radio contact from air traffic controllers. The incident remains under investigation, but the pilots claim that they became distracted while conversing and using their laptop computers on the flight deck.

As policymakers focus on distraction as it relates to transportation safety, researchers continue to study the ways we encounter distraction in stationary environments, such as the office cubicle. Technology and cultural expectations create constant, multiple demands on our attention and work time. Boston Globe correspondent Tara Ballenger recently turned to Tufts biology researcher Laura Vanderberg and University of Michigan psychologist David Meyer for information on the productivity costs of workplace distraction and our supposed coping mechanism for it, multitasking. Vanderberg provides a kitchen analogy: working memory is like 'mental counter space' and people only have a limited amount available at any given moment. Therefore, Meyer says, no one is really performing two mental tasks at the same time; they are actually switching back and forth between them—and doing so with very poor efficiency. Ballenger summarizes, "…the lure of multitasking—and our misconceptions about our ability to do it successfully—may be robbing us of time, efficiency, and the capacity to concentrate when we really need to." To read the entire article, including tips from the experts on how to handle more than one task wisely, click here.


Featured Resources

If asked about workplace stressors, many people cite managing and dealing with employees and co-workers as their primary daily challenge. Efficiency Expert Alita Marlowe Bluford and co-authors David Eastman and Arlene Taylor have just published How to Keep Good Employees: Solving the Employee Puzzle, available for $11.95. Bluford, a Certified Professional Organizer, specializes in assessing business processes and employee brain function in order to maximize employee learning, thereby increasing performance and profits. This book provides the tools to achieve workplace improvement for every team member while minimizing employer and worker stress. To learn more about the products and services provided by Marlowe & Associates, Inc., click here or tel. (800) 852-9050.



  • Coaching is now only a computer screen away! Using Mac's iChat or Skype, you can have audio and/or video coaching sessions with simultaneous text-based instant messaging. Skype is a free, downloadable service that provides free calls, video calls, and instant messaging over the internet (; for information about iChat, search for your particular model. Moderately priced computer webcams and microphones are readily available. Both domestic and international clients are taking advantage of this convenient and effective way to improve productivity and reduce stress levels. To inquire, contact Geri, or tel. (734) 761-6498.
  • New book! Three experts provide their best college admissions advice in the latest publication from Managing Your Mind: College Admissions: From Chaos to Control by John Boshoven, M.A., M.S.W., Debbie E. Merion, M.S.W., and Geraldine Markel, Ph.D. Decide on the right schools for you, find your unique voice to write a compelling application essay, and score your best on high-stakes tests such as the ACT and SAT. John, Debbie, and Geri help families fit together the pieces of the college admissions process. Available on the website. $12.95, digital download $10.00.
  • Attention! The second edition of Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress has now been published by iUniverse. Copies can be ordered from the publisher's website,, from, and from Books can be special-ordered at Borders and Barnes & Noble, and are on the shelf in Ann Arbor at Nicola's Books. Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction can be purchased in e-book format from iUniverse or as a download through
  • Recognize and reward progress! Are you a speaker, consultant, coach, or business owner? If you need memorable and useful gifts or incentives for your clients, consider the products below. The tips and strategies to help people accomplish more in the New Year are available in several handy formats: paperback, pocket-sized deck of cards, and 16-page concise booklet. Check out all of the "Defeating the Demons of Distraction" products.
Defeating the Demons of Distracton Book Defeating the Demons of Distration Cards Defeating the Demons of Distraction Brochure


Cooking: A Positive Distraction

Cooking can be a positive and creative distraction. If you are one of the many people who find that cooking is relaxing, you may enjoy the recipes that we sometimes feature. If you have a favorite recipe, feel free to send it in to be shared. Here's one you may enjoy.

Recipe: Fagioli all'Uccelletto (White Beans with Garlic) Appetizer

If you need a quick, easy and delicious appetizer during the Thanksgiving holidays, here's a no-fail delight from Italy.

Serves 4-6 people.


  • 3 cups canned cannellini or other white beans
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 scallions, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 tbs. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Oregano (to taste)
  • 2 tbs. capers
  • 1/2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbs. white wine vinegar
  • Optional: chopped pimento or olives

Drain canned beans in a large sieve or colander, wash them under cold running water, then set them aside in the sieve or colander. In a heavy 8- to 10- inch skillet, heat the oil until a light haze forms over it. Add the garlic and scallions and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the drained beans, salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Add optional ingredients if desired. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, then stir in the lemon juice and vinegar. After all ingredients are combined, chill overnight. Serve at room temperature. Can be served in a dip bowl, in cups made of iceberg lettuce leaves, on crackers, or on rounds of Italian bread.


Best wishes for a joyful, thankful Thanksgiving !

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