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Need a Boost at Work? Think About How You’re Eating

If you’re hoping to kill it at work this week, you may want to take a cue from Mark Teixeira and Jeb Bush.

Both the New York Yankees baseball player and the Republican US presidential hopeful have shed pounds and turbocharged their energy in recent months by changing their diets. For Teixeira, that entails eliminating sugar, gluten, and dairy. For Bush, it means much the same, along with limiting himself to lean meats, seafood, eggs and nuts.

The restricted palates appear to be producing dividends for both men. Heading into Sunday night’s matchup against the Mets, Teixeira, 35, had eight home runs—second-most in the league—and a .720 slugging percentage, a performance he attributes to the overhaul of his eating habits.

Since December, the former Florida governor, 62, has dropped 30 pounds, lost his jowls, and retooled his wardrobe to match a narrower frame, all moves that may buoy Bush’s prospects as he readies a run against a younger field of Republican rivals.

Despite debate over the effectiveness of the so-called paleo diet—the protein-heavy programs that Teixeira and Bush adhere to—it’s clear that taking control of your eating is one way to boost ...

Government Needs Better Management, Obviously

Each year presidents announce in their budget proposal a list of projects intended to improve life in the U.S. An annual thread is the emphasis on the latest thinking in management. Starting two decades ago the plan was to adopt business management practices. Recently the focus has been on measurement and data. The repeated goal is ‘efficiency and effectiveness’—those words appear regularly. The members of the Senior Executive Service are expected to make it happen.

In the mid-1990s, the idea that business practices are a panacea generated a high level of interest. It triggered a label: New Public Management. By the end of the Clinton administration it had lost momentum. New ideas and new acronyms have been introduced. But the results continue to be disappointing. Performance problems that have been the focus of the media along with the Government Accountability Office’s “high risk” list tell us agencies have a long way to go.

What the planners failed to realize is that the business management practices—strategic planning, goal setting, performance measurement, etc.—do not explain a company’s success. Every business, including those that fail, relies on those ideas.

A New Understanding of the Problem

What government ...

The After-Work Email Quandary

I remember a conversation with a colleague a couple years ago: During one summer Friday, nearly half his work emails bounced back with out-of-office autoreplies. My colleague rolled his eyes. "It's not like they're really not reading their emails on vacation," he groaned.

He has a point. Once, I myself couldn't resist the temptation of reading work emails on vacation, even though I wasn't due back in the office for a week. And the rest of the country seems similarly gripped: One often-quoted survey from the American Psychological Association found that over 50  percent of U.S. workers checked their email before and after work, and even during sick days.

Why do we find ourselves reading emails during vacation or sick days, even when we don't have to? Ian Bogost, a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology (and an Atlantic contributing editor), says that email sorting is just the default activity when there's nothing else to do. "Email pruning doesn’t enact work so much as it simulates work: It’s a ritual—like a secular, corporate rosary—which we perform in the hopes that it will somehow help us ...

What Sweden and Japan Can Teach the U.S. About Its Aging Workforce

In just 15 years more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65. That's more than double what it was in 1970, according to Census data. And as my colleague Bourree Lam wrote recently, an aging population means that the number of workers who are older than 65 is growing quickly: By 2022,nearly 25 percent of senior citizens will be fully employed. For some older workers it's a question of staying active, but for many others it's a matter of financial necessity.

Around the globe many countries are facing a similar question: how to cope with a population where older residents will soon outnumber those who are typically considered working age, and what to do about elderly citizens who may not have enough money to make ends meet for the duration of their lives.

One of the first places that many nations are looking for answers is the labor market, where the possibility of  lengthening years of employability can help on both fronts.

I spoke with Joseph M. Coleman, author of the book Unfinished Work: The Struggle to Build an Aging American Workforce, about how the U.S. stacks ...

The Genius of 'Want to Grab Coffee?'

In a few weeks, millions of college students will enter the real world with dreams of finding work that's meaningful and challenging—and preferably lucrative enough to live roommate-free in a major city. As they embark on their job searches, recent graduates are frequently given the vague advice to "go out and network."

But what exactly should this networking entail? What does one say to a perfect stranger whom one has cajoled into "grabbing coffee," while also telepathically conveying one's desire for a job?

Science has one piece of advice, which is this: Ask them for advice.

Far from inconveniencing or annoying the advice-giver, research shows that asking for advice appears to boost perceptions of intelligence.

The Harvard behavioral science professors Alison Wood Brooks and Francesca Gino and the Wharton business professor Maurice Schweitzer discovered this phenomenon through a series of experiments they conducted over the past few years.

Here's how they described the first one, in Scientific American:

We asked 199 students to complete a “challenging brainteaser” that consisted of seven IQ test questions. We told half of the subjects that they would be paid $1 for each correct answer. We told the other half that ...