The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Speed Reading (2008)

Appendix B. Timed Reading Exercises

The way to perfect a skill is to practice, practice, practice, and that’s what this appendix is all about! In the following pages, you’ll find instructions for conducting both a One-Minute Timing exercise and a 3-2-1 Drill. And then, to give you some practice timing your reading, I’ve included seven articles. These articles have been carefully chosen for their content, relevance, length, and general interest, and I’ve listed them in order from shortest length to longest. Here’s what you’ll find:

1. “Homeopathy 101” by Amy Rothenberg, N.D., DHANP: 1,486 words, 13 words per line

2. “Paradigm Shifting American Health” by Mark Pettus, M.D., FCAP: 1,766 words, 14 words per line

3. “Give Us This Day Our Global Bread” by Ron Lieber: 1,921 words, 6 words per line

4. “The Power of Time Management” by Julie Morgenstern: 2,648 words, 6 words per line

5. “Creating a Paperless Office” by Bill Gates: 3,469 words, 13 words per line

6. “Tattoo Pioneer: Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand” by Christine Braunberger, Ph.D.: 3,588 words, 13 words per line

7. “Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer” by Dr. Charles A. Czeisler: 3,679 words, 6 words per line

Speed Tip

If your reading speed is already more than 400 words per minute, consider using a longer article for your 3-2-1 Drill. It will give you more material to read in your 3 minutes.

Note that some are printed in single columns (wider column width) while others are in double columns (narrow column width). Experiment with all the speed strategies on both types of material to see which methods and layouts work better for you.

When you decide on an article to read, review the directions for the exercise you want to do. Remember to add speed strategies!

How to Do a One-Minute Timing

One-Minute Timings are a quick and easy way to see how you interact with your speed strategies. Consider doing many of them as you advance through the material to quickly learn what works best for you. Here’s what to do:

1. Choose an article to read.

2. With your timing device (a clock with a second hand, a stopwatch, or another digital timer), time yourself reading silently for exactly 1 minute. (Read normally for your first reading; for subsequent readings, use a speed strategy or two and aim to read faster than you are comfortable.) At the end of 1 minute, mark the line you’re on.

3. On a separate piece of paper, write down as many key points as you can remember without looking back at the reading (that’s cheating!).

4. Calculate your words per minute (WPM) by counting the number of lines you’ve read and multiplying that by the number of words per line listed under the title of the article. (When counting lines, include a subhead as a line.)

5. Now gauge your percent of comprehension on a scale from 0 to 100 percent of how much you think you understood based on the key points you wrote down.

6. Turn to the “One-Minute Timing Progress Chart” in Appendix C and record your results.

WPM = # of lines read × number of words per line

How to Do a 3-2-1 Drill

The 3-2-1 Drills are a great way to learn how to break out of your slow reading habits. It also allows you to become more of a visual reader than a verbal reader. Here’s what to do for a 3-2-1 Drill:

1. Choose an article to read.

2. With your timing device (a clock with a second hand, a stopwatch, or another digital timer), time yourself reading as quickly as you can with your chosen speed method(s) with comprehension for 3 minutes. (If you finish the article and the 3 minutes aren’t up yet, return to the beginning of the article and read until the 3 minutes are up.) When your time is up, mark the line you are on.

3. On a separate piece of paper, and without looking back at the reading (that’s cheating!), write down as many key comprehension points as you remember.

4. Now go back to where you started and reread the same text using your chosen speed method(s), this time only giving yourself 2 minutes to reach the same point. You will of course have to speed up your reading! At the end of 2 minutes, add more key points to your comprehension sheet, if you can.

5. Now, to really challenge yourself, go back to where you first started and read using your chosen speed method(s) for just 1 minute, stopping at your original 3-minute ending point. Add more key points to your comprehension sheet, if you can.

6. Turn to the “3-2-1 Drill Progress Chart” in Appendix C and record your results.

Speed Tip

If you like, you can tally your words per minute (WPM) using this simple formula: WPM = # of lines read × # of words per line.

Article 1, “Homeopathy 101”

by Amy Rothenberg, N.D., DHANP 
1,486 words, 13 words per line 
Reprinted with permission by Amy Rothenberg,

You may hear about people using homeopathy to help with medical problems or maybe you have seen advertisements about homeopathy. How can you tell if the remedies are safe, effective or cause side-effects? Is there a time when your medical doctor might choose to refer a patient to a qualified practitioner of homeopathy? It is the purpose of this article to offer general information about homeopathy and to answer the above questions.

Homeopathy is a unique system of medicine which addresses the whole patient— physically, mentally and emotionally. Symptoms are understood according to the classic physiologic model taught to all health care providers. As the patient strains against both internal and external stressors, the patient develops symptoms; the symptoms are seen as the person’s way of handling these stressors. It is the gleaning and understanding of the details and connections among these symptoms that lead the homeopath to prescribe a particular remedy.1

Homeopathy was first conceived by Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) a German physician and chemist. Troubled by the harshness of medical protocols of his time as well as by personal family tragedies, he turned away from medical practice and devoted himself to the work of scientific translation. It was during his work on a translation of a popular book on botanical medicine, Cullen’s Materia Medica from the English into German where he became intrigued with the portion written on Cinchona bark. Cinchona bark is where quinine is derived—and the close relationship between its effectiveness and its capability to poison. His curiosity was ignited.

He undertook what was essentially the first drug trial, known as a proving 2 giving healthy subjects samples of the substance in question and seeing what, if any, effect it had upon them. To his surprise, in the case of the Cinchona bark, a number of participants developed the very same symptoms that the herbal preparation was known to help.

From this observation was born “similia similibus curantur” from the Latin, “likes are cured by likes.” This essential underpinning of homeopathic practice can be further defined as follows: Any drug which is capable of producing symptoms in the healthy will remove similar symptoms occurring as an expression of disease.3

In his lifetime, Hahnemann conducted provings on some 106 substances. He worked diligently and wrote prolifically on topics of homeopathic philosophy, the treatment of chronic disease as well as the Materia Medica Pura, one of the earliest compilations of homeopathic drug lists available.

Hahnemann also set out to determine what the optimal dosage of medication would be to achieve both for best clinical outcomes and for the least side effects. His ideas about using the minimal dose whenever possible have stood the test of time. His experimentations led to the potentization process which is the process of diluting and vigorously shaking a homeopathic remedy, designed to intentionally lessen its strength. At this time, homeopathic remedies are made in accordance to the United States Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia and are produced from plant, mineral and animal sources. Homeopathic remedies are available through homeopathic pharmacies as well as over-the-counter in some pharmacies and health food stores.

Homeopathy is used to treat first aid problems as well as acute and chronic disease. First aid problems are addressed in rather “cookbook” fashion. For example, many may have heard of using the homeopathic remedy Arnica Montana for the treatment of trauma. Because traumatic events impact most people in a similar fashion, Arnica is one of only a handful of remedies to be considered. In other words, when the stress from the outside is very severe, most individuals respond in a similar fashion. That response will point to one of only a few remedies.

For acute, self-limited problems such as ear infections, laryngitis or hives, people’s symptoms present in a more individualized manner. For instance, one person with hives might have small raised red bumps where cold applications and itching makes it feel better, while another might have white large welts where itching makes it worse but warm applications make them better. Though both have hives, they would require and respond to two different homeopathic remedies. The homeopath is addressing the whole person at any one time. With most acute conditions there are a limited number of remedies to choose from because there are only so many ways an acute problem can manifest.

For illnesses which are more chronic in nature, homeopathic practitioners prescribe constitutional remedies which are based on the whole person. There are many homeopathic remedies to be considered.

Remedies are given for particular people as opposed to particular diagnoses. One could have five patients with arthritis and they might receive five different homeopathic remedies depending on how they experience the problem; i.e. how it actually feels, the type of pain or discomfort, what makes it better, what makes it worse, was there a clear initial cause, do they have any other symptoms simultaneously, etc. The homeopath is interested in how the arthritis fits into the rest of the person’s physical health. In addition, it is central to perceive how those physical characteristics sit in regards to the patients’ mental and emotional health.

To the homeopath, all symptoms are context dependent; one cannot see a symptom standing by itself, rather the homeopath seeks to understand each symptom a patient reports as it relates to the whole person. The typical first appointment for a homeopathic physician is one and half to two hours, allowing enough time to fully understand the patient and all aspects of their lifestyle and health. Thus, the doctor-patient relationship is an important component of the homeopathic process.

This individualized approach would be utilized whether the presenting complaint was cardiovascular in nature or a condition relating to the gastrointestinal tract, urinary system or the skin. For some patients, there are very few outward symptoms related to their condition making it seemingly difficult for the homeopath to prescribe upon such a complaint. However, the homeopath can prescribe based on presenting symptoms from all systems of the bodyand from general physical characteristics of the patient as well as from their mental and emotional make-up. Homeopathic physicians give a remedy for the patient and expect their overall health to improve.

As with many modalities in complementary medicine it could be asked, who goes to a homeopath? Most practitioners of homeopathy see a wide range of patients similar to that which a family doctor would encounter. Perhaps nothing else is working for a particular patient. For some known and some unknown reasons, there are patients who do not respond well to medications, some have contradictory reactions to drugs, some are allergic to pharmaceuticals or do not tolerate them well. Some patients merely want their medicine to be in accord with an overall health-oriented, “natural” lifestyle.

Some patients visit homeopaths because they have incurable conditions and are strictly seeking symptomatic relief. Some seek to enhance immune function thereby reducing susceptibility to acute illness from which they suffer along with chronic complaints. Others come to help address underlying mental or emotional concerns which accompany chronic physical complaints. Some patients present with concerns about medication they are on. Perhaps it is not working well or well enough or is causing intolerable side-effects.

The last group the homeopath may see are patients who do not feel well, yet there is nothing diagnostically wrong: the lab work, physical exam and health history are typical, yet their energy is diminished, there are low grade symptoms on various body systems and the mood is depressed. Some of these patients have clear and intense subjective symptoms, but they continue to pass all exams. Homeopathy can offer that person increased energy and a feeling of well-being. Many or most of their symptoms will go away. This is one of the unique benefits of homeopathic care. Since we treat the patient, we do not have to wait until they present with a large compliment of symptoms. The fact that there aren’t specific remedies for specific diagnoses may make some uncomfortable; it is contrary to the modern medical model where drug prescriptions are frequently diagnosis-driven. But, if there is no clear disease or diagnosis, it can become difficult to choose correct medications or sometimes to provide any treatment at all. This is an added advantage of homeopathic medicine: as a method of primary prevention, it can offer treatment to patients before they become severely ill.

There are currently over 3000 homeopathic remedies for a homeopath to choose from. It is the individualizing nature of the physical symptoms as well as the mental and emotional characteristics of the patient which lead to finding the best homeopathic remedy for each person.


1Herscu, Paul. Stramonium, with an Introduction to Analysis Using Cycles and Segments. Amherst, Massachusetts: New England School of Homeopathy Press, 1996.

2—. Provings, with a Proving of Alcoholus. Amherst, Massachusetts: New England School of Homeopathy Press, 1996.

3Hahnemann, Samuel, and Wenda Brewster O’Reilley, Ph.D., ed. The Organon of the Medical Art. Redmond, Washington: Birdcage Books, 1996.

Article 2, “Paradigm Shifting American Health”

by Mark Pettus, M.D., FCAP 
1,766 words, 14 words per line 
© 2007 Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. All rights reserved.

Most of us want to live as long and as well as possible. We want strong, healthy bodies and agile minds that maintain their ability to remember, reason, and communicate. We want to share life’s joys and sorrows with loved ones, participate in our communities in a meaningful way, and come to the end of our lives satisfied and fulfilled.

Unfortunately, for many of us, this won’t be how it happens. In my experience as a practicing physician for more than 20 years, it is increasingly common for people to live too short and die too long. In fact, despite a doubling of the life expectancy over the last 150 years, the sobering reality is that it is now estimated that this trend will begin to reverse itself, and life expectancy for future generations will be lower than for their parents.

What’s going wrong?

There are many factors contributing to the decline in American health, including the growing epidemic of obesity, poor nutritional choices, inactivity, unprecedented toxic exposure, and unrelenting stress. According to the National Institutes of Health, 60 percent of Americans are overweight and 30 percent are considered obese. Lifestyle Syndrome, characterized by abdominal fat, elevation of blood pressure, pre-diabetes, high insulin levels, and abnormal blood fat, affects 30 to 40 percent of adults. Alarmingly, Lifestyle Syndrome signals a trajectory that leads to many of the age-related diseases, diminished quality of life, and shorter life expectancy.

Five years ago, I was on this trajectory. I had little to no structured physical activity, I ate plenty of sugars and processed foods, and I lived a fast-paced life in which I always felt that there wasn’t enough time. This was coupled with a family history that included diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and premature death. The “tipping point” for me came at an annual visit to my primary-care provider. My blood pressure was up, my weight was up, and my cholesterol panel was as high as it had ever been. When we began discussing medications to control some of my risk factors, I realized I needed to take stock before things got worse.

A critical issue we are facing is that our systems of health care are more designed to address diseases once they manifest rather than they are to promote optimal health and prevent diseases from occurring in the first place. Doctors and patients alike are now trained to turn to medications and interventions after symptoms become severe or the disease has presented itself, often not taking seriously enough the warning signs and borderline readings that signal future distress. In truth, many devastating health outcomes, like heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease, have multiple contributing risk factors that are treatable and reversible—but silent—by their very nature. Feeling well does not equal good health.

Ironically, medical progress itself is also resulting in higher percentages of people with diseases: as people live longer, they develop many of the chronic age-related diseases along the way. And tragically, nearly all age-related diseases—high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol imbalance, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, and chronic kidney disease—have major lifestyle, behavioral, and stress components to them.

Unfortunately, in our current medical model there is insufficient time and resources to appropriately educate, inspire, and motivate the necessary lifestyle and behavioral changes people need. Integrative and preventative approaches to health, including healthy nutrition, fitness programs, yoga and mindfulness activities, and the healing arts, are often overlooked and usually not covered by health-care insurance. The potential for these dimensions of living to profoundly transform all dimensions of health and healing and the magnitude to which they do is often underappreciated.

In my case, as I considered the options before me, I realized that my underlying assumption was that I believed that a decline in some aspects of my health and quality of life as I aged was inevitable. I thought that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a drop-off in my conditioning, a few inches more around my abdomen, fatigue, and an inability to stop and smell the roses were irreconcilable manifestations of my genetic legacy and the aging program I was locked into. My passive approach to self-care was certainly contributing to making that happen. I decided to get active.

I took inventory of my life and targeted the “low-hanging fruit”—those things that would be easiest to change. I cut out sugar-sweetened drinks. I started walking in my neighborhood. I chose daily push-ups and abdominal exercises for light resistance work. And I learned some simple—and portable—breathing and relaxation techniques. My research and reading interests shifted to the science of mind-body interaction and practice. I began to broaden my knowledge about integrated health, the science and philosophy of Eastern approaches to health, and how people create effective and sustainable change. My connection to my own spirituality deepened and it became my mission to better understand how I could be a more effective steward of the precious gifts of which I had ownership.

What’s the solution?

It is increasingly clear that most of the health and quality-of-life issues we are likely to confront during our lives can be prevented or reversed with greater attention to self-care. Therefore the single most effective medicine that health care has to offer today is education—about how the body works and how the beliefs we hold in our mind play out in our lives; about nutrition, how foods affects the body, and how to cook for maximum nourishment and pleasure; about physical fitness, exercise strategies, and enjoyable ways to combine getting active and getting outdoors. We need to learn to take care of ourselves.

This can be easier said than done. Even when health-care professionals provide the health-promoting messages of exercise and good nutrition, the advice is heeded less than five percent of the time! Most people don’t lack knowledge about what they need to do; what they lack is the bridge to effective execution. What people need is practice in living in healthy, life-promoting ways that lead to optimal vitality and fulfillment—which is exactly what Kripalu, a center for yoga and health in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, has been specializing in for more than 30 years.

The medical center of the future

Education at Kripalu is experiential, which means that people learn by doing, by experiencing what they are learning. The experiential immersion offered in the Institute for Integrated Healing programs enables people to fully live and realize the benefits of healthy living. This is the only way we are going to help people transform their underlying beliefs and overcome the challenge of creating critical lifestyle changes.

The driving principles of Kripalu’s Institute for Integrated Healing are that most of the symptoms and chronic diseases we attribute to the natural and inevitable processes of aging are not inevitable or natural at all and that their root causes can usually be understood, prevented, treated, and reversed by addressing lifestyle, behavior, and stress. We also seek to cultivate emotional and spiritual health—to address the sense of disconnection and loss of meaning that is so prevalent in modern society and that can often contribute to poor health. We believe circumstances can be created to unleash the full human potential for health and healing.

Research is revealing the biology of why patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing are so hard to change. Research is also telling us that profound and enduring change is possible at any time in one’s life. In fact, we are designed for just that!

We live on the cusp of a new frontier of understanding the natural processes that promote and maintain health, longevity, and quality of life. The science of the mind has opened a window into the biological underpinnings of thought, feeling, and behavior and their connection to health and the experience of life. These recent discoveries are revealing a new understanding of who we are as human beings. And the implications are extremely compelling.

The doctor of the future

Consider the following: National Public Radio recently ran a report on research conducted in a diabetes prevention program at Washington Hospital Center in Washington DC, which found that diet and exercise programs can be just as effective as medicine in reducing the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. The results were surprising to physician Meeta Sharma and her colleagues, who thought it likely that drugs would work better. “Our own intrinsic appreciation of it was that just medical therapy is going to be the way to go in terms of prevention,” she said.

The Institute for Integrated Healing is being designed to bring experiential education and training not only to patients but also to medical professionals, many of whom, like I was myself, are in need of shifting the paradigm that guides their work. As Thomas Edison predicted, the doctor of the future “will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

When I began to reclaim my health—and my life—I was astonished by three things: The first was how quickly I began to feel better. The second was how effective small changes actually were. And the third was how addictive these changes became. After about three weeks, the more I changed, the more I desired to change, and my motivation, courage, resolve, and follow-through grew. Five years later, my cholesterol and blood pressure levels are better than ever. I run 20 miles a week, I crave green, leafy vegetables, and I have cultivated a lifestyle that has less stress and includes more of the things that I value—family time, friendships, and community. Helping others to become better stewards of their precious gifts is my unrelenting calling, and I have also become a better doctor, one who is walking his talk.

Dr. Mark Pettus is a board-certified internist and nephrologist who did his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School. The ultimate “patient’s doctor” (he has been voted top physician more than once), he is passionately dedicated to health care that works. In addition to turning his own health around, he has helped thousands of people change their lives. Former chief of staff at Berkshire Medical Center, Dr. Pettus is the author of The Savvy Patient and It’s All in Your Head: Change Your Mind, Change Your Health and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs. You can find out more about Dr. Pettus at his website,

Article 3, “Give Us This Day Our Global Bread”

by Ron Lieber 
1,921 words, 6 words per line 
Used with permission of Fast Company, 
Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved.

Think of a product that is so local, it could never go global. So basic, it could never be branded. So fundamental, it could never be reinvented. Now think about bread—Lionel Poilâne’s bread, that is.

Lionel Poilâne sells the most famous bread in Paris. In fact, he sells 15,000 loaves of bread each day—2.5% of all bread sold in Paris, by weight. But he doesn’t think of himself as a mere baker. Most bakers simply mix dough, shape loaves, and shove them into the oven. And while for many years he did all of those things every day, that still doesn’t make him a baker.

Ever since Poilâne, 55, took over the family bakery from his father roughly 30 years ago, his life’s work has been to elevate the level of his own craft. In doing so, he has adopted an approach to his art and his business that is equal parts ancient and modern, historically grounded and technologically sophisticated, locally based and globally aware, product-oriented and philosophically informed. Poilâne somehow manages to bring all of those elements together in a simple, delicious loaf of bread.

The bread itself is decidedly old school: Thick, chewy, and rich with a dark, fire-tinged flavor, Poilâne’s bread traces its heritage back to the original French bread. But his business is remarkably modern. Today, Poilâne has a new shop in London and two older ones in Paris. And on the outskirts of the City of Light, he has his own global baking facility, where 40 bakers work at 16th-century ovens in teams of 2. Each day, Poilâne-branded bread travels by company-owned trucks to more than 2,500 shops and restaurants throughout Paris, and by FedEx delivery to Poilâne aficionados in roughly 20 countries around the world.

Poilâne’s secret isn’t hidden in a recipe. After all, there are only four ingredients in his basic loaf: flour, water, salt, and the starter (which provides the yeast). Poilâne’s secret is in his philosophy and creativity. Armed with a deep knowledge of how bread has changed over time, Poilâne has developed an approach that he calls “retro-innovation,” and it has made him successful in a city where people take bread very, very seriously. “Retro-innovation takes the best of the old and the best of the new,” Poilâne explains. “You can only do it if you free your mind, if you don’t belong to anything.”

Old Bread, New Bread

When Poilâne first became an apprentice to his father at 14, the family business was still quite small. There was just one Poilâne bakery in Paris, and it was only in the previous few years that Lionel’s father had started experimenting with the large, dark, old-fashioned loaves that are a Poilâne trademark today. Intrigued, Lionel threw himself into the project—even though nearby bakeries had long abandoned the older styles of bread. “There are many ways to solve a problem,” he says. “In baking, people are always looking for the new bread. But it exists already. Using old ways is a glorious way to make new things. The man with the best future is the one with the longest memory.”

In the early 1980s, Poilâne decided to tap into the memories of the oldest bakers in the country to see if they could give him advice on how to reproduce the older styles of bread. With the help of two students, he contacted more than 10,000 bakers over a two-year period. “I conducted an ethnography of my own business,” he says.

Most of the bakers had only fading memories to offer, but some were thrilled that he was trying to revive older bread-making traditions and offered to bake him sample loaves. By the time he was finished with his study, Poilâne had tried more than 75 different types of bread that he’d never tasted before. He eventually wrote up his findings in a book—a study that is still used today in baking schools throughout France. He also amassed a library full of books on bread, which today contains more than 2,000 volumes.

Armed with all of this information, Poilâne perfected his father’s technique. Then he waited, hoping eventually to persuade others to try it out. “Regional, dark French bread had almost disappeared because it was once the bread of the poor people,” Poilâne explains. “After World War II, the chic bread was white. It became the rich bread. It was new, and it represented freedom, even though it wasn’t really French.” According to Poilâne, the white bread that became most popular—the baguette—actually originated in Austria.

Today, the baguette remains popular; it is impossible to walk more than a block or two in Paris without crossing paths with someone who is toting one. But with a texture somewhere between cotton and marshmallows, and with a taste that barely registers wheat, the vast majority of Parisian baguettes work best as a staging ground for sandwiches or as a tool to sop up soup. Poilâne refuses to make them.

This deep understanding of history gives Poilâne and his bakers the background—and the inspiration— that they need to make old-fashioned bread each day. The bakers’ work doesn’t look particularly complicated or difficult, but small subtleties can make a huge difference. “You can make thousands of products with only three ingredients,” Poilâne says. “The water and flour can, of course, be very different. Then there are the conditions: the geography and the climate. There’s yeast, fermentation, time, oven, and shape. Manipulation is important too.”

Poilâne is a stickler for many of those details, but he’s surprisingly lax about others. The flour is a combination of wheat mixes from four different mills, and the sea salt absolutely must come from Brittany. The water, however, comes from the tap at the three storefront shops and from a well at the larger bakery. The bakers shape the loaves loosely by hand, paying no mind to the odd bumps and imperfections that emerge. The wood-fired clay-and-brick ovens, however, must be perfect—and Poilâne has spent years designing the specifications. “They take one month to build, one month to dry, and one month to heat to 240 degrees Celsius,” he explains. “If you try to warm them up more quickly, the clay cracks: Pop!”

As the business has grown, Poilâne has begrudgingly added croissants, tarts, a brioche, and a few other breads to his repertoire. While all are high-quality products, the old-fashioned, oversized, wood-fired country loaf still far out-sells all of the other products combined. “If you start to make too many things, that’s extension,” he says. “My motto is do things with intention, not with extension.”

Loaves and FedExes

When it comes to bread, Poilâne is set in his ways. When it comes to distribution, however, he has a more innovative operation than any other baker on Earth—which is to say, he is one of the few bakers on Earth to take his bread global.

Poilâne’s desire to ship his bread stemmed initially from his lack of interest in owning more stores. Last June, Poilâne finally opened a bakery in London—but there probably won’t be too many more such openings soon. “I can get on the train and be in London in three hours,” he says, explaining why he decided to open there. “But I’m not eager to have a business card that says ‘Paris, London, New York’ on it. We thought about opening in Japan, but we couldn’t have a wood fire there. It’s important in business to be able to say no when you feel like saying yes would mean losing your soul.”

Instead of building little bakeries all over the globe, Poilâne built one big one on the outskirts of Paris. When it first opened 18 years ago, it was designed to fill orders from other shops and restaurants in Paris. “We wanted to take an ancient product and reproduce it on an industrial, multiplied level,” explains Ibu Poilâne, 52, Lionel’s wife, an artist and designer who helped him design the building.

To the Poilânes, the round structure is anything but a factory—and one visit makes the difference clear. Instead of building a production line, the Poilânes simply put 24 identical ovens—duplicates of the 100-ton ones in the basement of the storefront bakeries—in a circle. In the middle is an atrium with enormous piles of wood to heat the ovens. Workers use a ceiling-mounted remote-controlled crane to pick it up and deposit it in chutes that lead to the ovens.

Poilâne’s global bread business developed as a natural response to customer demand: Stores and individuals started calling from abroad to ask Poilâne to ship them bread, so he started to take advantage of the large FedEx hub at nearby Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport. FedEx allows Poilâne’s bread to leave the bakery in the early morning and be on dinner tables in the United States the next night. All it takes is a quick warm-up in the oven to make the bread taste as good as it does in Paris. And the size of the basic Poilâne loaf—about 4 pounds—helps the bread travel well and last longer. Global bread sales are growing: Last year, exports were up 30%. Poilâne has also long sold his loaves over the Internet.

Poilâne’s bread has won him famous fans over the years: Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall used to enjoy a loaf from time to time, and Robert De Niro is a customer. The most devoted patron, however, is a gentleman in New York who wants to remain anonymous. In 1997, he agreed to pay Poilâne $100,000, asking that his children and grandchildren receive a loaf a week for the rest of their lives. “Can you imagine?” Poilâne says, with obvious pride. “In 50 years, he’ll be dead, but his grandchildren will be feeding our bread to their children and explaining how they are eating the bread of their great-grandfather!”

As the business has gone global, Poilâne has become an ambassador of sorts. This suits him fine, since 10 or 12 years stoking the subterranean ovens was plenty for him. “When I first started as an apprentice, I was a very bitter boy stuck down in the basement with the bread,” he says. “I thought I was outside of the world.” Now people from all over the world seek him out. He keeps his office in a lofty space on the top floor of the building that houses the original bakery and store, so he can come down and meet customers when they visit. “The pleasure of life is in meeting people, and the shop is open to the street, so it’s a great social space,” he says.

Baker or builder? Ambassador or philosopher? Even Poilâne’s friend Salvador Dali couldn’t figure it out. “He thought I was an artist who happened to work on bread,” Poilâne says. “In fact, I was just a baker who was interested in artistic projects. But that confusion led to a good relationship. In some ways, every businessman needs to learn how to be an artist. It’s crucial when you’re leading a project.”

One of Poilâne’s favorite projects is the cage that he and Dali made together out of bread dough. “The bird could eat its way out of the cage,” Poilâne explains. “That was very real to me. As an apprentice, I too felt like a bird in a cage made out of bread. I just fed on my limits.”

Article 4, “The Power of Time Management”

by Julie Morgenstern 
2,648 words, 6 words per line

Reprinted with permission from Julie Morgenstern Enterprises. Adapted from “Time Management from the Inside Out,” Henry Holt/Owl Books, 2000. All Rights Reserved.

I was not always an organized person. In my first book, Organizing from the Inside Out, I shared the story of how I struggled with clutter and time management my whole life, and reached my turning point when my daughter was born. When she was three weeks old, she awoke from a nap on a beautiful summer day and I knew it was a golden opportunity to take her for her first walk.

Unfortunately, it took me two and a half hours to gather supplies for our outing: blankets, bottles, pacifiers, diapers, toys, a sweater, booties … where were they all? By the time I was ready to go, she had fallen fast asleep. I had missed the moment. Disappointed and deflated, I looked down at my innocent babe asleep in her crib and thought, If I don’t get my act together, this child will never see the light of day.

And so I conquered the chaos, starting first with the diaper bag and eventually tackling every other area of my home, office, and life. In the process, I discovered that organizing is not a mysterious talent but rather a completely learnable skill. I had just been going about it backward: I’d been diving into the piles instead of starting with a plan. I learned that by investing a little bit of time analyzing and strategizing beforehand, I could design a system that would last.

About three years later, I founded my company, Task Masters, a service that helps people get organized so that they may lead more gratifying lives. My staff and I provide one-on-one organizing services and seminars to thousands each year. My work with clients who come from all age ranges, genders, and personality types has enabled me to deepen my understanding of the organizing process and develop my emphasis on customizing the solution to each individual. In 1998 an editor at Henry Holt and Company asked me to write a book on my techniques. The result was my first book, Organizing from the Inside Out, which has become a New York Times best-seller.

Fourteen years after that diaper-bag fiasco, I was given the opportunity to see just how far I’d come with my organizing skills. Less than two weeks before my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah (a huge affair that, as a single parent, I had coordinated by myself), I got the call every author dreams of—it was from the Oprah Winfrey show. They wanted to fly me out to organize their offices as well as several viewers’ homes for their big “Spring Clean-up” show … all within the next ten days!

Was I ready to jump on this fantastic opportunity without hesitation? Was I organized enough to manage all of the details involved in pulling off both the Bat Mitzvah and the Oprah show simultaneously? The answer was a resounding yes! Because I was more organized, most of the details regarding the Bat Mitzvah were done. What wasn’t done was written on a list, and I could do a quick scan to see exactly where I stood. My planning and delegation skills came in very handy—I was able to prioritize the tasks and decide what my staff and friends could do in my place. My files and database were very organized, so any information I needed for either event was at my fingertips. And during the whirlwind of the next two weeks, my planner kept me very focused on everything I had to do and every place I had to be. I didn’t miss a beat.

My suitcase was packed in a flash and I was on the next plane to Chicago. Instead of missing the moment, I was able to embrace this unexpected convergence of priorities. The result was one of the most glorious weeks in my life—celebrating a momentous, spiritual occasion with my daughter, and appearing on the most coveted TV show in the world. Here’s to the power of time management!

Being organized, whether with your space or time, is all about being ready. It’s about feeling in command so that you are prepared to handle all of the opportunities, distractions, and surprises life throws your way. We live in a complex, fast-paced world filled with infinite possibilities and opportunities. When you develop good time-management skills, instead of being overwhelmed by it all, you can celebrate it. You know what to choose. You feel clear and focused, ready to take on life.

So what makes time management so difficult? It is my observation that the single most common obstacle people face in managing their days lies in the way they view time. Therefore, the very first step in taking control of time is to challenge your very perception of it.

Most people think of time as intangible. In the journey from chaos to order, it is often easier to organize space than time, because space is something you can actually see. Time, on the other hand, is completely invisible. You can’t see it or hold it in your hands. It’s not something that piles up or that you can physically move around.

Time is something you feel, and it feels … utterly amorphous. Some days go whizzing by while others crawl painfully along. Even your tasks seem hard to measure—infinite and endless in both quantity and duration.

As long as time remains slippery, elusive, and hard to conceptualize, you will have difficulty managing your days. You need to change your perception of time and develop a more tangible view of it. You need to learn to see time in more visual, measurable terms.

In my own journey to getting organized, my biggest breakthrough came when I realized that organizing time really is no different than organizing space. Once you understand that time has boundaries, you begin to look at your to-dos much differently. Tasks are the objects that you must fit into your space. Each one has a size, and arranging them in your day becomes a mathematical equation. As you evaluate what you need to do, you begin to calculate the size of each task and whether you can fit it into the space.

When you start seeing time as having borders, just as a space does, you will become much more realistic about what you can accomplish, and much more motivated to master various time-management tools and techniques to help you make the most of your time.

What’s Holding You Back?

When people struggle to manage their time, they very often jump to the conclusion that they are internally flawed somehow, that they are born incompetent in this area of life. Or they throw their hands up in resignation, convinced that “out of control” is just how life is supposed to be in the modern world. Both of these perceptions are totally inaccurate and self-defeating.

Once you learn the skill of diagnosing time-management problems, you will stop wasting time and energy beating yourself up or working yourself to exhaustion.

There are a variety of reasons you may be held back from managing your time. In my work with hundred of clients, I have found there are generally three main causes: external realities, technical errors, and psychological obstacles.

External Realities are environmental factors that are actually beyond your control. You didn’t create them, and they put a limit on how organized you can be. By recognizing these you can stop blaming yourself and find a more direct way to manage or eliminate them.

Technical Errors are easily resolved mechanical mistakes. You just need a skill or a technique you don’t have. Once you understand these errors, you simply make the appropriate adjustments to your approach and you’re all set. Problem solved. Here are a few common technical errors people face:

Tasks Have No “Home”

One of the most common reasons you may not be getting to things that are important to you is that you haven’t set aside a specific time in which to do them. Too often, people make lists of what they want to do, without asking the next essential question: When am I going to do this? Unless a task has a “home,” that is, a time slot clearly blocked out in your schedule, you won’t get to it.

If you think you will get to anything in your “spare time,” keep in mind that there is no such thing as spare time! As it is, our days are packed with more things to do than there will ever be time for. The only chance we end up with a free moment is when something we planned falls through at the last minute. Then, we usually can’t think of what to do with those unexpected moments because we were caught off guard. So if something is really important to you, set aside a specific time in your schedule to make it happen.

You’ve Set Aside the Wrong Time

If you’ve set aside time to do something but find yourself still not getting to it, it’s possible that you’ve set aside the wrong time. We all have energy and concentration cycles: Some of us are morning people, some of us are most energetic at night. Some of us feel motivated to begin big, new projects at certain times of the year, such as January, September (when we’re in a back-to-school mind-set), or when the warm weather begins. Some women find that there are times of the month when they are better able to handle projects requiring focus or patience.

If you are working against your own energy or concentration cycles, it will be hard to effectively tackle a task when you’ve planned to. If you can’t bring yourself to balance your checkbook each month as you promised yourself, maybe the problem is that you’re always trying to do it at night after work, when your mental energy is low. If you schedule the task in the morning instead you’ll probably find yourself more motivated to tackle those figures.

You’ve Miscalculated How Long Tasks Take

Most people are very unrealistic about what they can accomplish in a day. If the time required to complete your to-dos exceeds the time you have available, you simply won’t get to it all and you’ll end up feeling frustrated and demoralized. This is completely avoidable. If you get better at calculating how long tasks take, you can plan a realistic workload. Learning how to estimate how long tasks take is a skill anyone can learn …. Furthermore, when you know what your big-picture goals are, it will be much easier to eliminate, shorten, or delegate tasks that don’t serve your goals.

Psychological Obstacles are hidden, internal forces that prevent you from achieving the life you desire. If you have conquered all of your technical errors and external realities and are still feeling out of control, it’s likely that you have a psychological force working against you. When you realize what’s causing certain self-sabotaging habits, you can begin to break free of their control.

Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to improve our time-management skills to make time for what’s really important to us because of psychological obstacles. We know what we need to do, but resist taking action because our time-management problems are serving us somehow—they are fulfilling some deep-seated need we may not even be aware of. Without awareness, these forces will sabotage your efforts to take control of your time. These psychological obstacles often don’t reveal themselves until after you’ve conquered the technical errors and external realities. In fact, it’s often best to deal with time-management problems on a very practical level first. Frequently, once you begin experiencing the benefits of managing your time from the inside out, many of the psychological resistances melt away. Here are some examples of common psychological obstacles:

You Are a Conquistador of Chaos

If you constantly keep your schedule packed beyond the scope of reality, if you always leave everything to the very last minute, and if your life feels like one urgent calamity after another, chances are you are a “conquistador of chaos.” You set your life up to be in constant disaster mode because, quite frankly, you are a wonderful crisis manager. You feel so good conquering the impossible that you keep creating it, just so that you can rescue yourself. You pull it off every time—though not necessarily without some “fallout” along the way.

If you are a conquistador of chaos, chances are you got your training for this role when you were a child. Perhaps you were raised in a difficult environment where you were the organizer, peacemaker, or the problem solver. You learned to feel a certain comfort in crisis, and you felt good about your ability to handle chaos. Now your job is to learn how to feel good about that ability without having to test on a daily basis.

You Have a Need for Perfection

If you’re a perfectionist, you feel compelled to do everything at the same level of excellence. Good time-managers keep things in perspective. They set priorities rather than give every task equal weight. If you demand extremely high standards for every single task you undertake, you simply won’t get everything done.

The need for perfection often comes out of a need for approval. It could also come from a fear of criticism, humiliation, or harsh judgment. It could be that you grew up conditioned by a well-meaning teacher or a parent who drummed into your head, “If you’re going to do things, do things right!” You didn’t learn how to evaluate which tasks were worth a huge amount of exertion and which weren’t. Or it could be that you feel more secure when everything seems to be under your control. For your own sake, you need to adjust your standards based on the specific task at hand. Some tasks are worth your finest effort, and others just need to get done.

You Have a Fear of Losing Creativity

Many creative or “right-brained” people fear that imposing structure in their lives will squelch their creativity or their free-spirited personality.

As a result, their personal and business lives are chaotic and cause them tremendous stress. If this is your situation, be assured that imposing structure can actually be liberating. Many of the most successful creative writers, artists, and musicians find great freedom in structure and discipline. They write or paint or draw at the same time every day. Some days the creativity flows, others it trickles out, but the consistency of their schedule assures that they make time for what is important to them.

Structure doesn’t destroy your creative impulses, it allows them to flourish. After all, when your schedule is free-form, you often don’t get to the things that are most important to you. Your creative work takes a backseat to the more urgent demands of other people, and you neglect your own needs, such as paying your bills and making doctors’ appointments.

You need to learn to trust that you can put structure into your schedule and still have enough freedom to hear the call of your muse, or respond to opportunities that crop up, or spend time with your friends, customers, and associates. You don’t have to plan every hour, but you can map out a general rhythm to your day.

Regardless of which challenges you face, true time management from the inside out is about designing a schedule that is a custom fit for you. It’s about identifying what’s important to you and giving those activities a place in your schedule based on your unique personality needs and goals. And it’s about feeling deeply satisfied at the end of each day. Tune in to who you are and what you want, and then integrate practical time management tools to build your life around your unique personality.

Julie Morgenstern is a productivity expert and author of Time Management from the Inside Out, Organizing from the Inside Out, and Never Check E-Mail in the Morning. For more, visit www.

Article 5, “Creating a Paperless Office”

by Bill Gates 
3,469 words, 13 words per line

From Business @ the Speed of Thought by Bill Gates with Collins Hemingway. Copyright © 1999 by William H. Gates III. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.

Digital technology can transform your production processes and your business processes. It can also free workers from slow and inflexible paper processes. Replacing paper processes with digital processes liberates knowledge workers to do productive work. The all-digital workplace is usually called “the paperless office,” a phrase that goes back to at least 1973. It’s a great vision. No more stacks of paper in which you can’t find what you need. No more pawing through piles of books and reports to find marketing information or a sales number. No more misrouted forms, lost invoices, redundant entries, missing checks, or delays caused by incomplete paperwork.

But the paperless office, like artificial intelligence, is one of those “any day now” phenomena that somehow never seem to actually arrive. The first use of the phrase paperless office appeared in a headline a quarter of a century ago in a trade publication for phone companies. The Xerox Corporation (although it never called it a “paperless office”) did more to promote the concept than anyone else. In 1974-75 the company was talking about “the office of the future” that would have computers and e-mail with information online. Between 1975 and 1987 several business publications promised that the paperless office wasn’t far off and would radically change the workplace, but in 1988 I told a reporter, “This vision of a paperless office is still very, very far away …. Computers today are not yet fulfilling this vision.”1

Today we have all the pieces in place to make the vision a reality. Graphical computing and better analytical tools make it easy to integrate data of various types. Highly capable, networked PCs are ubiquitous in the office environment. The Internet is connecting PCs around the world. Yet paper consumption has continued to double every four years, and 95 percent of all information in the United States remains on paper, compared with just 1 percent stored electronically. Paperwork is increasing faster than digital technology can eliminate it!

In 1996 I decided to look into the ways that Microsoft, a big advocate of replacing paper with electronic forms, was still using paper. To my surprise, we had printed 350,000 paper copies of sales reports that year. I asked for a copy of every paper form we used. The thick binder that landed on my desk contained hundreds and hundreds of forms. At corporate headquarters we had 114 forms in Procurement alone. Our 401(k) retirement plan had 8 different paper forms—for entering and exiting the plan, for changing employee information, and for changing employee investments or contributions. Every time the government changed the rules, we’d have to update and reprint the forms and recycle thousands of old ones. Paper consumption was only a symptom of a bigger problem, though: administrative processes that were too complicated and time-intensive.

I looked at this binder of forms and wondered, “Why do we have all of these forms? Everybody here has a PC. We’re connected up. Why aren’t we using electronic forms and e-mail to streamline our processes and replace all this paper?”

Well, I exercised the privilege of my job and banned all unnecessary forms. In place of all that paper, systems grew up that were far more accurate and far easier to work with and all that empowered our people to do more interesting work.


Now, even before a new employee is hired, he or she embarks on an electronic journey. We receive 600 to 900 resumes from job applicants every day by postal mail, by e-mail, or via our Resume Builder on the Microsoft Web site.2Seventy percent of the resumes arrive electronically via e-mail or the Web, up from 6 percent two years ago and rising. Our software automatically acknowledges every electronic submission. Our recruiting database, from Restrac of Lexington, Massachusetts, directly accepts information from resumes created at our Resume Builder Web site; e-mail submissions are parsed to deliver candidate information to Restrac. A paper resume is scanned and converted into text that can go into the database. All resumes are electronically matched with open job positions within twenty-four to forty-eight hours of receipt.

Human Resources specialists search the Restrac database for promising candidates, consulting with hiring managers in person or over e-mail. They use scheduling software to set up job interviews. Every interviewer gets a copy of a resume and any other background information in e-mail. After meeting with a prospect, each interviewer e-mails comments about the candidate to Human Resources, the hiring manager, and other interviewers, suggesting follow-up questions to later interviewers. This real-time sharing of interview information ensures that interviewers build on one another’s work rather than duplicate it. One interviewer might suggest to the next that she probe for a better sense of how the person would work on a team, for example. For obvious hires, the e-mail alerts help us focus our time on explaining to the recruits why Microsoft is a good choice for them.

Let’s say that an applicant named Sharon Holloway accepts our job offer. Sharon is a hypothetical new hire, but the description of her experience at Microsoft is typical of the experience of the 85 people we hire each week. While our intranet is a global solution for all 28,000-plus Microsoft employees worldwide, in this example we’ll assume that Sharon is based at our main campus in Redmond, Washington.

Before Sharon arrives at Microsoft, an administrative assistant in her new group fills out the electronic New Hire Setup form on Microsoft’s intranet to request a voicemail account, an e-mail account, office furniture, and a computer with preinstalled software to be ready on Sharon’s arrival. The same form ensures that Sharon gets added to the company phone list, receives a nameplate for her office door, and gets a mailbox in her building’s mailroom. The single electronic form goes directly to the groups responsible for taking care of these items. Electronic logs ensure that everything is tracked.

After an orientation session with a Human Resources manager on the company’s general approach to business and employee issues, Sharon and the other new employees are directed to the company’s internal Web site for most of their administrative needs. Sharon goes online to review the employee handbook (it no longer exists in paper form), download any software she needs beyond the standard setup, and fill out her electronic W-4 form.

Next Sharon uses a procurement tool on our intranet called MS Market to order office supplies, books, a whiteboard, and business cards. MS Market automatically fills in her name, her e-mail alias, the name of her approving manager, and other standard information for the order. Sharon has to enter only the information unique to the purchase into a few designated fields. The vendors receive her order electronically and deliver the order to her office. An order above a certain amount of money requires additional levels of management approval before processing. Our electronic system routes the form to the right people for an electronic okay.

Sharon visits the Microsoft Archives, Library, and company newsletter sites to read up on Microsoft. By signing up for one or more of our library’s news services, she sees the latest news about the company and the industry in electronic versions of publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNet, and so on. The availability of these services online has increased the number of our subscribing employees from 250 to 8,000 for the Journal alone. The online library lists books, software, and videos that employees can check out online for delivery to their offices. Librarians also maintain Web pages containing news and research for each Microsoft product group.

New employees don’t follow a standard route on our intranet site. We hire people who are intellectually curious, and they explore freely. After they get their basics set up, they’ll dive into business or technical areas that relate to their jobs and interests. Our new employees use the site the way it’s meant to be used: to learn and to get things done.

When Sharon’s first paycheck “arrives,” the payroll amount is deposited automatically into her checking account, and she can view her deposit confirmation and the details of her pay stub on a secure intranet page. As her banking needs change, Sharon can change her financial institutions online.

For travel, Sharon handles plane and hotel reservations online with a booking tool designed by Microsoft in partnership with American Express. AXI, available online twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, gives Sharon direct access to corporate-negotiated airline fares and flight availability information, a low-fare search tool, airline seat maps, corporate-preferred hotels, and the ability to check a flight’s status or request an upgrade. Microsoft’s travel policies are embedded in the AXI software as business rules. Any nonstandard travel request triggers e-mail from AXI to a manager for review. Travel expenses are submitted digitally to her manager for electronic approval. We deposit the reimbursement into Sharon’s checking account electronically within three business days of approval.


Contrary to popular perception, Microsofties do have a life outside the company. Sharon gets married and after her honeymoon enters her vacation time online. When she and her husband move into a new house, Sharon submits her new address via an online form that automatically distributes the information to all of the organizations that need her address, such as Payroll, Benefits, and the vendors managing our retirement and employee stock option programs. She visits our intranet to get information about bus routes and ridesharing in her new neighborhood.

When Sharon and her husband have a baby, she goes online to learn about benefits such as parenting seminars, paid parental leave, and day care referrals. Sharon electronically submits the medical claims associated with the birth and goes online to change her benefits to accommodate the new baby. Microsoft has a “cafeteria”-style benefits program that pays a certain dollar amount of benefits to each employee. An employee can model different what-if scenarios to decide how the dollars should be allocated—with choices for medical, dental, and optical coverage, life and disability insurance, health club membership, and legal services—and see how an increase or a decrease in one benefit affects the entire package. She can set up a payroll deduction for any benefit combination that costs more than the company contribution.

An online tool is also the means for Sharon to manage her 401(k) retirement plan, her employee stock purchases, and her stock option grants. She can direct the total percentage of her salary to be withheld for retirement or stock purchases and can alter the percentage to be allocated to each retirement investment option. Fidelity Investments’ Web site for the plan enables Sharon to view current account information and market indexes, to model loans, and to review her transaction history. The stock purchase tool enables Sharon to view the number and price of shares she’s purchased, change her withholding amount during enrollment periods, or cancel participation. The stock option tool enables her to accept a grant with a secure electronic signature and view her options summary and exercise history. Salomon Smith Barney, the brokerage firm that handles Microsoft stock options, is creating a Web site that will enable Sharon to run scenarios to see how many shares she needs to exercise for such things as remodeling her house for her growing family. All employees can exercise their stock options online unless they live in countries that require paper forms.

As an employee and a shareholder, Sharon receives the company’s annual report online—our income statement is shown according to the conventions and in the currencies of seven different countries, and my letter to shareholders is available in ten languages—and she can vote her proxy online. Microsoft was the first company to offer paperless proxy voting to employee shareholders, a step that has increased our employee participation from 15 percent to more than 60 percent.


One of Sharon’s jobs as a marketer is product planning. Most of the management and financial information she needs is accessible from MS Reports, a single interface to many databases such as expense, customer, contract, and budget. MS Reports can also be used to access MS Sales, our sales reporting system; HeadTrax, our head count system; and a financial management system that includes general ledger, fixed asset, project accounting, and statutory information and management reports. MS Reports uses Excel pivot tables to show data from multiple views, enabling Sharon to focus on analysis instead of data structures. She can review revenue projections for her product from sales locations worldwide as the projections are updated. She can view historical information about previous marketing campaigns such as personnel, capital expenses, and marketing expenses.

With the relevant data from MS Reports to help her plan, Sharon uses an online budgeting application to enter her projected head count and expenses for her new product, then is able to track her marketing budget throughout the project, answering questions such as “What is my spend rate?” “Where am I spending money?” and “How can I reallocate resources for new projects?”

Sharon may use an additional planning tool, OnTarget, to track expenses in more detail. OnTarget provides project accounting. A manager can get complete project expenses across multiple cost centers or across fiscal years.


When Sharon is promoted to manager, one new duty is conducting performance reviews for each of her “reports” every six months. Each employee writes a self-evaluation, and Sharon adds her own performance evaluation to the original document. Sharon’s evaluation of an employee incorporates peer review, and e-mail makes it easy to get feedback from people in other divisions or even around the world. Sharon and her manager review her appraisals of the work of her employees and her proposed ratings for them. Then Sharon meets each employee face-to-face to discuss performance and new objectives.

Microsoft managers used to spend more time on the paperwork for reviews than on the reviews themselves. Our review application simplifies the work of managers while ensuring that they follow company policies. The application calculates a default merit increase and bonus for each person based on Sharon’s rating and on the employee’s job level and current salary. Overriding the defaults is possible (for example, to “load up” the salary and bonus for a star performer), but managers have to adhere to the company’s overall percentage guidelines. As Sharon enters the numbers for each employee, the tool automatically calculates the new group average. If she comes in too low or too high, she can go back and redo the numbers. After senior managers review the numbers electronically, compensation changes feed directly into the master employee data and stock option systems.

By translating a rating into compensation and by enabling the manager to visually compare such figures as ranking by performance and by salary, the review application helps managers to grade employees consistently according to both performance and policy. We estimate that the application also reduces managers’ time spent on review administration by at least 50 percent.


Using our intranet to replace paper forms has produced striking results for us. As this book goes to press, we have reduced the number of paper forms from more than 1,000 to a company-wide total of 60 forms. Among those groups that started out with the most forms, Procurement has dropped from 114 to 1; and Human Resources is down to 39. Of the 60 remaining paper forms, 10 are required by law and 40 are required by outside parties because their systems are still based on paper. The last 10 paper forms are used so seldom that we haven’t bothered to make them electronic, yet. Businesses have an incentive to persuade partners and governments to accept information electronically so that everybody can get to a fully digital approach with no paper.

Overall, the savings from our using the electronic forms I’ve described in this chapter amounted to at least $40 million in our first twelve months of use in 1997-98. The biggest savings came from the reduction in processing costs. Accounting firms put the cost of paper orders—mostly the time of all the people handling the paper—at about $145 per transaction. Electronic processing at Microsoft, by comparison, runs less than $5 per transaction. In its first year MS Market alone handled 250,000 transactions involving more than $1.6 billion, saving our company at least $35 million in processing. Transaction volumes are increasing significantly. The $35 million figure includes $3 million saved through the reassignment of twenty-two procurement personnel worldwide. MS Market also directs employees to vendors with whom we’ve negotiated volume discounts, which saves us money on many purchases.

Using electronic forms for just the 401(k) plan, the employee stock purchase plan, and the stock options plan saved us another $1 million annually in labor. Attrition took care of some of the reduction in head count, but most of the staff moved on to more important tasks they weren’t doing before because they’d had to spend so much time on rote administrative chores. One person who had been spending each day answering routine questions now manages the content for the Web page that provides the answers. Within a year, the number of employees using the online system to obtain account information and ask questions regarding Microsoft’s 401(k) plan doubled from 24 percent to 51 percent. As a result, during the same period, assistance by service representatives decreased by half, from 35 percent to 17 percent.

Our new online travel system is expected to reduce overhead in our corporate travel group and to triple travel agent productivity from an average of eight to twenty-five completed itineraries (usually hotel, rental car, and airfare) per agent per day. Consistent employee use of preferred vendors will save us millions of dollars per year.

The average time it takes an employee to make a domestic travel reservation is projected to go from seventeen minutes and six phone calls or e-mails to approximately five minutes.

All of the administrative applications and content I’ve talked about in this chapter run on a total of twelve servers, either dual-processor or quad-processor systems. Total cost for the hardware was about $765,000 annually. Though far lower than comparable costs on other systems, our expenses were still higher than companies will see today because we pioneered a lot of solutions. There were no standards, for instance, for integrating third-party systems inexpensively; software products such as our commerce server provide this integration today. Companies will see lower costs going forward as the result of standards and of increased functionality in commercial software packages.

Even as we pioneered solutions, our central IT budget, which covers these and other major business applications, decreased 3 percent between 1996 and 1999, mostly from standardizing data and consolidating the number of information systems we have.


Electronic tools give us benefits beyond reducing transaction costs. For example, by requiring proper sign-off before a request is processed, MS Market prevents inappropriate purchases that can easily slip through a paper-based system. Shipping information is typed instead of handwritten, so routing errors are almost nonexistent. Communication with our suppliers is documented, and we know the costs in advance so that there are no surprises. Our suppliers get paid faster, too, which motivates them to make swift deliveries. Business rules are implemented up front so that, for example, the system won’t accept an order that has an incorrect budget code. This requirement eliminates hours and hours our finance group used to spend “scrubbing” records. Employee buying patterns can be tracked and used in vendor negotiations, too. The list of benefits goes on. We’re always discovering new ones.

In our Human Resources, Procurement, and Employee Services groups and in the functions they touch throughout Microsoft, going digital has given us a mechanism for changing how we work. By enabling our employees to directly control such processes as entering address changes and making and changing retirement investments, we’ve put responsibility directly into the hands of the people most motivated to act. Self-service administration of benefits enables Human Resources staff to spend more of their energy on strategic personnel issues such as recruitment and training.

This fundamental process issue—how to get bureaucracy out of the way—is one that our Human Resources staff itself is driving. Human Resources had conducted a number of classic reengineering studies to understand what routine processes can be automated and what processes require their professional skills. Human Resources wants to do “thinking work, not manual work.”

1James E. LaLonde, “Gates Computers Still Too Hard to Use,” Seattle Times, 1 June 1988.

2People mail their resumes to The link to Resume Builder is at

Article 6, “Tattoo Pioneer: Shanghai Kate Hellenbrand”

by Christine Braunberger, Ph.D. 
3,588 words, 13 words per line

Reprinted with permission by Christine Braunberger, Ph.D. © All rights reserved.

In the summer of 1971, The Wall Street Journal and jewelers Tiffany and Co. had a public disagreement over tattooed women. Kate Hellenbrand, a young graphic artist on Fifth Avenue’s advertising scene, likely set too fast a pace past the newsstands to notice the interplay. But it was a quarrel she soon would be immersed in for the rest of her life.

The Wall Street Journal’s front page story heralded tattoos as “the perfect gift … [for] the lady of your life.” Catering to its affluent readership, the story is couched in terms of market scarcity—tattooists are a “vanishing breed,”—while at the same time, trend setting—“she’ll be the first in her crowd.” Three days after the story ran, Tiffany & Co. took out a small ad, which appeared on page four, admonishing the Journal on grounds of bad taste. In a plain san serif typeface, it reads: “We take exception to The Wall Street Journal’s front-page article on July 6th which says that tattooing on female posteriors or any other part of the anatomy is ‘tasteful.’ We think it is the absolute height of bad taste.” The ad is signed by the Tiffany & Co. logo. Their fear was plain: the man who gives his wife a tattoo as a gift is not giving her a tennis bracelet, and Tiffany & Co. could begin to lose business to the then-illegal NYC tattoo artists. Little did they know how many women would begin to adorn their bodies—or who would provide the adornment.

Manhattan, and its tussles concerning who is the ascendant arbiter of taste, was a world away from the rugged rural farm outside Salt Lake City, Utah, where Hellenbrand (born Kathryn Ann Barton) grew up. There, as her step-father’s helper, Hellenbrand grew to love the tools used on the farm and learned how to handle everything from the plow to the jigsaw. This love of tools led her to the field of graphic arts when she moved to Los Angeles in 1964 to take classes at the revered Art Center School of Design and Chouinard’s School of Fine Arts.

In Los Angeles, Hellenbrand became part of that magical group of original hippies, culminating at the first Monterey Pop Festival. She also developed an addiction to surfing, which she supported through typesetting and technical illustration work for the US Department of Defense via Volt Technical Corporation. It also appealed to her sense of irony to occasionally run marijuana over the Mexican border. But it was the tools of her day job that took her back to the intrigue of the tools on the farm. She excelled at the use of the X-Acto Knife, Rapidiograph pen, border tapes and French curves. In another bit of situational irony, many of these tools that have been discarded by graphic artists in favor of computer wizardry continue to serve tattoo artists.

Hellenbrand’s work with Volt brought her to NYC in the late 1960s, where she befriended the artists and activists whose work dovetailed with her own surfer ideology. As she describes it, Hellenbrand became “politicized” that first year when she met Christopher Robert Gay McClaren John Pollock (more judiciously known as “Kit”), a poet and the private assistant to David Dillinger—one of the Yippee’s Chicago Eight—who, along with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale went to the 1968 Democratic Convention, to nominate a Pig for President. An unsung peace activist during the war, Dillinger made many self-funded trips to Hanoi, Vietnam, to negotiate the release of US MIA and POWs. “Kit and I fell madly in love, and it was through him that I began to read such incredibly courageous and powerful journalists like I.F. Stone.”

The work she was doing for the government became increasingly distasteful to Hellenbrand as she determined she could no longer support the Vietnam War and actions of the US Government. Rejecting her Top Secret classified clearance, Hellenbrand embarked on a series of typesetting jobs, which landed her at Muller, Jordan, & Herrick, an advertising agency on the corner of 53rd and Fifth Avenue, whose clients included Avon, McKesson Liquors, and Head Skiis. To Hellenbrand, she had achieved the ultimate in her field by working at an ad agency on Fifth Avenue.

As a salaried employee, Hellenbrand could come and go as the work demanded. During lulls she began wandering across the street to the Museum of Modern Art and the nearby Museum of American Folk Art. When not prowling the Museum’s hallways and exhibits, she was lunching with such models as Lauren Hutton, Pat Cleveland, and Ingrid Polk. Meanwhile, at home in her West 15th St. apartment, Hellenbrand was getting to know the photographer next door, Michael Malone. Hellenbrand remembers him as “stunningly gorgeous,” a California native with movie star looks:

Because we shared the same floor, Malone with the front apartment and with me holding down the rear apartment, we became good friends. Malone was struggling to find his way. He was a carpenter/light show technician/fledgling photographer. He was energetic, funny, sexy, smart and connected. I adored him from the second I set eyes on him. He wore cowboy clothes, had lots of hair everywhere and possessed boyish charm. Because he was so poor, I hired him to help me in my apartment. He painted the rooms, built bookcases, shelves, whatever I needed. I paid him a day rate. He would often have his electricity turned off because of nonpayment of his bill. Those times would find him running long extension cords into my apartment to tap off of my power. He would borrow my little TV, he had a key to my apartment and would forage through my fridge. I didn’t mind. We became close. He had a lot of friends who were musicians: Jerry Jeff Walker, Linda Ronstadt, Gary B. White, Nicholas Holmes, “Baby” Keith Sykes, Rosalie Sorrels, Dave Von Ronk, Loudon Wainwright III, Kate McGarriigale, Townes Van Zant and Guy Clark. I’d go with Michael to the old Kettle of Fish tavern in the West Village almost every night. After Bob Dylan’s gigantic impact on the “Roots” music scene in NYC, small clubs like Gertie’s Folk City and the CaféWha and the Gaslight popped up all over Bleeker and MacDougal Street. Our singer/songwriter friends were all ‘rockin’ their way to stardom’ doing night sets at one club or another. Between their sets, they’d meet for a drink at the Kettle. Now I was in Folk Music Alley drinking with Kris Kristofferson and going to Bob Dylan’s birthday party. How is it that it all seems so normal?

That the intensity of these terribly talented men and women could seem normal drew Hellenbrand in, fueling her creativity and need for art as a way of living.

One day, while out photographing plants that struggle though the cracks in New York’s city street concrete, Malone’s viewfinder focused on a brilliant dragon tattoo on the calf of a lower east side underground tattoo artist, Thom Devita. Devita was sitting on the stoop at St. Mark’s Place, flashing work by Paul Rogers—arguably the best color man of the time. Malone was inspired to shift the focus of his photo essay from struggling plants to struggling artists. Hellenbrand and Malone began to go to tattoo parties to document this illegal (banned in NYC in 1961 after an alleged hepatitis outbreak) “lowbrow” art wherever they could. Soon, Hellenbrand found it more expedient to forego fancy lunches with models to do freelance graphic work for the museums around the agency. In the course of designing grant material for the Museum of American Folk Art, Hellenbrand learned of the museum’s plan to mount a show they would call “Tattoo!”

Hellenbrand’s initial involvement was to suggest that the exhibit feature current artists, rather than focus exclusively on C.F. Fellows, whose 1931 Tattoo Book was their inspiration. The curators were apprehensive; they said that they couldn’t work with living outlaws. Did Walter Hoving, the chair of Tiffany & Co. and writer of the advertisement, know he was brandishing a diamond-encrusted shield of taste against a then-illegal industry? Certainly exhibition directors, Herbert Hemphill, Jr. and Frederick Fried, didn’t know that they were in the founding moments of a truly fresh, young talented tattoo artist. While the museum’s leadership was reluctant to get involved with the underground artists that Hellenbrand and Malone were discovering, they thought it would be a great idea for these two to co-produce a contemporary section of the show, and they were given a room to fill. Due to their relentless pursuit of the best tattoo artists in the world for inclusion, their piece of the museum’s show crept out of that one side room and into the main hall. Ultimately, their contribution included a slide-show, large color prints of tattoos, interviews, anecdotal statements and drawings from some 20 artists worldwide: Sailor Jerry Collins from Hawaii; Don Ed Hardy from California; Horiyoshi II from Japan; Don Nolan from California; Cliff Raven from Chicago; Huck Spaulding from upstate New York; Paul Rogers from Florida; Zeke Owen from California; Smokey Nightingale from Washington, D.C.; and Johnny Walker from Washington, D.C. Some artists were reluctant to get very involved. There had been little previous interest in the art of tattooing by any legitimate museum or gallery before, and the artists were distrustful that their work would be treated with respect. They didn’t have to worry.

There were worries, though.

Hellenbrand remembers preparing for opening night, when the curators were stunned to see three NYC detectives marching up the steps with arrest warrants in hand. The directors had recreated an old-style tattoo studio in their front windows, based on photos from Huck Spaulding, and the police thought that a real tattoo shop had opened. Such a public mistake provided the museum with the kind of publicity it couldn’t afford to buy. The show became a huge success, and the museum extended it for three additional months.

As the show was developing, Malone began to spend time with DeVita in what Hellenbrand recalls as a squatter’s tenement, where he lived and worked. In order to find DeVita’s clandestine quarters, one had to sidestep a fairly significant waterfall from a broken water pipe. In the winter, it would freeze into a solid cone of ice. The room opened into a baroque chaos of found objects; in the middle, Thom worked on his clients—from immigrant day laborers to municipal employees—by a single overhead light. Hellenbrand would accompany Malone on his shoots to DeVita’s East 8th St., home/studio, where the speakeasy environment was charged with excitement, emotion, and drama. Hellenbrand learned another side of the city from DeVita, who knew how to scrounge all the necessities of life—from food and books to the ingredients of his art—for free from the streets. The DeVita that Hellenbrand knew never seemed to hold a “real” job, but lived well by virtue of his scrounging skills.

During this time, they were also getting to know the Reverend Richard O. Tyler at the Gnostic Lyceum, a loosely constructed Buddhist enclave housed in an old Jewish synagogue. The Reverend’s Lyceum added another dimension to Hellenbrand’s education in eccentricities: one paid dues to the Lyceum or fees to stay in its hostel only in gold, drank homemade apple moonshine, and could participate in free-form jazz jams and various pagan rituals. Here too, the environment was “a madhouse of decoration” with the yard a testimonial to outsider art. Joining the inner circle, or cong, included a tattoo ritual, and Hellenbrand still bears the faint white Om symbol on her hand.

Eventually, DeVita bought the Lyceum’s East 4th St. building and began tattooing there. Though the world was clearly masculine, Hellenbrand was drawn in and soon used her stable job for the credit needed to purchase a nine-seat VW bus for tattoo travels. At first, she was driving DeVita and Malone upstate, near Albany, so that DeVita could get tattoo work from Huck Spaulding on the weekends. Spaulding, a master tattoo artist from the carnival era and sometimes partner of Paul Rogers, was to become the tattoo world’s largest equipment supplier.

Malone was the first to succumb to his new friend’s emerging business, and he bought a starter kit from Spaulding. When the kit arrived, Malone convinced Hellenbrand to spare some skin. Thus he began his tattoo career by carving a small red heart on Kate’s ankle. Soon, Malone undertook some illegal renovations; he took the walls around a bedroom halfway down to create a bay for tattooing. After lugging away many a bag of plaster after dark, Hellenbrand and Malone created the Catfish Tattoo Studio, named after the first tattoo DeVita did for Malone. From Huck Spaulding they learned how a tattoo studio should look. From Tony “the Pirate” Cambria they learned to paint flash on white vinyl roll-up shades, which could be rolled up quickly if the police visited.

At the advertising agency during the day Hellenbrand continued to work as a type-setter and graphic designer; meanwhile, Malone would roam the streets handing out their new business cards. In the evenings Hellenbrand would hand-color the catfish on those business cards and continue to write to other tattoo artists, inviting them to be part of the Museum of American Folk Art Show.

Primary among these correspondences was Don Ed Hardy, a young surfer-style tattoo artist from San Francisco with a fine arts background. He was a prolific and promising talent even in his early twenties. His association with Sailor Jerry and Zeke Owen created a sort of Pacific Rim triumvirate blending Japanese/Chinese/Hawaiian/ Californian; together they were rediscovering and reinventing the technology as well as the art. Hardy made a trip to NYC where he met with Malone and Hellenbrand, and they began photographing root material for this new kind of tattooing—this West Coast style. Horimono was the term Sailor Jerry and Hardy applied to it.

Malone, Hardy, and Hellenbrand visited the Springfield, MA, Museum of Fine Art, which housed a stockpile of wood block prints by Kuniyoshi. Perhaps the most recognized artist of the Ukiyo-e period of Japanese art (17th-20th Centuries), Ukiyo-e in general and Kuniyoshi’s archive in particular were a tremendous influence on Horimono. Malone shot print after print all day—by the end the three had formed a bond that would secure their friendship. Thereafter, Hardy made several trips to NYC to see Malone and Hellenbrand, often bringing his wife, Christine, with him.

Hellenbrand describes herself as thrust into the museum show’s secretarial and production roles, but the number of hats she was wearing was multiplying fast. When Hellenbrand would come home from a day at the agency, she never knew whom she’d find at the Catfish Studio. Now it seems audacious to have opened their home to tattoo strangers, but “our desire outweighed our common sense,” and they were never the worse for it. At first she acted as a kind of hostess. Angelo, a Bronx artist, was a frequent visitor, accompanied by Tom King, a Vietnam vet and avid tattoo collector. King asked Hellenbrand if she’d ever thought about tattooing. “No, that’s Michael’s thing,” she replied, “I don’t want to be anyone’s Yoko Ono.”

Still, King pushed because he knew Hellenbrand had a strong art background, and he said he thought she’d “do a good job.” Hellenbrand’s love of tools had made her curious about the small machine, and she wondered how it would feel to tattoo someone. A small flower image was chosen—nothing too difficult—and the preparations were made in “a somewhat religious manner.”

“I remember only bits of that first piece,” says Hellenbrand. “I had watched so many tattoos go on for so long, I sort of knew how to move my hands, etc. But it is all a blur to me—sort of white noise. And I had a kind of out-of-body experience, I was so nervous. And immediately taken with the entire process.”

Life went on as usual for two weeks—until King returned with a healed and vibrant tattoo on his calf. “I was so excited at the finished product; I knew this was it. This was something I could do and wanted to do. It was magical; those strong, bright colors beaming back at me. Once I picked up the machine I realized what power I had and that I had to have it in my life.” King loved the piece and immediately wanted Hellenbrand to create another. The second was a large peacock (6×8‘) in the middle of King’s chest. This time Hellenbrand dug in her heels and did the outline and shading in one sitting, then the color followed in a second sitting a month later. Her third tattoo was a large dragon snaking around King’s existing tattoos on his right arm—a sort of sleeve. “On that tattoo I started at 8:30 in the morning and the next time I looked up it was 1:30. And I thought anything that can make time and space fall away like this is for me. I quit my job and began to tattoo full time.”

It was 1972 when Hellenbrand left the advertising agency so that she could devote herself to tattooing. She knew of only two other women in the world who tattooed: Cindy Ray (Bev Robinson) who still works in Australia and Rusty Skuse, who worked in England. Although these women were not close enough to guide her, many of the challenges she might have faced were eased by the strong alliances she had formed with artists included in the museum show. Malone and Hellenbrand had earned trust, and a measure of gratitude, in their efforts to legitimize their art form.

I know how extremely lucky I am to have had this trust in the beginning. To be a young female (two of the most hated elements for a newcomer to the field) and to be granted total acceptance and access by the giants like Sailor Jerry and Huck Spaulding and Paul Rogers is beyond anything anyone else has done before or since. No one has had such a gilded resume and I don’t take it for granted. Whenever I hit a snag or needed supplies, I simply had to ask. And they were also open to having me come into their shops.

To get their first real “official” tattoos, Malone and Hellenbrand traveled to Chicago to meet Cliff Raven, one of the first tattoo artists (along with Hardy) to enter the field with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.

The experience for Hellenbrand wasn’t totally satisfying:

When I went to Cliff Raven in Chicago, Malone had already found his image— a small Japanese demon shooting lightning from the palm of his hand. I was unsure of what I wanted so while Malone was getting his piece, I was searching the designs for something I could live with forever. I found a small clipper ship that I wanted on the top of my thigh.

Hellenbrand always had been curious, mesmerized by foreign travel and unknown places.

My favorite book as a child was my Collier’s Atlas. To me it’s all about exploring. So that’s what I wanted, a little clipper ship on my thigh to symbolize my love of adventure and they said, “No, you’re a girl and girls can only get a rabbit, a squirrel, or a skunk named Stinky.” I was heartbroken. As an ex-farmer’s daughter, I surely wasn’t going to get any kind of yard varmint, especially a skunk named Stinky. So I went back to hotel, and Malone finally suggested that I get cherry blossoms on my chest. The next night I went back and got the blossoms. They were lovely but not connected to me.

It wasn’t until 2005 that Hellenbrand finally got her clipper ship. Ironically, it was from Zeke Owen, one of the few men who did resist Hellenbrand’s entry into the world of tattoo.

He would tell me, “Put down your machines, you are bad luck in this business.” Of course, that’s because it was a military business at that time and sailors and soldiers would stand in line for hours to get tattooed by a woman—any age, any degree of attractiveness—because of the novelty, or because they hadn’t been near a woman for weeks or months. She could be a reminder of their mother, grandmother, sister or wife. It was an economic issue I think. Or if it was something else, I was never told. So, to have Zeke, who is one of the grand masters of the art, do my heart’s desire tattoo on me was a tremendous validation.

Even though friends attempted to curtail Hellenbrand’s choice of gender-appropriate imagery, and a potential mentor turned her away, she was far too enamored to walk away. Not only was she developing a reputation as part of this “hot new couple,” she was learning the trade and the history, while living the art’s next chapter.

As Zeke Owen and Sailor Jerry were developing the hygiene protocols that would set the standard for the industry, Sailor Jerry joined Paul Rogers and Huck Spaudling in their color experiments. Hellenbrand created letterhead for a non-existent sign company so they could order raw pigments. Free samples came in five-pound bags, which the men would grind up and tattoo into their legs, searching for non-reactive colors.

An estimated 25,000 tattoos later, Hellenbrand recognizes how far she has drifted from her original art. “I’m not a good paper artist anymore. It isn’t demanding enough for me. It’s not nearly as thrilling. When I get it on the skin that’s when I become the artist. Skin is my medium.”

Article 7, “Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer”

A conversation with Dr. Charles A. 
3,679 words, 6 words per line

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Review. Copyright © October 2006 by the Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

At 12:30 am on June 10, 2002, Israel Lane Joubert and his family of seven set out for a long drive home following a family reunion in Beaumont, Texas. Joubert, who had hoped to reach home in faraway Fort Worth in time to get to work by 8 am, fell asleep at the wheel, plowing the family’s Chevy Suburban into the rear of a parked 18-wheeler. He survived, but his wife and five of his six children were killed.

The Joubert tragedy underscores a problem of epidemic proportions among workers who get too little sleep. In the past five years, driver fatigue has accounted for more than 1.35 million automobile accidents in the United States alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The general effect of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance is well-known: Stay awake longer than 18 consecutive hours, and your reaction speed, short-term and long-term memory, ability to focus, decision-making capacity, math processing, cognitive speed, and spatial orientation all start to suffer. Cut sleep back to five or six hours a night for several days in a row, and the accumulated sleep deficit magnifies these negative effects. (Sleep deprivation is implicated in all kinds of physical maladies, too, from high blood pressure to obesity.)

Nevertheless, frenzied corporate cultures still confuse sleeplessness with vitality and high performance. An ambitious manager logs 80-hour work weeks, surviving on five or six hours of sleep a night and eight cups of coffee (the world’s second-most widely sold commodity, after oil) a day. A Wall Street trader goes to bed at 11 or midnight and wakes to his BlackBerry buzz at 2:30 am to track opening activity on the DAX. A road warrior lives out of a suitcase while traveling to Tokyo, St. Louis, Miami, and Zurich, conducting business in a cloud of caffeinated jet lag. A negotiator takes a red-eye flight, hops into a rental car, and zooms through an unfamiliar city to make a delicate M&A meeting at 8 in the morning.

People like this put themselves, their teams, their companies, and the general public in serious jeopardy, says Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, the Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.1 To him, encouraging a culture of sleepless machismo is worse than nonsensical; it is downright dangerous, and the antithesis of intelligent management. He notes that while corporations have all kinds of policies designed to prevent employee endangerment—rules against workplace smoking, drinking, drugs, sexual harassment, and so on— they sometimes push employees to the brink of self-destruction. Being “on” pretty much around the clock induces a level of impairment every bit as risky as intoxication.

As one of the world’s leading authorities on human sleep cycles and the biology of sleep and wakefulness, Dr. Czeisler understands the physiological bases of the sleep imperative better than almost anyone. His message to corporate leaders is simple: If you want to raise performance—both your own and your organization’s—you need to pay attention to this fundamental biological issue. In this edited interview with senior editor Bronwyn Fryer, Czeisler observes that top executives now have a critical responsibility to take sleeplessness seriously.

What does the most recent research tell us about the physiology of sleep and cognitive performance?

Four major sleep-related factors affect our cognitive performance. The kinds of work and travel schedules required of business executives today pose a severe challenge to their ability to function well, given each of these factors.

The first has to do with the homeostatic drive for sleep at night, determined largely by the number of consecutive hours that we’ve been awake. Throughout the waking day, human beings build up a stronger and stronger drive for sleep. Most of us think we’re in control of sleep—that we choose when to go to sleep and when to wake up. The fact is that when we are drowsy, the brain can seize control involuntarily. When the homeostatic pressure to sleep becomes high enough, a couple thousand neurons in the brain’s “sleep switch” ignite, as discovered by Dr. Clif Saper at Harvard Medical School. Once that happens, sleep seizes the brain like a pilot grabbing the controls. If you’re behind the wheel of a car at the time, it takes just three or four seconds to be off the road.

The second major factor that determines our ability to sustain attention and maintain peak cognitive performance has to do with the total amount of sleep you manage to get over several days. If you get at least eight hours of sleep a night, your level of alertness should remain stable throughout the day, but if you have a sleep disorder or get less than that for several days, you start building a sleep deficit that makes it more difficult for the brain to function. Executives I’ve observed tend to burn the candle at both ends, with 7 am breakfast meetings and dinners that run late, for days and days. Most people can’t get to sleep without some wind-down time, even if they are very tired, so these executives may not doze off until 2 in the morning. If they average four hours of sleep a night for four or five days, they develop the same level of cognitive impairment as if they’d been awake for 24 hours—equivalent to legal drunkenness. Within ten days, the level of impairment is the same as you’d have going 48 hours without sleep. This greatly lengthens reaction time, impedes judgment, and interferes with problem solving. In such a state of sleep deprivation, a single beer can have the same impact on our ability to sustain performance as a whole six-pack can have on someone who’s well rested.

The third factor has to do with circadian phase—the time of day in the human body that says “it’s midnight” or “it’s dawn.” A neurological timing device called the “circadian pacemaker” works alongside but, paradoxically, in opposition to the homeostatic drive for sleep. This circadian pacemaker sends out its strongest drive for sleep just before we habitually wake up, and its strongest drive for waking one to three hours before we usually go to bed, just when the homeostatic drive for sleep is peaking. We don’t know why it’s set up this way, but we can speculate that it has to do with the fact that, unlike other animals, we don’t take frequent catnaps throughout the day. The circadian pacemaker may help us to focus on that big project by enabling us to stay awake throughout the day in one long interval and by allowing us to consolidate sleep into one long interval at night.

In the mid-afternoon, when we’ve already built up substantial homeostatic sleep drive, the circadian system has not yet come to the rescue. That’s typically the time when people are tempted to take a nap or head for the closest Starbucks or soda machine. The caffeine in the coffee temporarily blocks receptors in the brain that regulate sleep drive. Thereafter, the circadian pacemaker sends out a stronger and stronger drive for waking as the day progresses. Provided you’re keeping a regular schedule, the rise in the sleep-facilitating hormone melatonin will then quiet the circadian pacemaker one to two hours before your habitual bedtime, enabling the homeostatic sleep drive to take over and allow you to get to sleep. As the homeostatic drive dissipates midway through the sleep episode, the circadian drive for sleep increases toward morning, maintaining our ability to obtain a full night of sleep. After our usual wake time, the levels of melatonin begin to decline. Normally, the two mutually opposing processes work well together, sustaining alertness throughout the day and promoting a solid night of sleep.

The fourth factor affecting performance has to do with what’s called “sleep inertia,” the grogginess most people experience when they first wake up. Just like a car engine, the brain needs time to “warm up” when you awaken. The part of your brain responsible for memory consolidation doesn’t function well for five to 20 minutes after you wake up and doesn’t reach its peak efficiency for a couple of hours. But if you sleep on the airplane and the flight attendant wakes you up suddenly upon landing, you may find yourself at the customs station before you realize you’ve left your laptop and your passport behind. There is a transitional period between the time you wake up and the time your brain becomes fully functional. This is why you never want to make an important decision as soon as you are suddenly awakened—ask any nurse who’s had to awaken a physician at night about a patient.

Most top executives are over 40. Isn’t it true that sleeping also becomes more difficult with age?

Yes, that’s true. When we’re past the age of 40, sleep is much more fragmented than when we’re younger. We are more easily awakened by disturbances such as noise from the external environment and from our own increasing aches and pains. Another thing that increases with age is the risk of sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome, insomnia, and sleep apnea—the cessation of breathing during sleep, which can occur when the airway collapses many times per hour and shuts off the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain, leading to many brief awakenings.

Many people gain weight as they age, too. Interestingly, chronic sleep restriction increases levels of appetite and stress hormones; it also reduces one’s ability to metabolize glucose and increases the production of the hormone ghrelin, which makes people crave carbohydrates and sugars, so they get heavier, which in turn raises the risk of sleep apnea, creating a vicious cycle. Some researchers speculate that the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. and elsewhere may be related to chronic sleep loss. Moreover, sleep-disordered breathing increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease due to the strain of starving the heart of oxygen many times per hour throughout the night.

As we age, the circadian window during which we maintain consolidated sleep also narrows. That’s why airline travel across time zones can be so brutal as we get older. Attempting to sleep at an adverse circadian phase—that is, during our biological daytime—becomes much more difficult. Thus, if you take a 7 pm flight from New York to London, you typically land about midnight in your home time zone, when the homeostatic drive for sleep is very strong, but the local time is 5 am. Exposure to daylight—the principal circadian synchronizer—at this time shifts you toward Hawaiian time rather than toward London time. In this circumstance, the worst possible thing you can do is rent a car and drive to a meeting where you have to impress people with your mental acuity at the equivalent of 3 or 4 in the morning. You might not even make the meeting, because you very easily could wrap your car around a tree. Fourteen or 15 hours later, if you’re trying to go to bed at 11 pm in the local time zone, you’ll have a more difficult time maintaining a consolidated night’s sleep.

So sleep deprivation, in your opinion, is a far more serious issue than most executives think it is.

Yes, indeed. Putting yourself or others at risk while driving or working at an impaired level is bad enough; expecting your employees to do the same is just irresponsible. It amazes me that contemporary work and social culture glorifies sleeplessness in the way we once glorified people who could hold their liquor. We now know that 24 hours without sleep or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1%. We would never say, “This person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!” yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep. The analogy to drunkenness is real because, like a drunk, a person who is sleep deprived has no idea how functionally impaired he or she truly is. Moreover, their efficiency at work will suffer substantially, contributing to the phenomenon of “presenteeism,” which, exacts a large economic toll on business.

Sleep deprivation is not just an individual health hazard; it’s a public one. Consider the risk of occupational injury and driver fatigue. In a study our research team conducted of hospital interns who had been scheduled to work for at least 24 consecutive hours, we found that their odds of stabbing themselves with a needle or scalpel increased 61%, their risk of crashing a motor vehicle increased 168%, and their risk of a near miss increased 460%. In the U.S., drowsy drivers are responsible for a fifth of all motor vehicle accidents and some 8,000 deaths annually. It is estimated that 80,000 drivers fall asleep at the wheel every day, 10% of them run off the road, and every two minutes, one of them crashes. Countless innocent people are hurt. There’s now a vehicular homicide law in New Jersey (and some pending in other states) that includes driving without sleep for more than 24 hours in its definition of recklessness. There’s a man in Florida who’s serving a 15-year prison term for vehicular homicide—he’d been awake for 30-some hours when he crashed his company’s truck into a group of cars waiting for a light to change, killing three people. I would not want to be the CEO of the company bearing responsibility for those preventable deaths.

Sleep deprivation among employees poses other kinds of risks to companies as well. With too little sleep, people do things that no CEO in his or her right mind would allow. All over the world, people are running heavy and dangerous machinery or guarding secure sites and buildings while they’re exhausted. Otherwise intelligent, well-mannered managers do all kinds of things they’d never do if they were rested—they may get angry at employees, make unsound decisions that affect the future of their companies, and give muddled presentations before their colleagues, customers, the press, or shareholders.

What should companies be doing to address the sleep problem?

People in executive positions should set behavioral expectations and develop corporate sleep policies, just as they already have concerning behaviors like smoking or sexual harassment. It’s important to have a policy limiting scheduled work— ideally to no more than 12 hours a day, and exceptionally to no more than 16 consecutive hours. At least 11 consecutive hours of rest should be provided every 24 hours. Furthermore, employees should not be scheduled to work more than 60 hours a week and not be permitted to work more than 80 hours a week. When working at night or on extended shifts, employees should not be scheduled to work more than four or five consecutive days, and certainly no more than six consecutive days. People need at least one day off a week, and ideally two in a row, in order to avoid building up a sleep deficit.

Now, managers will often rationalize overscheduling employees. I hear them say that if their employees aren’t working, they will be out partying and not sleeping anyway. That may be true for some irresponsible individuals, but it doesn’t justify scheduling employees to work a hundred hours a week so that they can’t possibly get an adequate amount of sleep. Of course, some circumstances may arise in which you need someone to remain at work for more than 16 consecutive hours. The night security guard, for example, can’t just walk off the job if his replacement isn’t there, so you will need to have a provision for exceptional circumstances, such as offering transportation home for a sleep-deprived worker.

Companies also need executive policies. For example, I would advise executives to avoid taking red-eye flights, which severely disrupt sleep. If someone must travel overnight internationally, the policy should allow the executive to take at least a day to adapt to the sleep deprivation associated with the flight and the new time zone before driving or conducting business. Such a policy requires some good schedule planning, but the time spent making the adjustments will be worth it, for the traveler will be more functional before going into that important meeting. And the sleep policy should not permit anyone, under any circumstances, to take an overnight flight and then drive to a business meeting somewhere—period. He or she should at least be provided a taxi, car service, or shuttle.

Companies can do other things to promote healthy sleep practices among employees. Educational programs about sleep, health, and safety should be mandatory. Employees should learn to set aside an adequate amount of time for sleep each night and to keep their bedrooms dark and quiet and free of all electronic devices—televisions, BlackBerries, and so on. They should learn about the ways alcohol and caffeine interfere with sleep. When someone is sleep deprived, drinking alcohol only makes things worse, further eroding performance and increasing the propensity to fall asleep while also interfering with the ability to stay asleep. Additionally, companies should provide annual screening for sleep disorders in order to identify those who might be at risk. For example, this past year our team launched a Web-based screening survey that any law enforcement officer in the U.S. can take to help identify whether he or she is suffering from sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, or other sleep disorders. Those whose answers place them at high risk are referred for evaluation and treatment by a specialist accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. [Accredited sleep centers may be found at]

Finally, I would recommend that supervisors undergo training in sleep and fatigue management and that they promote good sleep behavior. People should learn to treat sleep as a serious matter. Both the company and the employees bear a shared responsibility to ensure that everyone comes to work well rested.

This corporate sleep policy of yours sounds a little draconian, if not impossible, given people’s crazy schedules.

I don’t think it’s draconian at all. Business travelers expect that their pilots won’t drink before flying an airplane, and all of us expect that no driver on the highway will have a blood alcohol level above the legal limit. Many executives already realize that the immediate effect of sleep loss on individuals and on overall corporate performance is just as important. A good sleep policy is smart business strategy. People think they’re saving time and being more productive by not sleeping, but in fact they are cutting their productivity drastically. Someone who has adequate sleep doesn’t nod off in an important meeting with a customer. She can pay attention to her task for longer periods of time and bring her whole intelligence and creativity to bear on the project at hand.

What do you think about the use of drugs that help people fall asleep or that shut off the urge to sleep?

These agents should be used only after a thorough evaluation of the causes of insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness. Patients too often think there’s a silver bullet for a problem like insomnia, and doctors too easily prescribe pills as part of a knee-jerk reaction to patient requests during the final minutes of an office visit. The causes of insomnia are subtle and need to be carefully investigated. These can be from too much caffeine, an irregular schedule, anxiety or depression, physical problems such as arthritis, use of other medications, and so on—and only a careful evaluation by a doctor experienced in sleep medicine can uncover the causes. I once saw a professor who complained of difficulty sleeping at night, and only after taking a careful history did we find that he was drinking 20 cups of coffee a day. He didn’t even realize he was drinking that much and didn’t think about the fact that so much caffeine, which has a six- to nine-hour half-life, would interfere with his ability to sleep. Prescribing a sleeping pill for his insomnia without identifying the underlying cause would have been a mistake.

There are non-pharmacological treatments for insomnia that seem very promising, by the way. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, helps people recognize and change thoughts and behaviors that might be keeping them awake at night. A researcher named Dr. Gregg Jacobs at Harvard Medical School has reported that CBT works better over both the short and the long term than sleeping pills do.

Sometimes executives simply have to function without much sleep. What are some strategies they can use to get by until they can go to bed?

Though there is no known substitute for sleep, there are a few strategies you can use to help sustain performance temporarily until you can get a good night’s sleep. Obviously, executives can drink caffeine, which is the most widely used wake-promoting therapeutic in the world. Naps can be very effective at restoring performance, and if they are brief—less than a half hour—they will induce less grogginess upon awakening. Being in a novel or engaging circumstance will also help you stay alert. Exercise, standing in an upright position, and exposure to bright light are all very helpful. Human beings are amazingly sensitive to light. In fact, the color of light may also be important. Exposure to shorter wavelength blue light is particularly effective in suppressing melatonin production, thereby allowing us to stay awake during our biological night. Photon for photon, looking up at the blue sky, for example, is more effective in both resetting our biological clock and enhancing our alertness than looking down at the green grass.

While all these things can help an executive function in an emergency, I must reiterate that he or she should still not drive when sleep deprived, even if a cup of coffee or a walk on a sunny day seems to help for a little while.

Do you get enough sleep?

Like everyone else, I try to, but I don’t always achieve it.

1Dr. Czeisler is the incumbent of an endowed professorship donated to Harvard by Cephalon and consults for a number of companies, including Actelion, Cephalon, Coca-Cola, Hypnion, Pfizer, Respironics, Sanofi-Aventis, Takeda, and Vanda.