Humor As a Mindset


Dessert makes Drew Tarvin smile. He encourages smiling every hour. (Photo by Cynthia Price.)

I take my work seriously, but I also laugh often and have fun most days. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t be more serious. But then I heard Drew Tarvin speak.

He said we will likely work 90,000 hours in our lifetimes and why not enjoy the time?

Tarvin is the world’s first humor engineer and an award-winning speaker, trainer, author, and coach. Through his company, Humor That Works, he teaches individuals and organizations how to use humor to be more effective, more productive, and more awesome.

He is the best-selling author of Humor That Works: 501 Ways to Beat Stress, Increase Productivity, and Have Fun at Work and the recently released The United States of Laughter: One Comedian’s Journey Through All 50 States. Through his journey, he discovered that, despite what we may see on the news or read on the internet, there is one thing that unites all Americans: laughter. His TEDx talk has been viewed more than 100,000 times.

At a recent talk, he had his audience in stitches, especially as he shared stories of texting with his grandmother. In one, she replied to him with WTF, which alarmed Tarvin. He asked her if she knew what the initials stood for. Of course, she did, she said, “Wow, that’s fun!”

I’ve not met Tarvin’s grandmother but I already know I would love her.

He believes that we desperately need humor and noted that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter equals five minutes of exercise. He also emphasized that we are each responsible for our own happiness.

“Humor is a choice,” he said, while encouraging us to develop humor as a mindset. He challenged us to smile at least once an hour. And he asked us to consider the micro choices we can make each day.

“We are defined by our actions,” he said.

I’m choosing humor. How about you?

Back to School Is the Perfect Time to Organize One’s Office

The other day I received a $10 Staples reward and a $5 Staples coupon. For me, this is better than being a kid in a candy store.


Photo by Cynthia Price

I couldn’t get to Staples fast enough. I was giddy with anticipation. Should I buy more Staedtler colored pens? What about some fun file folders? Did I need a new desk organizer? Yes to all!

The irony is that I likely have enough pens and notebooks to last me until well, forever. It doesn’t stop me from wanting new ones. I have found ways to control the urge to buy, although it’s always a challenge this time of year with back-to-school sales.

The beauty of this time of year is that it’s the perfect time to organize one’s work space or office. Here are a few suggestions to do so –

Corral your pens and pencils. I have one container, and if they don’t all fit, I need to get rid of some. Obviously, toss the ones that don’t write. For those that work fine but you know you will never use consider donating to a senior center or after-school program.

Clean your desktop – both your desk and your computer. Remove everything from the surface of your work space and wipe it down. Don’t forget to clean the keyboard, too. It’s an amazing feeling to then begin working with a clean desk. I also make the time to clean off my computer desktop. I’m always amazed how files accumulate. For me, it’s often laziness. It’s easy to save a file to my desktop rather than thinking about where I should logically file it for archival purposes. Knowing I frequently save to my desktop, I force myself at least once a quarter to organize my files. Once I do, I find my productivity increases.

Shred your files. When is the last time you pulled a piece of paper from a file? If it’s been months, maybe it’s time to purge some of your files. I’m working toward having zero files. If someone gives me a paper document that I will need, I ask for it electronically or I scan it and save it on my computer. At least once a quarter I work to eliminate one or two file folders. It helps that I had to move my office twice in the past year. That really led to decluttering.

Order the necessary supplies. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering you have run out of sticky notes or staples. I check my supplies and order what I need for the next six months. That way you don’t run out and you don’t waste time each month placing an order.

After a Conference: Do Your Homework

I’m just back from a national communications conference. I’ve networked, learned and recharged. But I still have some things I need to do to make the most of my conference experience.


Photo by Cynthia Price

Stay Social Keep the conversation going on social media. Continue using the conference hashtag to share how you are applying what you learned at conference to your job. Identify those individuals who were active on social media and from whom you will continue to learn and follow them.

Update LinkedIn Either at the conference or soon after I return to the office, I follow up with those whom I would like to stay connected. I found LinkedIn to be the best spot for this. When I reach out, I include a personal message, noting that we met at the conference. Throughout the year, I can then reach out to my expanded network.

Send thank-you notes If it’s a small conference, you may want to thank the organizers for a successful conference. Or perhaps hotel staff were particularly helpful. Take a moment to write a note acknowledging their assistance and thanking them for going above and beyond. If you were new to the conference and someone showed you the ropes, send that person a thank you. If your boss sent you to the conference, be sure to thank her for the opportunity.

Purchase recommended readings Speakers recommend books, websites and TedTalks. Make a list of the ones that resonate with you and then schedule time to review the sites and listen to the talks. You can check the books out from your library or order them from your local bookstore. And then make the time to read the books. One way to ensure this is to pack your lunch for a week or two and find a quiet place where you can eat your lunch while reading your book.

Capture take-aways I take a lot of notes at conference, and after my first conference, I never did anything with the notes. Now I do. I always identify one key take-away from each session I attend. I collect all of those in one place so I can periodically refer to them. I also identify action items and add them to my calendar to ensure they get done. I also take my notes on a laptop or on my phone. This way they are stored digitally and are easier to access. If I happen to handwrite notes, I scan them when I return to the office and file them digitally.

Reflect Did you identify any skills you need to develop? Is there a new tool that you need to learn how to use? Think about what you heard and learned at conference and what you may need to do to ensure you are keeping current with your skills and experience.

Share What you learn at the conference will likely be of use to your team. When you return, share key learnings with others. You can write a brief report, create a PowerPoint, hold a brown bag lunch session or create an infographic. At a minimum share a list of useful takeaways and relevant links.