How to keep cool when it's hot

Some (don't) like it hot. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

(Bill starts out today) … Thanks again to Dr. Joel Mier for a really great episode of Understandably Live yesterday, during which we talked about innovation, Netflix (his former employer), and how to build a great company.

(By the way, you can find all of these videos at I’ve been hearing that people especially liked the one with Annie Korzen.)

Before I forget: Our next Understandably Live will be Thursday, July 15, at 4 pm Eastern. We’ll be talking with Liz Steblay, a longtime reader and the founder and chief advocate of one of our valued sponsors: the Professional Independent Consultants of America.

If you’ve ever thought of heading out on your own to launch a consulting practice, this is the person and the group you want to hear from. Sign up below, and note that this one is a different time from most of the others so far. (West Coast readers, you have been heard!)

Understandably Live: Liz Steblay of PICA

And now, a word (or five) from Kate…

Cool it, pal

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

Frightfully hot, that is. About 96% of Understandably readers are located in North America, which means you’re largely enduring record temperatures—after only just having made it through the last brutal heatwave.

We can and should discuss the origins and causes of this hotter weather—but frankly, that’s another article. For now, let’s just stipulate that climate change is real, and heatwaves are only expected to get more common, for a variety of reasons.

A study last year in Science Advances, for example, concluded that life-threatening heat events have doubled in frequency since 1979.

In the immediate short term, extreme heat is a problem both because (a) it’s statistically the deadliest US weather phenomenon, according to the National Weather Service; and (b) for the lesser but still important reason that it’s hard to think clearly, be creative, and engage fully with your work when the temperature’s too high.

Studies have shown that most people work best at a temperature of around 71-72ºF (around 22ºC)—if we get much hotter or colder, our productivity takes a nosedive.

Personally, I am not meant for hot temperatures. I do OK in the desert, but the instant you add a drop of humidity, I melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. 

It may not be a coincidence that I’m writing from Edinburgh—where even in our version of an extreme heat wave, the high temperature today will be about 25 degrees Fahrenheit lower than in Washington, DC… and more than 40 degrees below the 113F they had in Las Vegas yesterday.

That said, I’ve lived in less-suited places before, and I’ve developed an arsenal of ways to cope with whatever weather extreme I’m subjected to. So, I thought I’d share a few of my go-to strategies for staying as comfortable and productive as possible when you’re too busy sweating to think, let alone get anything done.

(As an aside, some research shows that we’re actually more creative when we’re slightly warmer, but a little more focused on repetitive tasks when we’re cooler—so you might want to aim for the optimal temperature for the task at hand.)

  1. Work early and late. It’s cooler early in the morning and late at night. So if you can, take advantage by shifting your work schedule and using the middle of the day for rest and recovery.

  2. Set up a fan. Nearly 90% of US homes have air conditioning. But don’t discount the power of fans. Anything from a large floor fan to one of those tiny desktop USB fans can help—even if you do have A/C.

  3. Stay hydrated. A study from Georgia Tech found that even two hours of summer activity without proper hydration can severely impact brain function.

  4. Snack smart. Your best choices are cool, crunchy snacks with low salt and high water content, like watermelon, cucumber, celery, or strawberries. Paradoxical option: spicy foods. The tingling burn they bring on helps cool us down by promoting sweating.

  5. Close the curtains. The view out your office window is fabulous, but the sun’s rays coming through it are scorching. To help keep your cool, close the curtains on every window each morning. Be sure to get a little sunlight to help you wake up and get energized for your day, but then close everything up.

  6. Take a cold shower. The fastest way to drop your body temperature is to take a cold(-ish) shower. Don’t dry off completely: the evaporation helps you cool off even more.

  7. Pop a mint. Did you know that there’s a protein receptor that binds to menthol, which is the active ingredient in mint, and tricks our minds into thinking we’re cooler? So: peppermint gum, breath mints, or mint iced tea.

  8. Put it on ice. Ice is your friend. Besides sucking on ice cubes, wrap them in a thin towel or bandana and hold them against the parts of your body where blood runs closest to the surface: wrists, neck, and back of the knees.

  9. Go somewhere else. Like, say, Edinburgh. Or more practically, someplace with intense air conditioning, like a movie theater, shopping mall, or supermarket.

Final plug: While you’re taking care of yourself, don’t forget our animal friends. I’m sure you’ll look out for your pets, but if you ever wanted to make friends with birds and squirrels in case one day animals take over the world, now would be a pretty good time to put out a bowl of cool water with a few ice cubes in it.

Call for comments: Got a better idea? What’s your favorite way to beat the heat?

Leave a comment

7 other things worth your time

  • In Cuba, widespread protests and marches against the government haven’t been a thing for most of our lifetimes… until now. President Biden issued a statement of support for Cuban protesters as waves of demonstrators continue to take to the streets. (CNN)

  • Edwin Edwards, the controversial former Louisiana governor who went to jail on a corruption conviction in 2002, passed away on Monday at age 93. (Reuters) 

  • Amazon has won approval for a radar-based device that can track your sleep without ever touching you. Here’s hoping they don’t join up with Coors to start monetizing your dreams... (Bloomberg; Yahoo) 

  • The Trump Organization removed its CFO Allen Weisselberg from his post after his indictment on New York state tax evasion and larceny charges, and from positions at up to 40 subsidiary companies. The WSJ also had a smart take on the most serious charge involved. It carries a possible 15-year prison sentence, but there could be some thorny technical issues that make it harder to prove the other charges. (Washington Post; WSJ, $)

  • Illinois is now the first state to require its schools to teach Asian American history. (NBC News)

  • At least 50 Texas State House Democrats boarded two private jets from Austin to Washington, DC on Monday, as part of a plan to deny a quorum in the state legislature and stop a Republican-led effort to pass a law tightening voting rules. (BBC)

  • A singer is being sued for $150,000 for posting a paparazzi photo that was snapped of her in an airport on her personal Instagram feed. The company says she profited unfairly, because she uses Instagram as a marketing tool for her music. (BBC)

Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Wikimedia | Instant Vantage. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.