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5 Tips for a Healthy Work Pace

At the beginning of a new year or academic term, it can be very rewarding to consider what new, healthy habits we could start forming in our life. Here’s 5 practical tips from time-efficiency expert Petra Brask, to help you create a healthier and more sustainable pace in your workday.

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At the beginning of a new year or academic term, it can be very rewarding to consider what new, healthy habits we could start forming in our life.

And as a practical tool helping you all the way, there’s always your best friend: your Personal Planner™.

Here’s 5 practical tips from time-efficiency expert Petra Brask, to help you create a healthier and more sustainable pace in your workday.

1. Your Brain Isn’t Great at Estimating Time

You may think that a certain task will only take “a minute”. But if you’re an incurable optimist when it comes to time, you might actually have to multiply that little minute by 10 to get anywhere close to reality, and to create a little margin.

Your brain can also work the other way around. It can imagine that a particular task will take a very long time to complete, so you “don’t have time for that now”. But in reality, what you may actually mean is you “don’t want to do that now”. The solution? Block off some time in your Personal Planner™ to tackle that task, and stop making up excuses when the time comes - just do it!


2. Breaks and the Pomodoro Technique

Make sure you’re taking breaks during your workday. After 1-1.5 hours work our brain is tired, and needs some “recovery time”. Breaks are actually just as important as the time you spend working.

A great method that highlights the importance of breaks versus concentration time is the Pomodoro technique. Just do a search on the web and you’ll find lots of helpful tools and apps that will guide you how to apply this method to your workday.

3. Reflect and Prepare

Take some time to reflect, then prepare to tackle your most important tasks by first writing them down in your Personal Planner™. This makes getting started easier. Perhaps you could also write a short checklist with the steps you need to take to complete the task.

Make time for reflection every day. This is where you’ll find your focus, and where you can prioritize your tasks. You may find that reflection time is the most important time of the day, and that it releases energy back into your life.

Schedule a follow-up meeting with yourself every Friday to get an overview of the past week and the weeks ahead. What’s happening next week and month? Try summarizing what you’ve been working on during the week, focusing on what you’ve achieved and not only on the things you haven’t finished.

4. Have a Strategy for Handling Meetings, Emails, and People

Many people feel that the biggest time thieves are the many meetings, emails and coworkers they have to deal with during their work day. There’s some truth in that, of course, but they’re also an important part of the work week. Make sure you have a strategy how to handle them so you still have control of your time.

MEETINGS: Many workplaces today have a policy in place that a meeting shouldn’t last any longer than 45 minutes. And to free up even more time, it’s a good idea to ask yourself why you’re having this meeting: What’s the objective? Write a clear agenda beforehand, stating the starting and finishing times, as well as allocating specific time slots to different points on the agenda. Distribute and rotate the roles of chairperson, time-keeper and secretary - this’ll keep everyone engaged and stimulate the brain too. You could also switch meeting rooms or try a walk-and-talk meeting to keep things fresh.

EMAILS: We also need to realize that an inbox should be treated like a mailbox - not a phone. A clear availability policy stating how quickly we’re expected to reply to an email and during what hours will help you with this.

PEOPLE: Help people easily understand when you’re available and when you’re not. Close the door if you have a separate office, to signal that you need some quiet work time, and put up a sign or note on the door when you’re available. If you work in an open plan office, you can signal when you need to work alone by putting on headphones, for instance. Block off time in your Personal Planner™ when you schedule no meetings and respect these times. Make sure you take some time during the day to refocus and project lead yourself.

5. Ditch FOMO - Choose JOMO!

Most of us feel like we’re drowning in a sea of information and notifications. Many feel stressed about constantly having to be in the loop about everything that’s going on. Most probably, we’re suffering from FOMO, or fear of missing out. But when we’re too focused on what everyone else is doing and what’s happening everywhere else in the world, we risk missing our own life. We should practice feeling JOMO instead - joy of missing out!

Turn off all notifications and decide on a few times a day only when you’ll purposefully check your phone. Have a phone charging station somewhere in your home, but try not to take it with you to the bedroom. Put away your phone during all meals and use this time to connect with friends and family.

You may feel some withdrawal at first, but soon you’ll realize that you’ve released energy to do other things instead, like reading a book, or taking a long walk in nature, or just some time to reflect. This kind of down-time is invaluable for our ability to make strategic decisions, both in the short and the long term. It’s also an opportunity for our brain to process our day and what’s ahead of us.

Petra Brask, time-efficiency expert, author and speaker.

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