130 Hours a Week? — Part 2

  1. Sick. Americans spend almost twice as much on health care per person than people in other advanced nations — paying out of pocket, while other countries pool resources — and we suffer more injuries and illnesses and die younger, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report.
  2. Stressed. America may be the richest nation on earth, but the World Health Organization has found it is also the most anxious, with nearly one-third of all Americans likely to suffer from anxiety in their lifetime.
  3. Stupid. In a study of brains using functional MRI technology, scientists at the Yale Stress Center have found that subjects who both lived through stressful events (and who hasn’t?) and felt stressed out had smaller brain volumes than less-stressed subjects in critical areas of the prefrontal cortex that govern thinking, planning, decision making, learning and remembering.
  4. Off Balance. The United States ranks toward the bottom of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s work-life balance scale. And a growing number of Americans report feeling rushed, pressed for time, that they don’t spend enough time with their families, and at the end of the day, haven’t gotten to all the things they needed to do, much less wanted to do.
  5. Disengaged. Gallup estimates that 70 percent of all workers are disengaged from their jobs, costing between $450-$550 billion each year in productivity. And although American productivity looks mighty in international comparisons, slice that productivity by hours worked, and the United States falls several rungs — in some years even below those countries whose workers stroll home in the evening after a shorter, more intense work day, stop by a café and take the entire month of August off. Off.
  1. Breaks keep us from getting bored (and thus, unfocused)….”
  2. Breaks help us retain information and make connections…Some studies have shown that the mind solves its stickiest problems while daydreaming-something you may have experienced while driving or taking a shower.”
  3. Breaks help us reevaluate our goals….”
  1. Pomodoro method
    One of the most common ways to implement a schedule with breaks-especially when you’re busy-is to work in small bursts. The Pomodoro Technique is perfect for this. Just set a timer for 25 minutes, and when it goes off, take a short break for 5 minutes. Stretch your legs, grab a drink, or just sit back and relax. After you’ve done four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break of 30 minutes or so.
  2. 90-minute work blocks
    Want more time to dig in? Working in 90-minute intervals has long been a favorite method of maximizing productivity because it works with our bodies’ natural rhythms.(“When Professor K. Anders Ericssonstudied elite performers like violinists, athletes, actors and chess players, he found that the best performers practiced in focused sessions of no more than 90 minutes.)
  3. The 52–17 method
    A third option: split the difference between Pomodoro and 90-minute blocks with what recent research indicates could be the most productive schedule of all.
    Using time-tracking and productivity app DeskTime, the Draugiem Group studied the habits of the most productive employees and learned that the most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time, then break for 17 minutes before getting back to it. The bottom line, they discovered, was working with purpose…
  4. Two 15-minute breaks per day
    If a time-blocked day doesn’t appeal to you or work with your job, consider a simpler but still quite effective solution: blocking out two planned, 15-minute intermissions in your day-one in the mid-morning and the other in the mid-afternoon. Around 3 p.m. is the least productive time of day, so definitely don’t skip that break!

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Peter Walzer

Peter Walzer

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Peter Walzer has over 30 years of experience in management consulting, project management, systems development, and “get up you’re not hurt” persistence.