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The open-plan office is the bane of a workaholic’s day. Sure, the idea is great in principle — flexible working! Easy communication! The boss can see your
Office culture and higher expectations mean that for many of us working “9 til 5” is often the bare minimum.
No wonder, then, that news that President Trump, works just a five-hour day was met with shock this week. POTUS reportedly kicks off at 11am, is regularly finished by about 4pm and schedules regular breaks for “executive time” — code for spending time in the residence, watching TV news and tweeting.
Sure, scheduling in tweeting time may not seem the most productive way to manage your diary, but —whisper it — Trump may be on to something.
According to experts, there is nothing wrong with having scheduled breathing space to achieve peak productivity. This is a guide to taking breaks effectively.
Give time a purpose
“It’s important not to call it a ‘break’ ”, explains Dr Joan Harvey, occupational psychologist at Newcastle University, but to “be honest” about what you’re going to use the time for. She suggests labelling it, even if that means calling it “mulling over time” or a “power nap”. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill were known for taking naps to get through long days. And recognise how long a task will take and to stick to it: “You only need 30 minutes for a power nap,” says Harvey, so schedule in 30 minutes, then move on.
Find your productivity
Trump may relax by lying in bed with a McDonald’s, but there are productive ways to spend downtime. The key is finding something that works for you. For Obama, right, it was exercise: the former President scheduled in at least 45 minutes of physical activity into his daily schedule, saying,“The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time.”
Many businesses are also listening: Google, Twitter and Dropbox all encourage their employees to get away from their desks with free massages, climbing walls and even gaming tournaments, explains psychologist Cheryl Isaacs, a neuro-diversity expert from OPM Consulting in Wandsworth.
Other people choose mindfulness. Isaacs suggests “desk meditation”: when you arrive at work, take ten minutes to think about the day ahead and three key tasks you need to achieve.
Some of us are slower than others. “If you schedule two hours for your emails and it takes two hours, that’s good. If you schedule one hour and it takes two, that’s bad. If you schedule three hours and it takes two hours then you’ve created more free executive time,” Harvey explains.
New research by the Office for National Statistics reveals that men have five hours a week more free time than women, and the gap is widening. Whether it iss due to childcare or other unpaid work such as household chores, women’s leisure time is falling, so it’s important to be strict. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says she is routinely out of the office and on her way home by 5.30pm.
“I’ve been doing that since I had kids,” she says, and for her that means “ruthlessly prioritising”.
Credit: OPM Consulting / Katie Strick
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