5 tips that'll make you rethink the way you work

Thu Dec 14 2017

Eat Sleep Work Repeat. It’s the mantra a lot of us live by, but there has to be a better way, right?

We can talk productivity and work life balance ‘til we’re blue in the face. But why bother when Bruce Daisley has, over the last year, ‘studied evenings and weekends to find ways we can improve our working lives’. And not just for self-satisfaction, but to bring you the following five practical tips that will help you find a much happier way of working. Oh, and not forgetting his lively podcast, too, whose name we nicked for our opening line.

Over to you, Brucey.

The last few years have seen an exciting pace of development in the world of technology. With the thrill of the new, we've remixed and reedited the way we work to bring changes to our jobs. The only downer is that put together these separate clever innovations can make our jobs feel too much. Half of all workers report feeling exhausted at work

Over the last year I've studied evenings and weekends to find ways we can improve our working lives. I documented some of it on my podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat. And the surprising thing is that some of the ways to improve work are so simple that at first glance we might ignore them. But bear with me, give a couple of these a go, and tell us how you get on @BCardBusiness.

Banish the little number on your email app

It might seem pretty silly to suggest that taking the email number badge off your phone home screen can make you happier but it's one of the single best things any of us can do. You can pretty easily do this in your settings. We're talking about that number that tugs at your sleeve begging you to go and have a quick peek at what fresh hell is demanding attention. Scientists who tested this for a single day found that half of the people who did it still haven't gone back years later1.

Take a lunch break

Powering through emails with a Boots Meal Deal often feels like common sense. We've got the long email to read that we've opened twice and decided to come back to. But the best way to think about the way we work is thinking about managing flows of energy.

Our brain cells are like cars. If we keep accelerating non-stop it might feel like we're getting things accomplished quicker but we can overheat, become exhausted and risk breaking down. There's evidence that judges tend to refuse parole more frequently before lunch 2.

Our brains become more closed off and stricter the further we get from a refreshing break.

Take back your lunch!

Move the coffee machine

When it comes to office effectiveness it's easy to justify hours being spent on the latest team re-structure. The location of the water machine and coffee maker are probably left to chance.

According to research by visionary work tech supreme Ben Waber, that's a massive error. He told me that “ the location of the coffee machine has about as much impact on who talks to who as the org chart ”. That's especially relevant as the work by Ben's firm Humanyze has shown that the number one way to increase productivity in an office is to increase the amount of chat.

The advice? Well Ben says: “If you put [the coffee machine] within one group area, that group will be more internally focused and they will have a very cohesive network. On the other hand if I put it between two groups they will talk a lot more to each other. If I want that, that’s something I should do.” 

Try a Monk Mode Morning

One of the consequences of the last 10 years of change is that we're never able to feel like we're getting anything done. Researcher Teresa Amabile work asking people when they felt satisfied at work. The answer was really clear…it’s when we make progress on something meaningful. Not powering through a mountain of email but doing something that required what author Cal Newport calls ‘deep work’.

So what's the solution? Well, Newport suggests that a Monk Mode Morning might be the solution. That's the idea that on - say - Wednesday and Friday we don't get into the office ‘til 12 and we get work done at home, minus office distractions.

Have a digital Sabbath

Work culture is often discussed as a way to stimulate workplace creativity. But often the ‘tone’ of a company is far more potent than the culture. Does your boss email on a Sunday? Just that simple act could be crushing your team's creativity but it would probably never be captured in a ‘culture document’.

Half of all people who check work email out of work hours exhibit signs of stress. Pioneering neuroscientist Jakk Panksepp found that stress (‘the fear system’ as he styled it) totally throttled our ‘seeking system’, responsible for our creativity. Asking your boss to press save on his email drafts might yet lead to next year's ground-breaking invention.

We hope these work life balance tips help you out. Share your top tips with us @BCardBusiness.

This is part of our Mindset & Planning series – content dedicated to practical advice for SMEs when it comes to getting in the right mindset for business growth. Other articles in this series include:

7 reasons why cash flow is more important than profit
SMEs: Here’s how to create more time (and how to use it)
11 social media tips that all small businesses need to know


1 New Scientist study about the impact of turning off phone notifications
2  The effect food and breaks have on decision-making (March 2017)

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