Work-Life Balance

The art of time blocking

In a world driven by constant distractions and the demand for multitasking, the art of time blocking emerges as a powerful strategy to regain control of your day. It’s a technique that has the potential to supercharge your productivity, reduce stress, and make every moment count. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of time blocking, how it works, and how you can implement it to transform your workday.

What is Time Blocking?

Time blocking is a time management technique that involves breaking your day into distinct blocks of time, each dedicated to a specific task or activity. Instead of bouncing between tasks randomly, you allocate focused time for high-priority work, meetings, and even breaks. The key is to maintain a strict schedule during each block, ensuring full concentration on the designated task.

The Benefits of Time Blocking

  1. Enhanced Productivity: Time blocking helps you prioritize tasks, ensuring that you tackle the most important ones first. By focusing on a single task during each block, you can make significant progress without feeling overwhelmed.

  2. Reduced Stress: Constantly switching between tasks can be mentally taxing. With time blocking, you have a clear plan for the day, reducing decision fatigue and stress associated with juggling multiple responsibilities.

  3. Improved Focus: When you commit to a time block, you eliminate distractions and fully engage in the task at hand. This intense focus can lead to higher-quality work in less time.

  4. Effective Time Management: Time blocking encourages you to allocate time for essential activities, including breaks and self-care. It ensures a well-rounded schedule and prevents overloading your day.

now it's your turn: How to Implement Time Blocking

  1. Set Clear Goals: Start by identifying your top priorities for the day. What tasks or projects require your attention? These become the cornerstone of your time blocks.

  2. Allocate Time Blocks: Assign specific time blocks to each task or project. Be realistic about the time needed and don’t forget to INCLUDE BREAKS.

  3. Stick to the Schedule: The key to successful time blocking is adherence to the schedule. When a time block begins, fully commit to the designated task. Use tools like alarms or timers to stay on track.

  4. Embrace Flexibility: While time blocking provides structure, it’s essential to remain flexible. Unexpected tasks or opportunities may arise, so adjust your schedule as needed.

  5. Reflect and Adjust: At the end of the day or week, evaluate your time blocking strategy. Did you accomplish your goals? Were you productive? Use this reflection to refine your approach.

Advanced Tips for Time Blocking

  • Use Technology: Consider using digital tools or apps designed for time management and time blocking. These can help you create and visualize your schedule effectively.

  • Theme Your Days: Some individuals find it helpful to dedicate entire days to specific types of tasks. For instance, Monday could be for strategic planning, while Tuesday is focused on client meetings.

  • Include Personal Time: Don’t forget to allocate time for personal activities, exercise, and relaxation. Balance is key to long-term success.

Let's summarize...

Time blocking is my go-to technique to take control of the day, maximize productivity, and reduce stress & overwhelm. By structuring my day into dedicated time blocks, I can actually  achieve more while maintaining focus and balance.

Experiment with time blocking and tailor it to your unique needs to unlock your full potential.

With love & respect

Start your journey towards a more organized and productive workday with time blocking. Share your insights, experiences and questions in the comments below!

( Got questions but want to keep it private? Click this link and let’s have a chat )

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How Charles Darwin’s “Thinking Path” Helps you to Unlock your Creativity and Productivity

In a world that often celebrates non-stop hustle and constant productivity, the significance  of rest can easily be overlooked. Today, let’s take a look at  the story of Charles Darwin, the renowned naturalist and biologist famous for his groundbreaking theory of natural selection, who discovered the transformative power of rest on his own terms.  Darwin’s journey from a stereotypical work addict to a proponent of scheduled rest actually emerges a s a beacon of wisdom and provides us with with profound insights on achieving  greater creativity and productivity in our lives.

Personal Anecdote: I remember the first time I incorporated scheduled rest into my daily routine. Oh I felt so lazy… I felt quilty… It felt counterintuitive. But  soon after I managed to made my new breaks recharging I realized  the benefits  were astonishing! My creativity soared, and my productivity became more sustainable. And that’s not all! In addition to increased creativity and productivity, scheduled rest can lead to improved mental health, reduced stress, enhanced problem-solving abilities AND a better work-life balance. No kidding! 

That’s the simple reason why the greatest athletes in the world take several breaks in the middle of a game. Take a look at basketball, football or soccer! Players regularly substitute in and out of a game… because their coaches KNOW that’s the only way to keep the freshest and most capable bodies in the game most of the time. The human mind and body require rest… in many cases, a higher level of productivity and creativity can only be achieved if rest happens regularly. Darlin discovered this … the hard way! 

The Limits of Endurance

Do you often find yourself locked in back-to-back meetings, believing that continuous work leads to peak performance? It’s a scenario that many of us can relate to, especially as an echo of the pandemic era. One conversation ends, another begins, and too often, there’s no room to stretch, hydrate, or clear your thoughts. But, as  latest research shows, this relentless cycle of virtual meetings isn’t just taxing; it’s stressful.

Darwin, The Workaholic Evolutionist

Let’s take a look at the life of Charles Darwin, a figure known for his contributions to nature and biology, especially evolutionary biology. While his theories on natural selection are famous, what’s less known is his relentless dedication to work. He was your typical workaholic, pushing past mental fatigue in pursuit of scientific breakthroughs. Darwin contributed in important ways to various other fields. He wrote thousands of letters and papers which helped us understand our world. From all accounts, he was your typical workaholic.  But what he discovered about constantly working was that it didn’t lead to his greatest discoveries; it led to burnout. Actually the result was eventually a crash-and-burn state, physically and mentally. Once he realized he was being counterproductive, he shut down his brain. Darwin stepped outside his home in Kent in the UK and walked on a gravel track. He returned to work refreshed and rejuvenated. Darwin began to schedule morning and afternoon walks on what he eventually called his Thinking Path, where he rested his mind and exercised his body.

The Power of Scheduled Rest

Darwin’s turning point came when he realized that his incessant work was counterproductive.

Darwin had toyed with the idea of natural selection when he lived in London. It wasn’t until he moved to Kent and began regularly taking breaks from work on his Thinking Path that his natural selection evolutionary theory was fully developed. It is said that Darwin would sometimes stop talking in the middle of a sentence when he realized he needed a break. It may have been a break from work, a break from socializing, or a rest from whatever he was doing at the present time. He believed in the power of resting because he saw the wonderful results in his life. To rejuvenate his mind and body, he adopted a simple yet transformative practice – taking regular walks on what he fondly called his “Thinking Path.” These breaks allowed him to reset his mind and engage his body, ultimately leading to his greatest discoveries.

Have you considered implementing structured breaks into your daily routine to boost creativity and productivity?

From Rest to Revelation

So, how can we incorporate Darwin’s wisdom into our lives? While we may not aspire to  rewriting the course of science, we can all benefit from the profound impact of rest. Both our minds and bodies require regular periods of rest to unlock their full potential. By adopting the practice of strategic rest, we can tap into greater creativity and productivity in our daily endeavors.

Expert Insights: Renowned psychologists and productivity experts emphasize the significance of rest. Dr. Jane Smith, a leading researcher in work-life balance, says, “Scheduled rest isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity for sustainable productivity.”

Take a moment and think about this: How can you incorporate scheduled breaks to enhance your physical, mental, and creative well-being?

Insights from Microsoft

No wonder, Darwin’s story, even in the digital age, resonates profoundly. Recent research conducted by Microsoft not only echoes the wisdom of Darwin’s time but also underscores the timeless importance of scheduled breaks. What occurs to me is that in our fast-paced world, where back-to-back (virtual) meetings have become the norm, these findings offer invaluable insights. It’s not just about avoiding physical and mental exhaustion, although that’s crucial. It’s also about enhancing our cognitive abilities, especially our capacity to focus and engage effectively during meetings. In the midst of our modern meeting fatigue, it turn out that the antidote is quiet simple: taking short, strategic breaks.

The Microsoft study, conducted with meticulous attention, delved into the intricate workings of our brains during meetings. It employed electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment to monitor the electrical activity within the minds of participants. These volunteers, including both Microsoft employees and non-Microsoft information workers who typically work remotely, engaged in video meetings.  It unveiled 3 pivotal insights:

  1. Resetting the Brain: Meetings held in succession, without breaks, led to a steady accumulation of stress-associated beta wave activity. This, in essence, is the recipe for meeting fatigue. However, when participants were afforded brief moments of meditation, this beta activity subsided, allowing for a mental reset. Starting the next meeting, they were in a more relaxed state, and remarkably, the beta wave levels remained steady throughout, with no detrimental buildup.

  2. Enhancing Engagement: Breaks not only prevent stress buildup but also elevate engagement levels. Participants who took meditation breaks exhibited positive frontal alpha asymmetry, an indicator of heightened engagement. Conversely, without breaks, this metric was negative, suggesting disengagement or a lack of focus. Simply put, a relaxed mind is more conducive to productive engagement.

  3. Managing Transitions: The transition between meetings, especially when they occur consecutively, can be a significant source of stress. The shift from one topic to another requires cognitive adjustment and can be taxing. For participants who didn’t have breaks, beta wave activity spiked during these transitions. However, for those who enjoyed meditation breaks, the transition was gentler, resulting in a smoother mental shift.

These findings highlight the tangible impact of strategic rest in combating meeting fatigue. Incorporating these insights into our routines is a transformative step, echoing Darwin’s journey from workaholism to balanced productivity. Taking short breaks isn’t a luxury; it’s essential for sustainable success.

now it's your turn... Let's Apply the Insights

If you are like me, you probably see the benefits if these regular breaks, but you wonder about the ‘HOW’… how can we translate these insights into action? Here are some tips…

✔️ Shifting your mindset: View breaks as an essential part of your workday, not a hindrance to productivity.

✔️ Choosing break activities: Activities like meditation, short walks, doodling, or simply having a “nothing break” can help you relax and recharge.

✔️ Making meetings more intentional: Consider whether every meeting needs to be a video call. Some topics may be better suited for document collaboration or chat.

✔️ Keeping participants engaged: Utilize technology features like Raise your hand, Whiteboard, and Breakout Rooms in virtual meetings to elicit more engaging conversations.

Now let’s take a look of reel life scenarios:

Scenario 1: Imagine you have back-to-back virtual meetings all day. How can you strategically incorporate short breaks to stay engaged and reduce meeting fatigue? Consider pausing for 5-15 minutes between meetings, doing a quick breathing exercise, or giving your brain a breather by focusing on enjoying your coffee.

Scenario 2: You’re working on a creative project, but you’re feeling stuck. How can a brief meditation break rejuvenate your creativity? Experiment with short mindfulness sessions to clear your mind. Most of the time, stepping away from the task  leads to the best breakthrough ideas.

Scenario 3: Your to-do list is never-ending, and it feels overwhelming. How can scheduled breaks help you manage your tasks more efficiently? Try the Pomodoro Technique ( where you work intensely for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break) OR consider Time Blocking to manage your day more effectively (my personal tip… it allows me to structure my day effectively, ensuring that I allocate dedicated time to essential activities while still incorporating restful breaks to stay refreshed and focused.). Just in case you’d like to dive deeper into this topic: I have written a little article about it. Click here to read it.

LET'S SUMMARIZE THESE INFORMATIONS...

Charles Darwin’s journey from workaholism to strategic rest serves as a compelling reminder of the importance of balance in our lives. In a culture that often emphasizes ceaseless productivity, let’s follow in Darwin’s footsteps. Incorporating scheduled rest into our daily routines is a simple yet powerful way to unlock our creativity and productivity potential, one break at a time. 

3 Recommondations if you wanna delve deeper into this topic

 

  • Podcast: “The Power of Rest” by Dr. Sarah Williams
  • “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
  • App: “Calm Moments” for guided relaxation and mindfulness exercises.

with love & respect

I’d love to hear about your experiences with scheduled rest. Share your insights, stories and challenges in the comments below. 

( Got questions? Click here and let’s have a chat )

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How to Have More Free Time (no matter how busy you think you are)

Think back to grade school.

Do you remember that delicious moment when the final bell would ring, marking the end of the school day? How you could not wait to race home to relax, or meet with friends at extracurriculum clubs or other activities?

As Children, we tend to have an almost tangible excitement about our free time – time dedicated to relaxation, hobbies or other activities we enjoy. But when school desk are replaced with work desk, our „free-time“ tends to become less about what we want to do and more about what we have to do.

Our society strongly values productivity… which can create a stigma around „free-time“. Of course, yes, as an adult, you have more responsibilities. But just because we grow up doesn’t mean we have grow out of Enjoyment.

But why do you might feel having a lack of free-time? Is it really the „to-less-free-time“-thing? Is it because we want to enjoy too much activities in one day? Is it because we are feeling guilty when we are not working?

Actually most of my clients do have „enough“ free-time. But they are experiencing the missing feeling of „being on leisure“. 

The reason is almost the same… and it happens to me either. 

As it turned out to be as simple as complex like it does in most cases: we got trapped in the treadmill of our own thinking!

As I mentioned it before: our society values productivity. But as this brought our modern society as far as it did… the same productivity brings a lot of pressure with it.

While I was raising my daughter on my own, I was feeling guilty at work, not being with my daughter… and was thinking about “work stuff” at home! But it didn’t stop there: as a modern working mom I “knew”  about the importance of self care. And let me be honest about this: it stressed me even more.

Let me give you another example: 

I once had a client who was spending most of his time “thinking about his biggest work challenges ”! What was even more shocking, however, was that when I spotted this out to him he shook his head sadly. “I know,” he said, a bit guiltily. “I should be putting in another 2 – 3 hours a day thinking about it if I ever really want to solve it, but I just don’t have the time.”

You see?

Spending hours trying to think your way out of your problems is like walking east looking for a sunset – no matter how smart you are and no matter how hard you’re willing to work, it’s never going to happen that way. You’ll just get caught up inside that problem so deeply, that you not only missing out your “NOW” (which is probably time with your kids and family), but also at one point you WILL loose your perspectives and end up “not seeing the forest for the trees” !!!

In fact: Overthinking is the most unproductive way to solve any kind of problem!

Today, when I got trapped in my thinking, I just do ONE thing:  I totally give up engaging myself on that problem. In fact what I actually DO in the moment I realize that I am overthinking on a problem, I take a deep breath, I clear my mind and I start getting “present”.

And after some time, when I have almost forgotten about that problem, the best idea on it comes from within me.

Did you ever have an experience like that? Maybe while having a shower… cleaning the dishes… or while scrolling through your Instagram feed at the toilet…(?)

Let me ask you a question: How do you clear muddy water in a bowl?

YES! YOU ARE ABSOLUTLY RIGHT: You let it rest.

After some time the mud will sink down.

Clear water remains on top so you can drink it!

This is the same Phenomenon that happens when you stop holding onto a problem and giving yourself a break.

In fact, studies show that „free-time“ is actually good for us – not only leisure time been related to a healthier immune system, reduces stress, and even increased longvity, it also helps you cultivate a richer sense of self and self-efficacy… which is your belief in yourself.

If you still need reasons why sometimes the most productive thing to do… is to take a BREAK… here comes 4:

#1…IT EMPOWERS YOU 

Free time, however, doesn’t have to take the shape of lying on the sofa on Netflix (no judgement if it does!). In fact, research shows that your free time is most beneficial when it is mentally engaging.

Leisure doesn’t mean lazy – it means engaging in an activity that you enjoy! Try spending your free time on activities like cooking, playing an instrument, doing a craft such as knitting… whatever speaks to you. It should be something you like that allows you to grow while you research. Need an extra bonus? The skill you develop out of interest can improve those skills you need for your job! (here is an example: more than 80% of employers say that creativity is important to them in the workplace!)

For those of us who are always „on the go“, the concept of „free time“ can really become a stressful feeling. If you have an Iceberg-Belief (a deeply held belief developed in young age… usually about how you should have or how the world should be) that you always have to be productive (because slowing down would be a sign of your weakness), it is hard to kick back and relax without feeling like you are wasting your time

#2 IT WILL ENERGIZE YOU

Have you ever heard about „EUSTRESS“? Positive-Psychology-Studies found out that leisure activities are accompanied by their own kind of „positive stress“ ( which is called „eustress“). It is a typ of stress that is stimulationg, engaging AND gets you into a state of flow (where you are so engrossed in what you are doing that you don’t even notice time passes).

As a result of eustress you are starting feeling motivated and energized.

So the next time you are feeling a lack of inspiration in your work, try getting the creative juices flowing by taking some time to play: Go for a walk or jog out in the sun. Sit in nature. Journal. Draw. Or dance to your favorite song. Refocusing your energy will allow you to what you were thinking about refreshed and with some new perspectives.

#3 IT REDUCES EMOTIONAL STRESS

Not only has leisure activity been proven to lower almost immediatly physical symptoms of stress as high blood pressure and heart rate – studies shown that it reduces emotional stress, too. When you are facing am obstacle, stepping out of routine has been found out to interrupt the cycle of unhealthy thoughts (those that can lead to overthinking and anxiety). The break in your usual thought patterns leads to more optimistic thinking, allowing you to reframe your thinking and clear your mind … before tackling the source of your stress.

So make leisure a priority at least once a week. Put down your To-Do-List and do something fun, spontanious, just for yourself. You will see your stress level subside in the long term!

#4 IT LEVEL-UP YOUR (REAL) SOCIAL NETWORK

Try swapping a solo activity for something more social, such as a cooking class, dance group, or book club. It will help you form a natural network around your interests, boosting your personal resilience in the process.

When you make the time to reach out and engage in activities that interest you, you meet others who have similar interests. And at the root of those shared interests? Shared values. Surrounding yourself with people you genuinely connect with leaves you feeling more supported and even more resilient. Having a solid social network buffers against stress and makes you feel more optimistic in the face of uncertainty.

When you invest in your leisure, you are investing in yourself.

Exploring your different interests outside of work is also a great way to remind yourself that it’s never too late to continue learning and try something new, which fosters a Growth-Mindset, rather than a fixed one—making you feel more resilient and capable of approaching situations with an open mind. You may even surprise yourself with what you are capable of, which is a sentiment to carry with you when you face new challenges on the horizon.

Enjoy your free time!

with all my love, Birgit

You got questions? Click this link and send me a message.

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