Americans today are living longer, healthier lives than we did
20 years ago, according to a
study by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical
School. And when we think about health and wellness, we tend to
think in terms of eating
the right foods, getting the right
mix of exercise, and
sleeping a requisite number of hours each night.
But as we live longer, we are also working longer. And we need
to make sure that those healthy habits at home translate into
healthyworkhabits. These are habits that allow us to work at an
optimal productive level throughout the day.
With this in mind, let us look at a hypothetical typical
5 a.m. - 6:15 a.m.: Rise,
shower, dress, check messages (personal voice and/or email), grab a
cup of coffee or soft drink and a breakfast bar, and head out the
door. If you have a family, you may check on your sleeping
children, give your spouse a quick peck on the cheek, and then
6:15 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.: Travel time to work
7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.: Me time-check work
messages, view your calendar, and prepare for the days'
8:30 a.m. and for the rest of the day: Attend
one meeting after another, fill up on coffee/soft drinks, and eat
something from the vending machine
6:00 p.m.: Shut down the computer and head for
6:15 p.m. - 7:45 p.m.: Travel time home
7:45 p.m.: Arrive home in time to see the
youngest off to bed, your teenager finishing his or her homework,
and dinner on a warming burner. Exhausted you do nothing but
What healthy work habits did you observe in this work day? Could
time for healthy habits be built into the day?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Schedule time to do actual work.
Perform the work that you need to do. This is not a time to attend
a meeting or view and respond to messages. You will feel good when
you can cross items off your to-do and wait lists.
2. Stay hydrated.
Being dehydrated can have a negative impact on how alert we are and
on our ability to concentrate at work. Dehydration can also
adversely affect the quality of our work.
3. Take breaks. For every 90 to 120 minutes of
work, take 15 minutes to refresh. Step away from your desk or the
office. Our brain is not a computer; it cannot continuously process
information. A quick walk may be just what is needed to clear your
mind and avoid overload and burnout.
4. Refuel. Lunch breaks are essential for
refueling the body. Just as we have to break the fast with a
healthy morning meal when we wake up, eating a well-balanced lunch
will give our body energy for optimal performance during the
For more information on how we can manage ourselves, refuel, and
increase our personal energy, check out this Forbes article:
Seven Paradigm Shifts for the New 24/7 Normal.
Knowing Your Limits
We all reach what is called a "point of diminishing return,"
meaning there is a time in every day that we reach our maximum
productive period. We can work longer hours, but they may not be
productive hours. We need to be self-aware. Here are a few signs to
2. Easily distracted or loss of focus
3. Hunger or low energy
4. Fidgeting or the need to move about
We are more productive if we plan our day and build in time to
refresh. Doing so can lead to our developing healthy work
Remember: It took time to develop healthy life habits (eating,
exercising, and sleeping); it will take time to develop healthy
work habits. Start by keeping a
log of your work habits. Writing it down makes it real and is a
way to commit to making changes. Give attention to the areas where
you can make changes and build them into your day. The result is
that you will have the energy needed to complete your work day and
energy for quality time with your family.