Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 19, 2007

Work Is Weird

By Mark Sisson

A Monday Moment

I just had a funny email exchange with friend and fellow Apple “D” (in case her boss is reading…sheesh). We were catching up on our weekend adventures, and she capped the conversation with “Well, I guess I better stop emailing and get to work. You mean I’m not just here for the free internet?

This is an interesting, if inadvertent, revelation of the problem with work in America today. I’m going to share my thoughts about it, because I think the impact of work on health is sorely overlooked on a lot of health blogs (and that’s what my Monday Moment is all about – plus, it gives you five minutes to slack off). Food and fitness are arguably the most important factors in optimizing our health, but what are we gonna do with that healthy body and mind? We spend most of our time at work, so this is important.

Just who is doing all this blog writing, reading, linking and bookmarking? In a society where IM has become a verb, just how productive are we? (Hmm…wonder what those Bees are up to…)

It’s amazing how blogs and chats and forums are so massively successful in terms of participation. We are a pretty overworked society – no wonder people are IMing (my grammar teacher is turning in her grave right now). No wonder people are signing up for Ambien and Lunesta like it’s candy corn. There’s no time to chill out, chat, and just be.

Entrepreneurs and business brains alike fret over the lack of productivity with workers, but so far, only a few companies get it (“D” hit the nail right on the head). I’m not sure what the source of the problem is, but I’ve got some ideas:

Literally depressing lighting.

– Too much to do – and too much busy work.

– Face it, work can feel like a prison. Just like school, workers have rules, procedures, and systems to follow. If you need a nap, want to work in a different way, or just have an idea, you might as well be an alien. No wonder people are stressed out and bummed out – they’re micro-managed to death.

– Furniture and space are boring, standardized and offer little privacy.

– Being made to feel like a kid, instead of a man or woman of value.

– Feeling pointless, in short. But when you comment on a blog or join a forum, suddenly, your voice matters. Is it any wonder we’re all talking? We’ve all got something to say!

No wonder people are having a surreptitious blast with the internet. As a business owner myself, I’m baffled by the way things are done in America. Have we forgotten that business is really just people hanging out and doing stuff? (Operative word being people).

And what’s with playing dress-up? I like a fine Italian suit as much as the next man, but there’s something macabre about the whole world of work we create for people. Who designed it this way? And why fight people’s need to hang out, chat, and eventually get around to doing some necessary stuff? The current corporate structure is so discordant with human nature and health needs, and the strange thing about this is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

We spend most of our day at work, so shirking a healthy work life is going to be a disaster for your overall health – it’s just a matter of when. If your boss isn’t flexible, tell him (or her) that I said it’s for your health.

In the meantime, here are 5 ridiculously easy, really effective tips for having a productive, healthy, relaxed week:

First step: Do less to do more. This means learning to say “no”. That’s not a sign of weakness – it’s smart and honest. Another thing: leave at 5. The world won’t fall apart (it won’t), and working smart is more important than working a lot. I admire guys like Seth Godin and Ricardo Semler because they’ve been talking about this issue for years. Eventually it’ll sink in and we’ll all be healthier.

Second step: Go to bed one hour earlier every night this week, starting tonight. Make sure it’s at the same time.

Third step: Turn off all PDA’s and phones during lunch and after 5. Period.

Fourth step: Choose something simple you do daily, and do it differently every day this week. The change in routine shouldn’t add work or be stressful – it should serve to refresh and invigorate you. If you check your email constantly, just check it at a few designated times daily. If you normally eat at your desk, eat at the local Starbucks instead. If you always roll in to work at 9, try 8:30. If you typically communicate with someone via email, pick up the phone instead (I am a big fan of the phone instead of email – I think it connects people and more gets done, which ultimately makes everyone less stressed out). If you typically experience a post-lunch coma every day at 2 and find yourself doing nothing, try “doing nothing” in a better way – try some yoga stretches, do some push-ups, call your spouse to say hi. Oh, and cut down on the carbs, by the way.

Fifth step: Create your own productivity task plan for the week. Keep it simple – no more than four or five tasks a day (because, like David Allen of Getting Things Done fame explains: every task has its own subset of tasks). Stick to them. You can refine as you get better at it. This will take the stress out of the equation because you’re emptying your brain onto a pad or into a spreadsheet. It’s different from a to-do list, though, because it’s a weekly system that focuses on the most important tasks and organizes them in a productive, effective way. Check out blogs like Zen Habits and Genius Types for great ideas.

You can do this however you like, but the point is that it should make you feel relaxed and give you a sense of accomplishment. If it feels like a task itself, you’re not doing it right. (And make sure your feeling of accomplishment isn’t in creating your weekly system – this is just a tool to actually accomplish what is most important so you feel less chaotic, distracted and stressed out and have more time to cook great food, work out, and live your life. Now that is health.)

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