Detox your working life


Multitasking and constantly checking emails are common ways to cope with the ever-increasing pace of working life. A Finnish business coach questions these methods, and says true efficiency lies in our biology.

In developed societies, most of us can focus on issues beyond basic physiological survival. So how come so many of us are exhausted, unsatisfied or even depressed? Why does life seem so difficult?

Because it is hard – tremendously hard – when you consider what the human body and brain are evolutionary adapted to, says Sampo Sammalisto, business coach and former gene researcher.
“The modern way of living is strikingly different to what our bodies and brains have adapted to over millions of years. It is totally unnatural to remain stationary for most of the day, not to mention handling a constant flow of information and the continuous psychological stress caused by abstract, long-term projects,” he says. 

Regaining control

“The feeling of autonomy is crucial for our well-being. Therefore, it helps to realize that in fact each of us has substantial control over how we work and live every day,” Sammalisto says.
One of the common behaviors Sammalisto puts to question is multitasking. Many of us admit being addicted to it. Yet, it is a scientific fact that our brains are incapable of true multitasking. For example, it is physically impossible to read and listen at the same time.
“What we actually do is switch-tasking. We move from one thing to another seemingly fast. However, this is extremely inefficient, since it takes quite a long time to refocus and recover,” he says.
According to the New York-based knowledge economy research and consulting firm Basex, up to 30 percent of our working time is lost in recovering from these transitions. Sammalisto suggests we can decrease this amount by planning and scheduling our activities and sticking to that schedule.

Baby steps

The biggest obstacles to improving our lives are our habits. We might be inspired by testimonials of total life makeovers, but for most people, seemingly minor changes have the greatest impact. For those prone to change resistance, a noteworthy approach is to pilot the new behavior.
“I advise trying one new habit at a time for a four week trial period. Trying to change many habits at once leads to a two to ten times lower success rate. Also using aids like recurrent calendar reminders helps in the beginning,” Sammalisto says.
Emailing has been an integral part of our work and private lives for more than a decade – of course we master the tool. Incorrect, says Sammalisto. According to him, email is not to be used as a real-time responsive chat. He only reads his messages twice a day at (calendar-booked) specific times. Others learn quickly that if they really need to get their message across, they must call or text.

Simple tips for sound sleep

If you had to single out one decision that has the most impact on well-being, what would it be, Sampo Sammalisto?
“Prioritize sleep over most other things in life. Minimize the elements that lower the quality of sleep and maximize those that improve it.”
1. No coffee after lunch 
Even after 10 hours of coffee consumption there may be as much as 25 percent caffeine left in your system.
2. Off-screen evenings
Blue light emitting screens – LED TV, mobile phone, computer and tablet – should be turned off at least two hours before bedtime. Blue light reduces the production of sleep hormone melatonin.
3. Take out the blue
If watching television or writing a blog is your favorite way to relax, there is luckily a solution: special glasses that eliminate the blue component of light. Another option is the computer program f.lux that changes the display’s color spectrum.
4. Skip alcohol
Even one glass will significantly decrease the regenerative quality of sleep.
Text by Kati Heikinheimo
Photo by iStock 
This article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (September 2014).

Published September 1, 2014

Category: Corporate Responsibility