Productivity

How To Not Feel Like Crap At The End Of Your Work Day

I’m a big believer in self-experimentation. I don’t mean like having foreign objects sewn under my skin or seeing how long I can survive without sunlight, I mean experimenting with my behaviours and tracking the results to make improvements in my life.

For example, I’m a huge lover of my Apple Watch and through my crazy obsession with this gadget, I’ve been able to modify several seemingly innocent behaviours that were like wrecking balls to my circadian rhythms. For example I sleep much better if I do my full 10,000 steps per day and I also sleep better if I don’t eat right before bed. It appears that I sleep pretty badly when I drink alcohol too but I think I need to do more research in that particular area (someone pour me a shiraz!). I sound like a robot cyber-nerd but I’m telling you there are brilliant answers to lots of your problems in your behavioural data – it’s just a matter of paying attention to them.

My latest obsession is The Rule of 52 and 17.  It’s based on a Japanese theory (I trust pretty much any productivity advice that comes out of Japan – efficiency is almost a cultural expectation over there) that people work much more effectively if they take proper breaks and work in ‘sprints’ rather slogging it out all day in a work marathon.

young beautiful model woman

If there are any desk job workers out there (I’m sure there are plenty of you – my stats peak at 9am and 1pm which is a pretty decent indication) you’ll know how disgusting you can feel at the end of a day of screen time. When I switched from teaching to working for myself full-time last year it was a big adjustment. I used to spend at least 2 days a week teaching in special education schools – walking around, lifting students, doing playground duty, going on excursions – so my body just wasn’t used to sitting around all day. I’d finish an 8 hour day of typing and my body would feel stiff and sore, I’d have a horrible, cloudy, thumping headache and generally, I’d feel like I’d been hit by a bus.

I hated the thought of finishing every day feeling like I’d just woken up from major surgery so I did a little research on remedies for this. The 52 and 17 Rule sounded really random and a bit simplistic but I gave a go and now I’m a total convert – I even do it on the weekends sometimes if I’m cleaning the house or doing chores just to make sure that I’m taking efficient and restorative breaks. Here’s how to not feel like crap at the end of your workday.

The 52 and 17 Working Day

1. Set a timer for 52 minutes and work your little butt off. It often helps to set a goal for completion for this 52 minutes. The only rule is that you can’t procrastinate – you need to work for the full 52 minutes.

2. When your alarm goes off stop.

3. Set a timer for 17 mins and walk away from your work and do something totally unrelated. Not checking Facebook, not answering emails. You can make a cup of tea, go for a walk, read a non-work book or magazine or go and grab a coffee. The only rule is that you can’t do anything work-related for 17 minutes. You can talk to colleagues but not about work stuff (this can be difficult if people don’t know what you’re doing so I generally avoid people on my breaks).

4. When your alarm goes off stop.

5. Repeat steps throughout the day.

Note: I usually finish each break with 30 star jumps before I get back into my 52 minutes of work. It gives me a little jolt of endorphins and keeps me pumping and focussed for the next 52 minutes.

You might like to experiment with what works for you but for most of my 17-minute breaks I take my Kindle out to the couches in the communal area of our office and I read for a full 17 minutes. It’s bliss. I feel rested and recharged and ready to tackle my work with the enthusiasm of someone who just slept for 8 hours straight.

Do you feel like shit at the end of every workday? Have you ever tried a productivity technique like this one?

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43 Comments

  1. T 6 years ago

    I’m right in the middle of a massive peice of work, so I’m totally trying this. Might help with my procrastinating tendency too : )

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      It makes such a big difference because you absolutely HAVE to work hard in those 52 minutes. It can be really difficult to stick to but it just makes me feel so much better at the end of the day.

  2. Kate 6 years ago

    Star jumps?

  3. Christine 6 years ago

    Sounds pretty sensible and worth giving a try. But how do you go when you are deep in concentration on something and just want to get it finished, when the alarm goes? I’m terrible at even getting to my lunch break on time because I don’t want to leave a task until it’s finished. I really struggle after lunch too. Absolutely no motivation to get back into work (nanna nap time!). x

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      That’s why you struggle after lunch! My afternoons used to be a write off because I pushed myself too hard in the morning – this method is the perfect equalizer!

  4. Tracey Rogers 6 years ago

    I wonder what my class will do for those 17 minutes while I am on my kindle? Lol

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      I started using this method when I stopped teaching (no WAY it would work in a classroom!) but I found that my focus shifted often and my body moved enough with teaching that I even though I was exhausted at the end of the day I still felt physcally well. Teachers don’t need this method… which is great because they couldn’t do it if they wanted to! 🙂 Unless you got your class to play along?

      • dr stumpy 6 years ago

        Yes, not going to work in the classroom, but good idea for prep, exam writing and marking in particular

  5. Vicki Style On V 6 years ago

    Just what i needed Carly. I am going to use this technique starting now. Thank you for this, hopefully I will be more productive with less procrastinating. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      Let me know how you go! I’d love to hear feedback from other people about it!

  6. Lauren 6 years ago

    This actually sounds like an amazing idea. I’m going to try it tomorrow!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      It’s been awesome for me! It seems excessive but it’s really increased my productivity and saves me feeling gross at the end of the day. I tend to not take a long lunch break either because I don’t really need it!

  7. Brilliant concept! It makes so much sense. I do this in a less structured way at work – I tend to take a short break each hour to get some water, make a cup of tea, stretch, talk to a colleague, etc. It’s more like a 5 minute break. Any longer and I might get in trouble with the boss. But one day when I’m working for myself, I’ll take those full 17 minutes! x

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      It is difficult to manage with bosses but when I used to work in an office I’d waste so much time that I was supposed to be ‘working’ but not taking sufficient breaks. Also I end up working longer days this way – I tend to do 8 till 6!

  8. Emily 6 years ago

    Love these numbers!! 52 is much more approachable than a full hour, and 17 feels like it will be long enough for a satisfying break. Can’t wait to try it!

  9. Sublime Finds 6 years ago

    This is a good one Smags! I’m gonna do it! x

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      I love it but I have to be super strict about it. Sometimes I try to cut my breaks short or work for longer but it always comes back to bite me!

  10. Cilla 6 years ago

    52 and 17… good idea. I will try it for PhD work.

  11. MummaMcD 6 years ago

    I’m trying this starting tomorrow! I tend to work for about 4 hrs straight every morning without looking up from my computer & then am completely brain-fried all afternoon!!
    Thanks 🙂

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      That’s exactly what this is trying to avoid! It’s totally changed the way I work now, I love it.

  12. Bollocks 6 years ago

    The numbers seem arbitrary. Why 52 and 17?

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      They are arbitrary – they did research and there was a range of times that worked within a similar frame so 53 and 18 and 50 and 13 so they just picked these ones.

  13. Seana Smith 6 years ago

    Aha! I’ve worked at home for a long time and tend to work in 45 minute bursts, after which I really need to move… I’ve got four kids all now at school so there’s always plenty of washing/hanging out/bringing in/emptying dishwasher/tidying fridge to be done.

    Then last year I started a two days a week contract at an office – first time in almost 20 years – and the sitting still for hours is driving me nuts much as I love the people and the work. So I now go to make a cup of tea very very frequently… and thus often have to go to the loo.

    I work so much better in short bursts and especially love to do short bursts on different things – bit f writing – work on photos – bit of social media… all interspersed with other domestic stuff… and now I know why!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 6 years ago

      Exactly! That’s why it works so well. You have concentrated periods where you absolutely have to work and then you can take a break so it makes you work so much harder in that time.

  14. Ingrid 6 years ago

    Sounds like a good strategy! Going to adopt it starting right now!

  15. Maxabella 6 years ago

    The 52/17 thing is new to me, but I’ve been working with scheduled breaks for years and it keeps me nice. I’m going to experiment with the shorter work time / longer break recommended here.hanks Carly.

  16. Tahlia Meredith 6 years ago

    GREAT idea! I’m currently trying to set up work from home so I think this will help a lot, keen to try it tomorrow 🙂

  17. birdandfox 5 years ago

    Well, this is sounding pretty perfect as I’m currently procrastinating right now 😛 I find it reeeally difficult to stay on task for long periods of time and have tried to use a “work hard and reward myself later” technique before. I think implementing that kind of thing, but in a stricter sense like this, might be the way to go. Thank you! 😀

  18. Victoria 5 years ago

    OK, I am so going to try this. I multi-task ALL the time, and procrastinate like a champ. There’s always so much to do I don’t know where to start and I find it really REALLY hard to tear myself away from insta for a whole hour if I’m just here on my own working/blogging/house-working/cooking etc. I need something like this 🙂 Thanks, I’ll let you know how I go. Victoria x

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