Energy Levels (4 of 4)

Let’s recap on the joy of working. I believe the thing most people regret at their death bed is that they lived someone else’s life and not their own. That they made decision because society demanded it from them and not because they wanted to do what they did.

You chose your job for a reason. People come into your life for a reason. You are given challenges in work or life for a purpose of solving them. If you got made redundant at a few jobs and you notice this is always for the same reason, then look inside yourself to find out what the reason is inside you. do not try to be analytical from a logical point of view but try to look at it from an emotional psychological point of view. You might discover a pattern you need to resolve. Something that is in your behaviour and results in you experiencing the same situation until you solve it for yourself.

People, situations, jobs etc. all come into your life for you to learn to become who you are supposed to become. On your path to destiny you meet the right people and you might just meet them for a certain period of time for them to change something inside you to help you on your journey. Some stay longer, mentors and advisors, good friends and partners. They are there for good to help you for your life journey. At least most of the time. I am always seeking mentors, people I trust, to help me developing.

And you attract those people too. If you have read or seen the Secret (The Secret,, Rhonda Byrne) understand the Law of Attraction (LOA). It is about the thought that like attracts like. If you have a negative attitude in life and focus on the negative things, you will attract the negative things. So if you focus on the positive things in life, the universe will respond with positivity and will get you in touch with the right people, things and bring all this positivity into your life you deserve. This is nothing you can grasp without practising. And letting go of everything to focus on it is key. Visualise the outcome, the new job or car and ask it to come into your life. And it will materialise. Believe.

From my blog: You and the Universe, 8th November 2011

Rhonda Byrne in the Secret Newsletter the other day wrote the following:

Your job is you and only you. When you are working in harmony with the law, no-one can come between you and the Universe. However if you think another person can get in the way of what you want, then you have done a flip to the negative. Focus on creating what you want.

You are the centre of divine operation in your life, and your partner is the Universe. No one can get in the way of your creation.

I liked that quote for several reasons. The Law of Attraction means whatever you do in life comes back, a bit like Karma. It is also about you attracting the same things until you break a pattern.

That makes me reflect on the problems I had with the car, all the illnesses (colds) I had at the same time, annoying customer service from both the car people and my online shopping provider. I get wound up by it and I seem to go from one case to another until I break the cycle and MY attitude.

Instead of focusing your energy on what you do not want, you need to identify the positive things, things you really want. In your job, in your personal life, everywhere.

So be positive and try to focus on the things you want in life, not the ones you do not want. Because you are the centre of your diving operation: you are in charge of your thoughts and your life.

Give it a go. Be positive.

It might be difficult to believe but having a good spiritual life and believing in something superior in life, will help you to make more sense and give you more purpose and satisfaction. As you need to focus on the positive outcomes, the good things in life. You soon will attract the positives! Try it. Today!

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Energy Levels (3 of 4)

Let’s come back to a work life balance for a moment. With today’s omni-connectivity, we are more inclined to work all the time. A quick check of your emails at night….I try not to. Working from home or in the office, by the time I am home I try to not check my emails and I don’t get my phone to remind me. Most things can wait until the morning.

Regarding work and life cycles during the day, there is also a weekly pulse which has its peak on a Wednesday morning and a low on the weekend. Again, keep very important meetings to Wednesday morning and do your admin Friday afternoon. Try to get exercise into your routine to increase your mental and emotional wellbeing and your health of course; ideally you should do both cardio and strength exercise and exercise six times a week. This goes in line with a healthy life style mentioned previously and a healthy life in general. It makes you perform better!

Whether six times is the right norm depends on what you are doing. At time of writing I exercise 2x 10K running a week and 4x a week I do strength exercises. Then I take the dog for a walk and have an active life style whilst not overeating, eating healthy and little. Yet that changes as you go along, also depending if you want to loose weight, gain weight or maintain weight. There is lots of advice out there to make sure you are doing what you need to be doing.

Without wanting to go into greater details, but as it relates to your energy levels, make sure you eat the right stuff. The opinions divide whether you should constantly eat to keep your blood sugar levels stable, e.g.  eat six times a day, or only have three meals a day. I am not a nutritionist but generally speaking I believe if you have a hearty breakfast (cereal, fruit salad, porridge) and then a snack mid morning (muesli bar, not fattening crackers, bananas), a good lunch with balanced food (vegetable, meat or vegetable food, rice, salad, sushi) and then a mid afternoon healthy snack like some almonds or other nuts whilst finishing the day on a low calorie meal like a tomato salad, a tuna salad or baked aubergines or cracker bread with humous, this seems quite balanced and gives you plenty of energy.

In regards to energy, we also need to take work culture into consideration. As a manager I try to encourage staff to have a healthy work life balance and make sure to properly regenerate during the weekend. Also, you should encourage a culture that offers to take time off when needed and make up the hours, flexible working and doing tasks according to your energy cycles as mentioned above.

When you are ill you are ill. do not be ill and WFH (work from home) just because you can. You need to try to give your body the rest it needs and ensure for renewal. If you work all week and weekends, you never rest. Your mind never rests. If work keeps you up at night, then there is something wrong. Work on it, get a coach, speak to your colleagues or good friend or manager.

Life should not be about work life balance but about life life balance. You only have this one life and you need to ensure that you spend most of your time doing something you enjoy, so make sure you get a job you enjoy. You spend most of your time there. Then the work becomes a hobby almost, a place to be and enjoy doing what you would be doing anyway, is not that fantastic. Whilst you think you cannot choose I believe you can.

Hopefully this was useful to get you thinking….are you enjoying what you do and how you do it?

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Energy Levels (2 of 4)

How did it go? Did you stop at 6 pm or 6:30 pm? Did you go home. Maybe even for a walk or run after work.

The motivation to change any of your work habits is about your motivational direction, and that is true for almost any change you would like to do. Don’t do it too radically and be motivated “towards to” rather than “away from”. What I mean by that is that you want to have a goal, e.g. taking breaks, renew during the day, so you are motivated by achieving that. It is about positive motivation and change. Make this into a habit and build a routine; as an example you go for a 30 minute walk around lunch time no matter what is on your desk and whether it is raining or not. Just do it. Get into the habit and feel renewed!

Anything you can put into a habit, a routine, will manifest itself as something given. That is true for an 8 pm finish as it is for a 6 pm finish, a lunch time walk or the latte in the morning.

But energy levels also depend on your health. And health, at least to my mind, is a key factor to productivity and output. This is without prejudice, e.g. there are less abled people with special needs, however you must look at the wider population.

Are you exercising regularly? Do you drink a lot of coffee? Do you sleep 7-8 hours a day? Find your own routine. Could you try to get a 20 minute nap just after or during lunch hours? It works wonders for me…if I get a chance that is. Research even suggests having 6 hours at night and 20-60 minutes during the day as the optimum sleep. Some people live on 6 hours of sleep and get up at 5am to exercise, have breakfast and be in the office on time. Others leave last minute, come to the office late and their whole day is messed up because they are all over the place by the time they arrive.

This comes back to my earlier point, organise yourself and be on time or early. Spend 5 minutes before work to get ready, chat with your colleagues, get a glass of water, do some pushups or read the news rather than starting your day on the wrong foot and make your whole day a big mess because you cannot focus. If you ever have such a day, try to forget about the morning, close your eyes, let go of your bad morning experience, and start over again. With this big smile on your face I mentioned earlier!

From my blog: Work Life Balance, 29th August 2008

A thought I had was when I have been working from home, which happens occasionally, whether I have a better or worse work-life-balance.

And, the answer is difficult. I remember that studying for my MBA we discussed that if you work from home, you should get your own room/desk and area in the house. This way you could “go home” after work and relax, e.g. getting your life.

However, for me as an occasional “working from home” person, it is not that easy. A small house with only one proper desk, it is like you are in your living room all day.

Often, when I discuss that with clients, I get the answer of “I would get too distracted at home” – I agree, some people can. For me it is usually the other way around:

I get up my usual time and sit on the laptop about one hour earlier than I usually do. Then, from a lunch point of view, I eat whatever is around and never really feel hungry, ergo do not have a proper break until the late afternoon. Which is, when I go back to my desk and deal with some work over in the US and end up shutting down the laptop around 7 or 8 pm.

Wow, that makes it a full 11 hour day (only noticed that now). And, my way home is quick. I just sit on the other side of the table and end up being home .

Now, there are two sides to that:

I personally get more distracted by work than by home, e.g. I enjoy working and what I do, so end up working more at home but cannot really escape work physically. But, I have enough confidence to turn things off if it is getting too much.

Finding the right balance is important. And, as long as you enjoy the work you are doing, working from home occasionally is fine. However, I actually enjoy being in the office too – even if I am alone in the office. Just to get away from home  Is that double minded?

I read “big brother’s” comment about life-life balance. There are so many discussions about what is right or wrong and I believe nothing is right or wrong as long as it works for you (and ultimately for the person you work for). If you cannot turn off the laptop when it’s time and you cannot turn off your blackberry when needed, then you do need to work on your priorities. You need to enjoy what you are doing, that is really the key.

How does your life life or work life balance work? Can you turn off. We continue with that next week. Yet, I work a lot more from home these days, and I manage to turn off better but I have a new focus: kids. They give me the reason to switch off when it is time and then occasionally I go back to my desk.

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Energy Levels (1 of 4)

This is yet another chapter. For productivity of life, this is probably one of the most important chapters ever. It is about how to conserve energy. How to gain more energy. Energy levels are one of the most important things in life. The more energy you have, the more you get done.

Let’s do a little exercise for your “frame of mind”:

Sit down and think you are really demotivated, tired and down. Let your whole body sink in and feel awful and sad. Do you notice how you sink into yourself and feel like doing nothing?

Now sit upright. Smile. Think of your latest holiday or anything that was a great experience, celebrate in your head. Do you notice how your smile and body posture gets you into a better mood; are you ready to conquer the world? You have more energy, right?

If you want to take it further, whilst being in the latter mood, try to think of something sad, whilst maintaining to smile. Try it. It is difficult, isn’t it?

Now I am not suggesting you should run around all day smiling and grinning – of course you can – but maybe having a lot more smiles on your face generally throughout the day or when you feel a bit saddened or annoyed, might just help you make it through the day.  A smile goes a long way. Be enthusiastic about life, about what you do and what you have achieved. Be proud!

There is a book about energy levels by Tony Schwartz called The way we are working is not working (Schwartz, Tony with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy, Ph.D. (2010), The Way We’re Working is not working, Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, London). In his book, Tony suggests that you should never work for more than 90 minutes and then take a break. He supports that with a lot of research on Ultradian cycles and suggests that your energy household depends on a lot of things. Ultradian cycles are natural high and low energy cycles your body goes through. After every 90 minutes of work you should have a renewal phase where you meditate, nap or listen to music. Or you go to the gym, a run or a walk.

This book is fundamental to my belief system. Whilst of course we never apply all the rules and suggestions, just applying a good balance of working and resting, rejuvenating at work, will go a long way. A must-read book in my opinion. Standing at your desk or trying to nap or relax during lunch time is important.

We are living in a world where time is money and you get paid on time rather than on output. The mentality is often 9-6 (or longer) and based on that you do your time and go home. If you sat there all day on Facebook or did your work does not matter as long as no one notices, right? Tony suggests that with us working longer hours without a break, we begin to default to behaviours that reduce our own effectiveness. This can be impatience, frustration, distraction and disengagement. And that’s the cycle we need to break. This is a downward cycle.

The energy is coming from physical sources, like breaks, but also from emotional sources like the security you have by having a job and someone taking care of you. However, for most of us it is also, in analogy to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, about mental energy, self expression, and significance as the source of spiritual energy. I matter and can do something I enjoy; I can contribute to something that makes a difference.

Similar to the chapter about the here and now, you need to build an awareness first. Notice what you want to change and that you put too many inefficient hours into your work. If you leave the office past 8 pm on most days you might just be too overworked to get anything done or you have problems prioritising or shutting down. Take a break, go home and finish very urgent things after a break. It will take you a lot less time doing it and the output is most likely better too.

Try this for the next week. Try to stop at 6 pm. Work will still be there tomorrow, and you will be there. But are you more effective the next day because you get more rest?

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What successful people do!

Giving it is the new year, there are habits that successful people do. I read Marc and Angel’s blogpost a while back. Their blog is amazing and very useful, inspirational. If you haven’t subscribed to it yet, go and do it NOW.

So what is it what successful people do? There could be a whole list of things and I am coming to them post by post, but essentially there a lot of people that are so successful yet don’t show it at all.

It is not about working in one industry or another, or having money or possessions. Success means being a good human being and having rituals in place that allow you to just be good and make a difference, living a life you enjoy.

As I don’t want to copy the whole post from Marc and Angel, let me pick my favourite 5:

1. They have calm, consistent morning routines.

Successful people, often they get up when it is quiet like 5 am or so, have a calm and consistent routine. Meditation, writing, exercising, reading. Anything that prepares them for the day and doesn’t get them stressed or excited first thing.

2.  They eliminate all needless busy work – they prioritise.

You can get a lot done if you apply a few rules. Anything that can be done within two minutes, do it now. Then prioritise the rest. Don’t keep busy with unimportant stuff, like returning the annoying sales call or worry about the neighbours’ attitude to life. Don’t spend hours on Facebook or Twitter. Concentrate on the tasks at hand. Get done what needs to be done today!

3. Pushing limits.

Learning is a process where you push boundaries or learn from new experience. Stretching yourself and your boundaries daily, make you learn a lot quicker. Successful people do exactly that. To challenge the routine. To challenge the status quo. Venturing beyond what you thought was possible.

4. Visual reminders for goals.

This is one of my favourite ones. I find it astonishing for people to just go with the flow and not saying “I want to be xyz” or be at a place or something, e.g. having little ambition. But that might just be me and not you as otherwise you probably wouldn’t read this post. And where ever you want to be, whatever you want to achieve, visualise it. Make it visible, create a visual reminder of what you want to achieve. Look at your values daily. Look at what you want to achieve daily. Look at your roots and your branches, like a tree, and see where you can grow to. Back to no. 3: push boundaries!

Those tangible reminders for goals are very useful.

5. Mentors and Feedback. (I combined Marc and Angel’s 10 and 11 here!).

Personally I like to call it calibration. To have mentors, tutors or friends who can give you an honest feedback. People who you can trust, they can trust you and you can have a candid chat about your industry, your new job opportunity, your dreams or what really annoys you. They can teach you what they learned and share their experience. Having someone, internal or external to your organisation, who helps you understand what is happening with you and where you want to go, is priceless. Buying them lunch or dinner is just a small token of appreciation, they can help you change your life.

In line with that is to accept feedback and criticism. To accept that you have done things wrong or made a wrong decision but also for you to accept that you learned from it (as you were pushing boundaries). Creating a culture at work that encourages this, is key too!


I guess that summarises my top 5 reasons as of what successful people do. And more of course 😉

But essentiatlly they don’t accept the status quo and push the boundaries whilst keeping a clear head, accept feedback and can bounce ideas over a pint or glass of juice.

Simple really 😉

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Science of Productivity (2)

Triggered by last week’s video, I thought I share my thoughts of what has been addressed in it:

  • Willpower is not enough (it is exhaustible)

Whilst a lot of people that are productive are known for having a lot of willpower, the video suggests that it is an exhaustible source. Of course, if you continuously rely on willpower, one day there is no left, particularly if you fail. A healthy motivation to loose weight, get a job done or do a job right, being motivated out of different reasons, help support willpower. A combination of motivators and goals are the right thing that gets you started and then gets you going and finish the task at hand.

  • Get Started: so you want to finish it

The Zeigarnik effect is  “a tendency to experience automatic, intrusive thoughts about a goal that one has pursued but the pursuit of which has been interrupted. … That is, if you start working toward a goal and fail to get there, thoughts about the goal will keep popping into your mind while you are doing other things, as if to remind you to get back on track to finish reaching that goal.” (source) – this is interesting. If you put your mind to reaching your goal and visualise the outcome, and particularly if you associate a reward or positive feeling with it, once you are getting started, you want to finish your task.

  • Time management: 90 minutes, 15 minutes break | habit, discipline and routine

This has been and will be discussed again. The best way to work and make best use of your time is to work in 90 minutes stints, then take a break. If you have habits that support that, like going for walks with your dog when working from home, or you have a routine that helps you getting up early in the morning. The idea is really to focus harder and more intense for 90 minutes and then take a break before tackling the next task. Meditation or a power nap in between helps too. The energy project, Tony Schwartz, has written a lot about it.

  • Deadline fosters discipline

If you have a deadline, you will always find it easier to finish a task. This is again very simple. If you set a goal without a deadline you might postpone reaching that goal “forever”. But if you have a deadline you will finish it. Writing a blog post every week for instance gives you a deadline.

  • Accountability chart – if you measure you can improve

Now this is another obvious one: anything you measure you can improve. Measure your progress on a project or measure your weight over time. If you do, you will try to change the numbers to more positive outcome (reduce weight or move along in the project). That paired with the above deadline gets things done.

  • Stop Multitasking

You can only ever focus on one thing at a time. So stop doing things at the same time. There is no way you can focus driving whilst texting or reading a blog post whilst being on the phone. Why do you think you can write two emails at the same time or focus on an essay and Facebook at the same time.

  • Make a list at night for the next day

Preparations is key: if that is for the next day, week or month. Or some people look at what they want to achieve each quarter. Break it down to individual tasks and what you want to achieve the next day. Prepare a todo list. Again add deadlines.

  • Break down tasks into easy to do tasks

When preparing this todo list make sure they are easy todo tasks and not too complex. The starting process gets easier and the reward is bigger as you do feel like you accomplish more. Yet don’t make the tasks so small and the rewards that big that you don’t get anything done 🙂


That summarises the video. A nice little way of summarising some key components of productivity. I hope you enjoyed that.

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Science of Productivity

This is a great summary of all productivity principles – a great overview with the help of Sparring Mind. I am happy to quote my sources here, this is about collecting and aggregating the best sources, not competing with them.


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Sleep – how much is too much?

Today’s post is a video. Why not I thought, share a video on how much sleep is too much and too little. It goes in line with how productive you can get.

Whilst I normally get between 6-7 hours of sleep and power-nap during the day if I can, others need 8-10 hours to function. I get up at 5 am yet I am also going to bed at 10 pm. And weekends are usually when I try to catch up on some extra hours and get up at 7 or 8 am whilst still going to bed at the same or similar time.

Hope you enjoyed this one.

How many hours of sleep do you get?

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Information Overload

Information overload, after the last article on energy levels, is kind of self explaining. I remember my first job 10 years ago where I used faxes and my phone to do most of the work. I used email and the web a bit. Now I use Skype, What’s App, Twitter, Email and have to keep on top of 20 newsletters, industry news, my Linkedin feed, my RSS feed of over 100 subscriptions and manage my day job. Wow. Plus of course my usual internal meetings, external meetings, more emails, RFPs, newspaper and other things.

In summary: there are too many information out there. None of us watches TV without having a 2nd screen device at hand, checking your social media feed on Facebook or Twitter, texting with your friend. The attention span is smaller than some children’s just because we doing too many things at the same time. This is energy draining.

I remember well opening up chat windows with customer service reps, then drifting to another website, making a call and the chat windows were closed. Oups. People suggest to sell your TV, prioritise your life and get rid of all distractions. I am not sure if that is necessary or if like anything, “consumption in moderation” is the answer.

Energy: finding a quiet spot where you don’t get distracted by emails so you can finish this important article or RFP is important. Being able to close the door to a room and work on things that need your full attention. Switching off your emails during holidays or even going offline during a train journey. Enjoy some “me time” whilst being on a flight, no calls or emails and just chilling out. Or use the time to really focus on something that needs finishing at work.

But of course it also comes down to day-to-day tasks. Setting up email filters for newsletters, calendar invites, general information and regular updates that then get moved into folders to look at later. Or email folders based on priority or tasks or projects. The 2 minute rule to deal with any email as long as it only takes 2 minutes do it immediately. Being proactive by turning emails on 3 times a day only: morning, lunch and evening.

Those are the nitty gritty details, so when you are on the road and check your emails or you want to have a quick look into your inbox, then anything sitting there is relevant. If you are working with SalesForce or any other CRM system, then there is no need to have any emails in your inbox. It should all be in SalesForce, your tasks and your todos, so no more emails needed. Inbox zero is another topic which I probably dedicate a whole post to.

And if you had those days where your head is spinning and you get more information than you can handle? No, don’t have the aforementioned glass of wine. Go for a run or relax your body and/or your mind through meditation. Charge up your batteries and calm down. You can still deal with your emails in the morning, no need to finish them daily if you cannot. Rather delay your email a day but make it better than just answering for the sake of getting it out of your inbox. Quality goes over speed and quantity of emails. Does that make sense?

And if you are working with Outlook or Gmail or Mail or whichever programme you have: there are plenty of tips out there, add ons, and hacks to make it more productive. Use tools like notes, tasks and calendars. My favourite is Evernote, about which I will write a lot more soon too. Block out time to drain your brain, where you sit down and write everything you are thinking of out of your head to make space for your head to do what he does best: thinking.

Keep information to the minimum and most relevant and make sure you have access to your brain power.

Energy and information overload go hand in hand. Because with information overload you end up losing energy.

When did you last have an inbox zero and what are your thoughts on the best hacks for your email system?
Which is the best email filter you ever set up?
How do you prioritise your emails and tasks?

Latter is key to productivity, particularly if you cannot stay on top of the information you receive. So we will deep dive into that too.

More exciting things to come!

Any topics you suggest or would like to hear more about?

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Take a break to be more productive

Ok – we have already covered quite a bit. Starting with the end in mind, having a trusted system, having a to-do list. These are basic principles of productivity. And there are lots more to explore. To structure all of them a bit, I made a mind map. It covers my ideas, it covers my book and its chapters, as well as the 7 habits and some mention on best people to work with, energy drain and a lot of brainstorming on “mention”, e.g. things people that write about productivity find useful. I was thinking of sharing it here but not yet, it is still work in progress.

But one of the major ones on there, at least to my mind, is energy drain and information overload. This might actually go hand in hand. One of the leading advocates of this is the Energy Project. For Tony Schwartz and his team it is all about losing productivity due to working without breaks. The problem in our culture is that we are working more and more. We are taking less and less breaks and wonder why we are working 16 hours a day and feeling tired and not productive at all. We measure quantity over quality, input vs. output if you like.

As Tony suggest we need to change our habits. Take a break after every 90 minutes, recharge, go for a walk, don’t eat rubbish food and sustain high energy levels. Whilst doing that you increase your output and you might actually finish your tasks before the end of the day. But instead most of us ignore signals coming from our body. We are fueling up on coffee until we feel sick, adding sugary drinks and sweets to our diet to gain short-lived energy. We don’t sleep or only badly due to the caffeine we had and waking up not fully rested.

It is a vicious cycle we are entering. We are working non stop, washing our day and stress away with a glass of wine in order to calm down, sleep less than we are supposed to in order to fuel our energy the next morning with plenty of tea and coffee. This just isn’t working in the long run. Hence we need to be on the look out and see what we are doing to refuel during the day.

Naps would be good, or a quick meditation session in the board room when no one else is there. There aren’t enough companies offering sleeping pods yet and napping at your desk is still not acceptable. Some companies offer massages, free yoga classes or in Germany they now want to introduce a law for emails not being pushed to mobile devices after work.

It is about finding the right balance at work to keep an energy level that is sustainable and productive. This goes in line with what we eat, drink and how we sit, how much we sleep, what the office environment is like, whether we have height adjustable desks to stand half of the day as it is recommended, whether it is acceptable to start work earlier and finish earlier to fit it in with your lifestyle and child care, and there are many more factors that should be considered to make people happy workers, healthy workers and balanced workers.

This right balance is key to productivity.

Following that we get on to the next topic: information overload.

I will dig deeper into the Energy Project’s work later on, but it is a very holistic approach to productivity, exploring breaks, life-life balance and diets as well as attitudes.

For now, make sure to take regular breaks and keep fit.

Maybe you could comment below, when you last took an hour lunch, not eating your sandwich at your desk?

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