We zeroed in on 1,698 nonprofits located in New York to see if their CEO pay changed after new regulations took effect in 2013. Since then, New York has prohibited nonprofit officers from being present at meetings where their pay is being discussed.
We found that compensation was an average of 2% to 3% lower than expected by comparing pay for nonprofit CEOs in New York with pay in other states. We also compared the change in CEO pay with compensation changes for other executives’ pay at the same nonprofits – since they weren’t affected by this legislation.
We also found that many nonprofits changed how they handled executive compensation. That is, they were more likely to set up compensation committees, perform an independent compensation review, or adjust pay to be in line with similar organizations. Nonprofit CEO bonuses also became more correlated with the growth of an organization’s budget – a strong indicator of overall performance.
And we found that, despite earning less than they might have expected, nonprofit CEOs spent about 2% more time working – without any additional turnover.
Interestingly, we also determined that by some measures, the nonprofits became better-run after the legislation took effect. For example, 2% more people chose to volunteer, and funding from donations and grants grew by 4%.
Nonprofit CEOs make considerably less money than corporate CEOs and have experienced a slower wage growth over the last decade. Based on our estimates, corporate executives saw their annual pay grow by 54% from 2009 to 2017 to an average value of US$3.2 million, while nonprofit executives experienced a 15% increase in pay, reaching an average value of $396,000 in 2017 – the most recent year for which we obtained IRS data.
Nevertheless, because most nonprofits are exempt from income tax and many accept donations, it’s only natural that the government and funders would not want to waste their money on excessive compensation. For example, food bank donors might prefer to see nonprofits spend more of their dollars on feeding the hungry as opposed to perks and big pay packages.
One possible reason why nonprofit CEO pay is growing much more slowly than for-profit CEO compensation is that nonprofit leaders are committed to specific causes and have more motives aside from money to excel at their work than their corporate counterparts. Other possibilities could be that nonprofits face pressure from donors to avoid high executive pay or that nonprofit CEOs have little leverage.
We hope that our future research will answer this question.
On Wednesday Rep. Mark Takano of California announced he had introduced legislation designed to make the four-day workweek a reality in the US.
In a press release on his site, Takano said the goal was to reduce the number of hours in a standard workweek to 32 hours from 40 – equating to a four-day week – by lowering the maximum threshold for overtime pay.
“Many countries and businesses that have experimented with a four-day workweek found it to be an overwhelming success as productivity grew and wages increased,” said Takano, adding that reduced hours could lead to better healthcare premiums for employers and lower operational costs.
The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal labor law that applies to public- and private-sector workers. It governs wage levels, rules around tipping, and regulations on child labor among others.
It is applicable in every state, but individual states can set particular requirements on areas such as termination-pay levels and premium rates on vacation or weekend pay. It also doesn’t apply to all workers: private contractors, those in the gig economy, and some domestic workers are exempt.
The bill also governs overtime payments. Currently, eligible employees must be paid 1 1/2 times their employer’s regular rate for every hour worked over 40 hours in a week.
Takano, a Democrat who represents California’s 41st District, argues that reducing this to 32 hours would enable more people to participate in the labor market at better wages.
A 32-hour workweek could align productivity improvements offered by automation with the demand for work-life balance that workers want, said Jane Oates, a Labor Department official during the Obama administration who is now the president of the nonprofit campaign WorkingNation.
“Spending more time with family, volunteering in your community, and just practicing healthier lifestyles are all higher priorities after a year of isolation during the pandemic,” she said. “It will also allow workers to use the time to further their education so that they can increase their opportunities for higher-skilled jobs.”
Takano is not the first political figure to take serious interest in reduced working hours.
In March the Spanish government proposed investing 50 million euros, or $60 million, into a three-year, 32-hour week pilot. The plan was proposed by Íñigo Errejón, the leader of a left-leaning opposition party, Más País.
In 2019, John McDonnell, then a senior figure in the UK’s opposition Labour Party, said he envisaged a 32-hour working week at full pay being possible within a decade. However he did not favor a mandatory cap on hours.
Takano sits on the House Committee on Education and Labor. His bill has been endorsed by several worker union groups and is cosponsored by his fellow representatives Rashida Tlaib, Jan Schakowsky, and Chuy Garcia.
This week, four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrew from the 2020 Olympic Games to care for her mental health. After a wobbly vault run where Biles risked serious injury, the athlete admitted that the high stakes of the Olympics felt like too much, and the stress was affecting her performance.
“I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and my wellbeing,” Biles said. “We’re not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day, and sometimes you just have to step back.”
And Biles and her supporters are right: Quitting when your work is harming you takes courage and is an immense burden to parse out. The fact Biles was able to understand her own limitations and communicate her boundaries to the world in such a high-pressure competition is no small feat, and she should be commended for it.
Many people have taken this moment to call on others to also take stock of their mental health and take a rest when they need it. Those of us who have struggled with mental illness for most of our lives are all too familiar with this phenomenon: There’s a cycle of mental health affirmations that circulate on social media everytime a famous person opens up about their mental struggles.
The problem is that these affirmations don’t actually reflect a society where mental self care is truly taken seriously. Particularly after a pandemic where many of us experienced death and trauma, but were barely granted time away from work to process a global disaster, the gap between “it’s okay not to be okay” and actual mental health provisions at work feels enormous.
Everyone should have the right to quit or take paid time off to care for their own wellbeing. But the reality is that many of us can’t afford to take time off or quit, as much as we know our mental health is suffering. It’s a fantasy to keep repeating that mental health is important and we must care for it, without actually looking at the crushing pressures of capitalism and how they manifest in the workplace. The constant grind of working for food and shelter doesn’t allow most workers to take time off for self care and rest.
I can’t afford to pause for my mental wellbeing
By far, one of the hardest parts of being mentally ill is dealing with work stressors and financial responsibilities. I have been semi-public about my struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and depression for almost a decade, and I was recently diagnosed with PTSD. As part of my treatment plan, I’m being encouraged to slow down the pace of my working life, but quitting isn’t simply a matter of choice.
As a freelance journalist, I have to follow the news cycle to make money and be able to pay rent and bills. I wish I could simply drop everything and take extended time off. But I can’t afford to spend a whole month unpaid, nor do I feel like I can risk editors forgetting that I’m available to be commissioned by being on hiatus.
Plus, treating any mental illness is expensive. Though I’d love to only focus on becoming mentally well rather than working, I also need to make enough money to pay for my mental health treatment out of pocket. In addition to paying for food and rent, I also need to pay for my medication, my psychiatrist, and my therapist.
It’s a never ending cycle: I should slow down to take care of myself, but to take care of myself, I need to make money, so I exhaust myself to make money and be able to pay for treatment. The odds are against me, but my situation can illuminate what we should be focusing on when we talk about mental health and wellbeing. There needs to be efforts to care for our mental health that go beyond the rhetorical.
We need systemic changes to truly prioritize mental health
A good place to start would be raising the minimum wage and decreasing job insecurity. A recent study determined that a mere $1 increase in minimum hourly wage can decrease suicide rates. Job insecurity is directly related to higher rates of anxiety and somatic symptoms, so creating jobs where people feel secure is essential to caring for people’s mental health.
Prioritizing mental health has to be a concrete possibility for everyone, even when their wages are high and they have a secure job. This means that employers, institutions, and governments have to prioritize mental health over productivity and profit, rather than sending out memos and social media posts with empty platitudes about taking care of our mental health. Paid time off without consequences and a good healthcare plan are basic mental health provisions any employer should be giving their employees.
Biles is right: Everyone should have the right to quit harmful situations that are detrimental to their mental health. But no matter how many infographics I see on Instagram that tell me my mental health is the most important thing in my life, the rhetorical affirmation that I deserve to be well won’t change my current material inability to slow down and get the treatment I deserve. We need concrete ways to care for ourselves and our minds, and that requires major structural changes in our places of work and in how we make our money.
Jason Cabrera started out buttering toast and washing dishes for $9.25-an-hour at a Texas fast food chain in 2018 – and now earns $50,000 as a general manager, after being promoted just one week after his 19th birthday.
Cabrera’s annual salary far exceeds the $28,860 that the average 16 to 19-year-old can expect to make, per US Labor Department data – and it also doesn’t include any performance-linked bonuses he might receive throughout the year.
Cabrera told Insider that his biggest expense since starting his new job was a Dodge Charger Scat Pack 2020, which he has been paying off in $1,360 monthly instalments.
“I plan on paying it off by next year. All my money I get, I really just throw it at my car. Not upgrading or whatnot, just paying it off,” he said.
He said that he still lives with his parents rent-free, five minutes away from the restaurant, and they often stop by to check on him when he works double shifts.
“My goal is to eventually hopefully buy them a house,” he said. “I’d love to do that for them.”
When he told his parents last year that he did not plan on going to college, they were initially upset, Cabrera said. But this decision has “paid off a year later,” he said, referring to his new manager role.
“They’re proud, you know, they’re not going too crazy over it, but they’re pretty happy about it,” he said.
Cabrera also estimates that it could take five years to save up enough money to open a franchise.
“If I’m smart with my money, which I have been, I’ll probably get there real quick,” he said.
Cabrera’s new role involves managing 22 people, checking their payroll, calculating inventory, and dealing with suppliers, among other tasks.
He embraces this responsibility: “Just knowing that anything that happens inside of that store is on me. Anything that goes wrong, anything that goes right, it all comes back to me,” he said.
In an update Thursday, the company now says it won’t mandate either a specific return date or amount of time in the office.
Instead, it will let individual teams decide their own hybrid-working strategy, with managers taking a call based on discussions with colleagues.
“We haven’t ironed out every different scenario, but we’re asking employees to think about what works for them, where they do their best work, and how does your team work best,” Teuila Hanson, LinkedIn’s chief people officer, told Insider.
“This is with the understanding that our employees are truly coming from a place of what works best for them.”
That could in theory see some teams favor all five days a week in the office, whereas some may never come in at all.
Data indicates staff will opt for the middle ground. In an internal poll, 87% of LinkedIn’s 16,000 global workers said that they would still like to come into the office at least some of the time. Hanson said the company still plans to invest in its physical office space.
“It’s going to be hard, it’s going to require our managers to talk to us and to engage in dialogue as leaders and as an organization,” said Hanson.
Many of LinkedIn’s offices have not fully reopened, with individual workplaces set to open on a location-by-location basis based on local guidance.
US technology firms have differed on the return to work. Apple and Google have told employees they should expect to work two to three days in the office. Others, such as Twitter, are allowing employees to be fully remote if they wish.
LinkedIn is not currently mandating that employees in the office must be double-vaccinated.
LinkedIn has gone for a trust-based approach to the office
LinkedIn is leaning into the idea that companies should trust employees to know where they work best.
This will be an important factor in a smooth return to work, said Claudia Crummenerl, global practice lead and managing director for workforce and organization at Capgemini Invent.
“The trend you can see is there’s a desire to be more flexible and to have choice. Even if people will go to the office three or four days a week, it’s their choice. It’s not somebody forcing them to do something.”
It will only apply the vaccine rule to its corporate, non-union workers, and not its roughly 700 union employees, who include building service workers and cleaners, Crain’s New York first reported.
“For our corporate employees, unless they receive a medical or religious accommodation, if they are not vaccinated by Sept. 6th they will be separated from the company,” Durst spokesman Jordan Barowitz told Crain’s.
A Durst spokesperson confirmed the policy to Insider.
It is not clear whether Durst’s corporate workers will need just one or both shots of a COVID-19 vaccine under the new rule. The organization did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for clarification.
Barowitz told the New York Post that Durst had informed corporate employees of the new mandate in June, and that it was “driven by the wishes of the employees who want to work in a safer environment.”
Durst’s union workers – who include building service workers, cleaners, and doormen – are protected under a collective bargaining agreement, an unnamed source familiar with the matter told The Post.
The moment something unforeseen happens, many of us tend to slip into negative thinking habits.
Not only do these thinking patterns drag you down when it comes to achieving your goals – they can, in extreme cases, be detrimental to your health.
“Humans are very creative when it comes to finding new ways of thinking unconstructively and unrealistically,” explained psychologist Elke Overdick. “But in my experience, these nine – with which I enjoy working very much – are the most common.”
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, all thinking traps have one thing in common. As a general rule, they don’t meet the criteria for appropriate thinking:
Thinking should be realistic.
They should be helpful.
That may sound pretty obvious but it’s hard to ensure all your thoughts always fulfill these two criteria.
Take perfectionism or people-pleasing as examples: neither thought pattern is realistic or helpful and yet many of us fall into these thinking traps. Unfortunately, by the time we notice, it’s usually too late.
“To be honest, I’ve never met anyone, myself included, who isn’t affected by thinking traps,” said Overdick.
In an interview with Insider, she explained how you can manage or even rid yourself of these negative thinking patterns.
Being an overly harsh critic
Self-deprecation can be very damaging.
“I think it’s the worst thinking trap of them all,” said Overdick.
If you keep telling yourself you’re not likable or loveable, that means you’re focusing single-mindedly on your weaknesses.
“And if you only look at your weaknesses,” she said, “then, of course, it will be hard to like yourself because you’re not picking up on your strengths or your potential.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
If you’re doing the above, are your thought patterns reasonable? Probably not.
“If you have friends or there are people in your family who enjoy spending time with you, that’s evidence that, realistically, you have positive or lovable qualities”.
As well as bearing this in mind, it might also be helpful to make a list of your own positive qualities.
If, on the other hand, it’s your work you’re devaluing and you genuinely believe you aren’t good enough for your job, you need to bear in mind that companies are always thinking about how to fill vacancies.
When negative thoughts enter your head, actively try to remind yourself to be realistic by saying “I am lovable” or “I make an important contribution”.
“Anxious thoughts can be rational and, to a certain extent, serve an important purpose,” said Overdick.
“If we’re afraid or worried, we may be able to better prepare ourselves for or avoid situations that endanger us — however, if the thoughts get out of hand and become unrealistic, you’ve fallen into a thinking trap.
How to get out of the thinking trap
Overdick likes to work with five questions against fears and inhibitions. These questions can help bring your fearful thoughts down to a realistic level and work as a good guard against catastrophic thinking. Here they are:
1. What’s the worst that could happen?
2. What can I do to prevent “the worst that could happen”?
3. How likely is it the worst thing will happen?
4. What can I do if the worst thing does happen?
5. What will it mean for my future if the worst thing happens?
If you take a moment to answer these questions, you may find that the problem is not as bad as you’d previously thought and, equally, that the worst-case scenario isn’t either.
Rather than worrying, try saying to yourself: “I can handle it” or “There is always a way”.
Taking on too much responsibility
Do you sometimes feel responsible for things that are out of your hands? Do you often feel like you want to influence things you can’t change?
That’s a sign you have a tendency to take on too much responsibility.
While it may sound a positive trait, unfortunately, your behavior can also have a negative impact on others, as Overdick explains: “People in this thinking trap sometimes tend to incapacitate others without intending to and, obviously, with no malicious intent at all — but not delegating tasks to others might prevent those people from learning something and progressing themselves.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
Sometimes you can take the time to ask yourself whether something is really your job, or you can ask yourself whether you can actually influence a situation.
Remind yourself: “That’s not my job”, “I have no influence over this” or “I’ll let another person do this for their own development”.
Dealing only in absolutes
We all have values and standards we adhere to in life.
People who fall into the trap of absolute demands, “musts”, and “shoulds” find it very important to adhere to these values — perhaps even to an exaggerated degree.
“If someone doesn’t adhere to your standards and you can’t accept that, you’ll end up angry. Often we forget that our values aren’t universal.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
Unfortunately, you have to face the facts: you are not the measure of all things.
“Sometimes it’s also good to be in others’ shoes. Other people have different rules that may be just as good and valuable to them as yours are to you,” Overdick explains. “The trick to managing this trap lies in accepting that there are basically no universal values and standards.”
Values and standards are subjective — they vary from person to person and are influenced by things like upbringing, culture, religion, and education.
Alternatives thoughts for when you find yourself stuck in the “must” or “should” mindset are “I am not the measure of all things” or “standards and values are subjective”.
Salvador Dali once said: “Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.”
Perfectionists expect themselves and others to be perfect and end up failing massively.
“It’s unrealistic and unattainable,” said Overdick.
However, perfectionism shouldn’t be confused with striving to improve.
It’s useful to strive to better oneself so you can develop, progress, and be successful. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is not.
“If you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes, you aren’t just putting yourself under a lot of pressure; you can’t develop any further either because, without mistakes, you can’t learn.
How to get out of the thinking trap
The goal should be to see the positive in mistakes and to accept one’s own mistakes, as well as those of others.
“Mistakes are a learning experience and help you to progress. They teach you how to do things differently and how to get closer to your goals.
Instead of looking into the past with an “Oh God, how could I have done that” mentality, Overdick said it’s more productive to think of the future and say to yourself: “Okay, that went badly and I did it wrong. Next time I’ll do it better.”
Alternatives phrases to say to yourself include “mistakes get me ahead in the long-run”, “mistakes are human” or even “mistakes make me likable”.
“After all, nobody wants to be around someone perfect all the time,” said the psychologist.
Can you think of a single well-known public figure who has ever managed to be liked by everyone?
The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi? Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon?
While all these people were admired by many, they were by no means liked by everyone. This is demonstrative of how unrealistic it is to aim to be liked by everyone.
How to get out of the thinking trap
“I think it’s very important to remind yourself that you don’t like everyone,” said Overdick.
“Whether or not someone likes you depends on so many different factors, over which you simply often have no influence at all. For example, what does the person I’m trying to impress like? If he likes tall blonds, I can’t change that I’m small and dark-haired.”
Alternatives things you can say to yourself include “It’s enough if my friends like me”, “I don’t like everyone either” or “I don’t have to be popular, it’s enough if people respect me”.
Your telephone provider doesn’t need to like you; it’s enough if you get what you need.
Trying to mind-read
Sometimes it can be as little as a glance or an ambiguous comment — those who get caught up in attempting to mind-read end up interpreting others’ actions or remarks as being directed against themselves, which leads to a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
How to get out of the thinking trap
Is your thinking rational and accurate? Probably not if you’re trying to read someone’s mind.
Maybe there’s a completely different reason for the behavior you’ve picked up on.
For example, could it have something to do with the fact that the other person is stressed or under pressure? Is there a reason for his behavior that has nothing to do with you?
Counter-thoughts at times when you find yourself worrying about what someone else is thinking might include: “This behavior isn’t necessarily intended for me” or “It’s their issue; not mine”.
Do you often find yourself saying: “Everyone else is to blame, not me”?
People who think like that are usually over-simplifying, according to Overdick.
“On the one hand it’s easy to cede responsibility; on the other hand — and this is the big disadvantage of this thinking trap — you end up losing sight of your own potential to influence a situation, as well as opportunities to develop yourself.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
Question the extent to which you’ve contributed to a situation.
Do you always get handed pointless, thankless tasks at work?
Well, had you ever stopped to think that, perhaps, you failed to mention that these tasks are a waste of time?
Have you ever asked to do something else? If not, then why aren’t you thinking about what you can do to change the situation?
If you can’t solve the problem alone, you can also get help — for example from a colleague, by talking to your manager or, in extreme cases, by talking to HR.
Remember to say to yourself “There’s always something I can do” or to ask yourself “How can I do something to change this?” before you start pointing fingers.
Kidding yourself when it comes to over-indulgence
Sometimes it’s okay to indulge a little, but it can become problematic when you delude yourself into thinking something that isn’t all that good for you is somehow beneficial: it can prevent you from achieving your goals in the longterm.
“It’s good not to focus on goals and achievements constantly but, in the long run, continually indulging and focusing on things that distract you from what matters are actually good for you is obviously an ineffective approach,” said the psychologist.
“Unfortunately, as humans, we function in such a way that we want short term gratification but aren’t always prepared for the long term negative consequences. Take gambling addiction or food binges as an example: we’re looking for quick and immediate pleasure and, at the time, prefer to ignore the long-term negative consequences, like financial loss and weight gain.”
How to get out of the thinking trap
“I think the same logic can be applied here as for those who victimize themselves — you just need a bit of a kick up the behind,” said Overdick.
In general, it’s good to question yourself, to be critical, and to ask again and again what longterm drawbacks you may experience by seeking short term enjoyment. In that way, you can stop to consider what to do about it.
“It’s better to intervene with yourself as soon as possible.”
Useful affirmations such as “I can stand up for my own goals” may help you to stop and consider what needs to be done.
Practical tips to avoid thinking traps
Thinking traps wouldn’t be so awful if we were able to recognize them and nip them in the bud immediately. Unfortunately, it’s usually only the case that we recognize the symptoms once they’re really getting out of hand.
One thing you can do to challenge your own thinking traps is to look for a “sparring partner”, which is basically someone who supports you using their own experience and knowledge — particularly any knowledge and experience that’s relevant to you.
“This can be anyone from a family member or partner to a good friend or colleague, and it can also be a coach or a therapist,” said Overdick, “as long as it isn’t someone who’ll be easily satisfied with your first answer.”
Another method is to write “counter-thoughts” on a small card and place them somewhere where you’ll look often during the day. It could be your wallet, your desk, or the front door — or you can also use a symbolic object.
“In psychology, we refer to these objects as ‘anchors’ — a new way of thinking ‘anchored’ into a postcard, a shell from a nice beach or a pretty piece of jewelry. The object itself is less important — it’s more important that you put it in a place where it will always actively remind you to think of the alternative.”
This is a great technique for those thoughts that resurface when you least expect them to, according to Overdick, “because they hit you even harder”.
It’s especially important that you’re reminded over and over again: you don’t adopt a new way of thinking overnight simply by flipping a switch. It takes a lot of repetition to get rid of your old thinking patterns.
“It’s like learning to play the piano — it’s not enough just to understand how a piece works; you need to consolidate what you learn through repetition and practice.”
Team and leadership coach from May Strategies, Ylva Anderson thinks we should all be “shutting down for 208 seconds, every day.”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little frustrated by today’s organizations and leadership,” she said in a presentation titled: “Leadership: Are you ready to take a decision in 208 seconds?”.
The coach is confident not only that this method could be greatly beneficial for creativity in the workplace, but that we also need to change the way today’s leadership works.
Anderson has worked and published at various Swedish media companies – in television, radio, and print – for years.
She’s also an expert in dynamic communication and is currently involved in leadership training at The School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Rwanda.
The way we lead needs to change
Anderson said that in her work she meets managers and teams from different countries and industries every single day.
The coach described the way they work as fast-paced, disorganized, and stressful.
According to her, managers are prisoners of the rat-race – they work under enormous pressure, they have no motivation, and they’re exhausted.
In her opinion, they’re also not particularly innovative when it comes to changes in leadership.
“We’re doing more or less the same things we were at the turn of the 20th century – we’re working as though we’re in the early industrial era,” said the coach.
She also highlighted that we’re still working according to a pyramid structure, where those in command are at the top and those who are contracted in are at the bottom – but what can we do to alter this way of working?
According to Anderson, the answer is actually “the most powerful tool of all”.
“It can change the world, it can change ourselves, it can bring about unexpected opportunities,” she said. “It’s creativity – the ability to adapt, transform, search for new methods, to improvise, and to play.
She believes that, in management and leadership, the pyramid model needs to be scrapped and replaced by a “circle of creativity” consisting of four elements.
1. Joint problem-solving
Communication and feedback, where everyone talks and discusses, where everyone is open to others’ ideas without judgment and every reflection and conclusion is welcome.
2. Co-operation and co-creation isn’t enough
The expert also proposed a new way of making decisions, where responsibility and decisions are taken together.
3. Management through training
This isn’t just about bosses training their coworkers, according to Anderson; we should all be learning from one another.
“We should help elevate each other to the highest level,” she said.
4. “Switching off” during the day
“We’re not cut out for the speedy, messy, stressy lives we lead – our brains are constantly on the boil. In the circle of creativity, we need time for reflection and pause,” said Anderson.
According to Anderson, “turning yourself off” during the day is the key to creativity, her suggestion being to mentally “log out” for exactly 208 seconds, or around three and a half minutes.
“If you take out 208 seconds a day or around three and a half minutes for a break, for silence, and for focus, you’ll notice a big difference,” said Anderson. “Those three and a half minutes do offer real results.”
“The next time you are stressed before making a decision, stop putting pressure on yourself,” she continued. “Instead, take a step back and give yourself those 208 seconds. I’m positive you’ll notice the difference.”
“He’s a wonderfully creative person, but he shouldn’t be getting very little sleep,” Richard Branson once said, referring to Elon Musk’s late-night tweeting escapades.
Branson isn’t the only one who thinks Musk could benefit from similar advice.
“Entrepreneurs, athletes, and other high performers desperately need good sleep,” Floris Wouterson told Insider, claiming that sleep is even more important than eating or exercising well.
Author of the book “Superslapen,” Wouterson is the first self-proclaimed “sleep performance coach” in Europe.
“Although, that’s not exactly hard, considering I came up with the term myself,” he told Insider. “I’ve been researching everything I could find on optimal sleep for years.”
He then started coaching, with athletes and top managers claiming to benefit greatly from Wouterson’s approach. Wouterson, based in Flanders, Belgium, comes from an entrepreneurial family himself and since 2002, his wife has set up a number of sleeping comfort stores.
Over the past sixteen years, Wouterson spoke to thousands of customers and became increasingly intrigued by sleep, as he too had struggled with poor sleep for a period of time.
According to Wouterson, the consequences of bad sleep are hugely underestimated. “Fatigue, irritability, loss of concentration, forgetfulness… it works against you in your work as well as in your relationships. The risk of injuries or accidents also increases by 40%.”
The long-term effects of bad sleep can also be severe – depression and burn-out can take hold if you don’t relax. Here are the five tips Wouterson gave Insider to become a super-sleeper.
1. Forget the “eight hours of sleep is a must” myth
According to Wouterson, this rigid notion that you must sleep for eight hours can actually cause sleep stress.
“If you think you should sleep eight hours every night, it can work against you,” said the expert. Lying awake and staying in bed because you have to reach eight hours in bed is illogical according to Wouterson.
You have to find your own sleep rhythm, go to sleep at a fixed time, and get up at a fixed time as much as possible. “Don’t stay lying down – it’s a misconception that sleep will come naturally.”
2. Don’t believe stories about super-short sleep
Stories about CEOs or politicians who only need a few hours of sleep make them sound tough, but according to Wouterson, only a small percentage of people can genuinely cope with little sleep.
It’s possible to train to temporarily sleep less, he said. Wouterson coached Sanne Haarhuis, a pilot in hot-air balloon competitions, to regulate her sleeping pattern and endure heavy, multi-day races with a minimum of sleep. Wouterson also sees top athletes who can quickly refuel with napping.
“You can recharge your batteries with a 12-minute power nap for two hours,” said the sleep expert however, you have to wake up in time before you sink into a very deep sleep.
According to Wouterson, you can achieve this by, for example, holding a bunch of keys in your hand while taking a short nap. “As soon as you sink too deeply, your hand relaxes, the keys fall to the ground and you’re awake again.”
3. Small steps bring about big changes
Wouterson is convinced there isn’t just one quick fix to sleep better; there are several areas that demand your attention.
“80% of the five main sleeping problems are learned,” he said. You can achieve an enormous amount by taking small steps to alter your diet, exercise, and sleep routine, for example.
But self-examination, looking at your own attitude to sleep, is perhaps most important according to Wouterson.
4. Eat well and take a break from your phone
Eating and resting your head are two things that require extra attention when it comes to ensuring a good night’s sleep.
Wouterson said to choose healthy food and to be careful with carbohydrates, sugar, and alcohol, adding: “A good night’s sleep starts on your plate.”
Letting your mind drift is one thing but, of course, brooding and pondering won’t help if you want to sleep – negative media reports about “the state of affairs in the world” can keep you feeling worrisome, tossing and turning.
Wouterson advises you to focus on your own circle of influence – what are some challenges in your life you can influence yourself? Focus mainly on those things and try not to keep worrying too much about problems you can’t do much about.
A media diet can bring peace – make sure to put your smartphone away in the evening, a few hours before you go to sleep.
5. Employers should see their employees’ sleep as an investment
Keep going, slog away, work through lunch, soldier on, stay an extra hour – it may seem logical to squeeze as much as you can out of your employees but it’s actually counterproductive, according to Wouterson.
Businesses may see a drastic improvement in the performance of their employees when they’ve slept better. The number of mistakes decreases, while better decisions will take the company further.
“As an employer, you don’t exactly want to be in your employees’ bedrooms, but offering sleep training or sleeping facilities can actually be a good investment,” said Wouterson.
According to the sleep performance coach, this is already a common phenomenon in Japan.