Friday, 24 March 2006

Take a break, refresh your productivity

Particularly busy day at ET Towers today. It wasn't until I took a break in the afternoon to grab a few bits for dinner that my mind began to be a little more objective about my current workload.

I had more constructive ideas and clearer thoughts on issues that needed resolving in that forty minute break than the rest of the day.

When you have a busy day at work and you haven't got time to stop and take a break and be objective about how things are going it can be difficult to focus on the priorities and effectiveness of your routine.

Bill Gates wrote this in a 2005 Executive E-Mail column:

"A recent study showed that 56 percent of workers are overwhelmed by multiple simultaneous projects and interrupted too often; one-third say that multi-tasking and distractions are keeping them from stepping back to process and reflect on the work they’re doing. In the United Kingdom, it’s estimated that stress accounts for nearly one-third of absenteeism and sick leave." (Source:

While technology makes many jobs and tasks easier, it also enables us to do more. But then we are almost expected to do more, but does this in some way stifle creativity and block clear thinking?

I find taking regular breaks, how often depending on the individual needs, clearing the mind, even for a few minutes can help to overcome a creative block, prepare for a nagging deadlines or bring fresh ideas to unsolved problems.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Review: Prague, Czech Republic

Sunday, March 12 until Wednesday, March 15 2006.

Our Gatwick flight was cancelled after nearly a foot of snow had fallen in the last 24 hours, closing the airport in Prague.

Things looked bleak but as it turned out Becky and I ended up on a later flight from Heathrow. The snow stopped and Prague's airport opened for business, welcoming us about 8 hours later than planned, but glad to be on holiday.

On our first full morning we found a very cold but bright day greeting us. Most challenging was the icy cobbled streets. But we managed to stay on our feet, and frankly the snow added to the picturesque view of the city.

Our photos from Prague

Everyone we had spoken to had good memories of Prague, and from the guide books and reviews it sounded perfect for a short break and change of scene.
Even though we went off-peak it was still awash with tourists from America and around Europe. Prague's popularity means that it is easy to get around and communicate as virtually all the locals we encountered spoke enough English to avoid embarrassing incidents.
We stayed at the Hotel Julian, just south of the Little Quarter to the west of the River Vltava. We travelled by foot, although there are plenty of buses and trams if needed. I found it to be good exercise and would rather be pounding the streets than sat a desk at work. Discuss.

Brief historical interlude

The Czech Republic is a country full of history. It gained independence in 1918 becoming Czechoslovakia, ending the 400-year reign of the Habsburgs. But it wasn't until the Velvet Revolution in 1989 when democracy returned, and in 1992 Czech Republic and Slovakia were formed.
But over the centuries, the Czechs have been busy, building elaborate buildings, churches and cathedrals. I've never seen so much impressive and ornate architecture.

Tourists galore, but impressive views

We headed for the Old Town Square, via the Charles Bridge, an impressive site, lined on both sides by statues of kings, princes and religious scenes. This was pretty busy with tourists. I imagine it must be a little too crowded in mid-summer, but it gives a great view up and down the river, with the castle spanning the northern view of the city.
The best way to enjoy the city is to stroll beyond the Old Town Square and down side streets and alleyways to get a less tourist-driven feel for Prague.

Church of St Nicholas, Little Quarter

We almost missed this stunning building as we walked through the Little Quarter to the west of the Charles Bridge. After seeing a steady stream of people heading in and out of a building, we ventured in, and were treated to a an array of ornate carvings, statues and a fantastic frescos adorning the ceiling.

Prague Castle

Prague Castle stretches along the hills, dominating the city skyline to the north. It was only about 30 minutes walk from the hotel, and gave stunning views across the river and city beyond.
It contains many buildings, courtyards, as well as the opportunity to see another country's version of the changing of the guards. St Vitus's Cathedral is another stunning cathedral, lined with stained glass windows, full of the history of Prague and the Czechs.

Old Town

Every hour the Town Hall Clock strikes and out troop the 12 Apostles, as this impressive Astronomical clock draws regular crowds.

Food and drink

Along the tourist route through the city, you will find no end of restaurants, bars and cafes. Plenty of European styles available and a good standard.
Becky was more adventurous trying some local Beef Goulash with dumplings, which was very nice. Be aware that these were no dumplings I had ever experienced, very filling. The prices varied, but even the popular restaurants charge no more than you would pay in this country.

Commonly the weight of any meat is listed on the menu, a relic of the communist era. And the beer is strong and cheap as you would expect from the Czechs, roughly 70 pence a pint. After pounding the streets check out the popular Kaverna (Cafe) Slavia, overlooking the river and watch the world go by. In the evening try Red, Hot & Blues, just off the Old Town Square, for some tasty Tex-Mex food and lively jazz and funky music every night.

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