Working Soft for Scientists

Work Smarter, Stress Less

Working hard is the norm in the academic world. Competition and publication pressure create a stressful environment. The careers of younger academics are particularly precarious. Often, it’s your first job where you have to prove yourself in a short period of time in a competitive work environment. But also when you are further along in your academic career it can prove difficult to cope with the culture of working hard, and help is not easy to asked for.

A dangerous recipe with high risk for your mental wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance. 

Against this background we have developed the innovative training Working Soft® for Scientists. This training offers a effective combination of burnout prevention and career orientation. It consists of an intake call, 3 plenary training meetings, plus an individual, flexible online training course with selfstudy modules and exercises, online mastermind intervision and a personal coaching session, complemented with a closed online platform for peer suppport and e-coaching. 

For whom?

This training is suitable for academics of all levels. Groups are 8 to 15 persons, language is Dutch or English.

The training is for you if you recognize yourself here:

  • You put al your time and energy in your work and you are continuously (too) busy. Or you feel guilty when you are not working for a moment.
  • You don’t get to your most important tasks or you sacrifice your private life to your research.
  • You used to be enthusiastic about your research project and your job, but your joy is fading.
  • You are open minded, curious, and prepared to experiment. You are willing to invest ca. 3 hours a week to learn new ways of working that you can apply directly in your day to day academic work and that immediately regain time and energy.

I took this course because I wanted to regain my focus. I was often drifting around until a deadline came up and I suddenly managed to be very productive under pressure. I was doing a lot of things at the same time and had a continuous feeling that I did not finish anything.

What is Working Soft? The opposite of working hard!

Working Soft is a method designed by dr. ir. Ellen de Lange-Ros.

Working soft is:

  • working from a basis of relaxation
  • with full energy, attention and engagement
  • without stress, slogging away or exhaustion
  • precisely because of that perform optimally and at high levels
  • proceeding from the present that is here and now
  • becoming aware of avoidance behaviour and selfsabotage
  • connecting deeply to what drives you in your work
postdocs stepping into leadership with working soft
connecting to your drives

You learn to work softer step by step in concrete lessons and exercises on such topics as: making time, getting insight in your energy givers and energy leaks, working on the basis of your energy level, selfsabotage and debunking behavioural patterns that are blocking you, effective dreaming and taking steps to realize your dreams, and switching perspective between scarcity and abundance.

  • Results you can expect from Working Soft for Scientists include getting a grip on your time and energy during your working day and week.
  • Furthermore the training focusses on demasking “zombie behaviour”. You become aware of your avoidance strategies and selfsabotage, e.g. through social media, unhealthy habits, and procrastination.
  • By engaging with underlying emotions, these emotions no longer need to be avoided, repressed or drugged. Step by step you move away from a “zombie mode” of working hard towards working smarter, softer, and with inspiration.

I often came home exhausted after work. I slept badly. At work I often felt guilty about tasks that did not pan out or that I procrastinated. Since the training, I have more energy left at the end of a working day. I no longer keep working until I am exhausted. And I feel a lot less guilty.

Results already achieved

The Working Soft method has already yielded concrete results at universities and in research institutes:

  • in personal coaching trajectories of talented postdocs concerning leadership development (Radboud UMC Nijmegen) and university lecturers (UD’s) that struggle with burnout (Erasmus University Rotterdam). 
  • in a group training program for PhD candidates at Free University Amsterdam (with funding from SoFoKles institute). 2 PhD candidates who considered dropping out were kept aboard their PhD programs and other participants indicate that the training course  greatly helped them be more effective and balanced.
  • in a team of 30 staff members at Twente University Enschede a Working Soft teamcoaching program has helped 1 employee who dropped out with burnout back at work fulltime and 3 others on the brink of burning out back to working energetically and with engagement. The team was a mixture of scientific and supporting personnel.

The Working Soft method helps to start and continue conversations about the issues of working pressure.

Participants describe in their evaluations how the course reduced their feelings of panic and doubt if they would be able to complete their work. They experience restoration of control, confidence, focus, and effectiveness. Their work-life balance improves because they re-evaluated the importance of different elements in their lives. They conclude that where they felt stuck before, they now experience new openings and movement. They have a clear view of the direction they want to develop in and concrete tools to deal with situations that they encounter on their way. Also they have become aware of personal differences in needs, wishes and capacities that allow them to perform optimally without bustling and stressing. 

What does the training Working Soft for Scientists entail?

The course consists of various elements and takes 3 months to complete.

Aside from face to face meetings at a central location there is an online environment with closed forum, webinar lessons and workbooks.

30 minute intake call, individually, by phone or videochat. You establish your own training goals together with your coach.

Kickstart workshop 3 hours at a central location. As a group you get to know each other and your coach. The Working Soft method is introduced with the Working Soft Game. In preparation of this workshop you will be asked to complete the Working Soft Online Monitor.

Self study program  consisting of 11 modules with theory and practical tips, plus workbooks with exercises. You do this program individually at locations and moments that best suit your personal situation. During the course every week new materials will become available via email, so you don’t get overwhelmed with all materials at once.

Closed online forum where you can exchange your experiences with your fellow participants, ask questions related to the self-study program and your specific situation. You can share your successes here as well as receive feedback and e-coaching. Your coach will be active on the forum daily during the course. 

2 mastermind sessions where you engage with a small subgroup of max. 5 fellow participants according to a fixed discussion format to support eachother to put in practice what you have learned. The discussion format will be explained at the kickstart workshop. During the course you participate in 2 mastermind sessions. Experience shows that many participants want to continue the mastermind sessions after the course.

Personal coaching session. In the second half of the self-study program people often need personal coaching to sort through a particular question or tackle an exceptionally difficult issue. Right at the start of the training course we will therefore plan a personal, 1 hour coaching session for you. This session can be live at a location of the coach in Utrecht or face-to-face online via videochat. 

Advanced workshop 3 hours at a central location. We monitor our results so far and continue with an extraordinary orientation on our careers on the basis of our energy, talents and dreams.

Final meeting in 1.5 hours at a central location where we evaluate and anchor the results from the training course and where we set the tone for working softer to perform with relaxed abundance in the future.

I particularly appreciate the combination of online learning, working, group meetings and mastermind sessions with peers. I talked with a lot of colleagues about the course.

dr. Claartje van Sijl

Trainer & coach dr. Claartje van Sijl

Claartje has been training and coaching academics with questions around balance, leadership, meaning and confidence for over 10 years. She holds a PhD in philosophy.

Intelligent, capable researchers, supervisors and supporting staff know where to find her when they get stuck in pressure to persform, uncertainty about their working futures, or the competitive and hypercritical culture in many academic environments. They appreciate how her open, warm attitude creates a safe space for self reflection and personal growth.

The most important results her clients indicate as results of her guidance are: courage, confidence and clarity. They experience harmony as they have reconnected their hearts with their mind. Lastly they have learned tools to craft a sustainable direction for their careers.

Claartje is philosophical counselor and licensed Working Soft coach. Her clients include employees from KNAW, VU, EUR,  TUDelft, UU and RUMC.

Planning & course schedule

23-27 Septemberintake callsphone / video chat
4 October 10:00 – 13:00kickstart workshopcentral location (Utrecht)
4 October — 20 Decemberself-study programyour own time and place
25 October 10:00-11:30 / 11:30-13:00mastermind session 1online
15 Novemberadvanced workshopcentral location (Utrecht)
29 November 10:00-11:30 / 11:30-13:00mastermind session 2online
9-12 Decemberpersonal coaching sessionscentral location (Utrecht) or online
13 Decemberfinal meetingcentral location (Utrecht)


Your time investment for this course is about 3 hours per week during 3 months. A lot of this you will regain immediately as you start to be more effective in your work from the first week onward.

Financially, your investment for this 3 months training course is €947,-. This includes VAT taxes (BTW), a course book and workbook for the self-study program, 3 live workshops, 60 minutes live personal coaching, 2 mastermind sessions and 3 months of unlimited e-coaching and guidance in a small group of max. 15 participants. 


You can apply for this training course via email to [email protected] with the subject “Working Soft for Scientists”. Enrollment is open until 15 September 2019 or until the maximum number of participants is reached. The course can start with a minimum of 8 participants.

Early Bird Bonus: if you cannot wait for the course to start, make sure you enrol before August 1 and you will receive a free book on Time Surfing to enjoy and prepare for the course.

If you doubt whether this course is for you, you are welcome to a free Right Question Session. This is a 30 minute phone call with Claartje, no strings attached, in which we discuss your situation. You get my advice whether Working Soft for Scientists is the right course for you. I’ll be absolutely honest about this, because for the course to work well participants need to be a good fit to be able to engage deeply with the course themes. You can request this call via email at [email protected] with the subject “Right question session”. Please also indicate in your email what would be suitable times for you to have this call.

I had just had a difficult time and I wanted to have better grasp of what was going on. Recovering from working too hard is a long process, but meanwhile I enjoy working again. This course gave me practical tools to do this. A few examples of the practical habits I learned include single tasking, planning maker’s time for deep, innovative, and creative work, and minimising distractions from email and phone.