I’m sure most of us have experienced something like this, in the run up to holidays ~ Work demands stack up to accommodate time away, with the need to get more done in less time.
How can we make the most of each working day with added pressures? Is maximising productivity a hopeless task before a holiday?
There are generally times each day when ability to focus and finish a task becomes frustratingly elusive. Whether it’s hitting a block or serious slump, such as the '3pm dip' - when even trying to stay awake at your desk seems impossible!? (yes, a short power nap might well be what you need!)
How about those moments where you stare at words on your screen… but concentration has drifted? Thoughts of more coffee or chocolate soon follow.
The urge to stay in your seat - push through no matter what, in the hope you’ll complete tasks or reach another state of flow, are as compulsive as the coffee.
But this can result in compromised decisions, lower quality of work, mistakes made or deadlines missed. And when that compulsion to stay put leaves us glued to our seats - it can even be harmful to our physical and mental health.
It’s perfectly normal to feel distracted, or stuck, or headed for a slump ~ It’s what you do with that awareness that makes all the difference.
Could these moments provide a greater opportunity to boost productivity? Can taking breaks improve wellbeing and help you leave the office on time?
In short - yes.
For this to become a helpful new habit you’ll need to persevere with it. Like learning to use your left hand more often, when your right hand has dominated for most of your life (or vice versa). Like any awareness technique it takes time.
In my company’s Active Workshops I say to people – ‘as soon as you reach that point where you feel productivity is being compromised - writers block or just a sense of wanting to get something finished rather than maintaining quality and care – as soon as you notice that point, turn it into an opportunity to move.’
Step away from your screen
Cognitive capacity can decline throughout the day but if you build in regular breaks - ideally walking away from your screen, moving, stretching or getting fresh air with a stroll outside - you provide mind and body with what they want: change of posture - more movement - improved blood flow - more oxygen - cognitive breaks -
Those 'stuck at your desk' moments can become activity triggers
Take a walk around the office, include climbing some stairs for extra exercise, or perform a couple of stretches whilst looking out of the window or enjoying some social time. All these activities can lead to greater wellbeing and productivity.
It’s a natural behaviour and it can become a virtuous cycle. You do more of what’s good for your health and wellness. Physically, mentally and emotionally.
You’re able to achieve more satisfying results
A recent study of workplace efficiency found that the most productive employees did not spend greater hours working than others. They were in fact the ones who took regular, significant breaks. The most productive employees worked for less than an hour at a time before taking a break of around quarter of an hour.
You can break this down a little further – aiming for a similar ratio, but with slightly more frequent breaks such as the 20~8~2 routine.
Further rewards await when you discover the wider variety of wellbeing movements available to you within your working environment, including those refined from mind body practices. These can help with other needs and issues. For instance – there are movements that help regulate stress and reduce anxiety, improve posture and relieve tiredness and pain. They can also enhance clarity, focus and relaxation.
By prioritising regular movement each day you’ll gain more than just better health. You might even get to start holidays full of energy and satisfaction!
Justin Eade began practicing movement for wellbeing to manage workplace related musculoskeletal issues in 1993. He now runs Active Workshops for employees wishing to incorporate healthy movement into their day and provides expertise and advice to companies who support healthier workplaces and enhanced employee wellbeing.