It’s 3 p.m. on a Thursday and you’re hitting an afternoon slump at work. What do you do?
Anyone who’s ever worked at a desk can probably relate to this feeling — and even more so if you’re a recent grad new to the job scene and getting used to a completely different schedule and lifestyle. Going from attending classes for a few hours a day to spend basically all of your time in the same office at the same desk can be a shock to the system for sure.
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Fortunately, there are tons of ideas and hacks out there to help keep your brain active and engaged throughout the day. Just try asking around your office — we bet your closest colleagues all have different strategies for staying productive. While the early birds might tout the benefits of getting in a pre-work 5k run, others get their best ideas in the evening hours, long after most have gone home.
The same goes for the routines and strategies of successful professionals, artists, and innovators throughout history. From Einstein to Frida Kahlo to Arianna Huffington; their work environment was or is as unique as their mark in the world.
1) Stand up
One way to completely alter your desk experience is to use a standing desk. According to some studies, using a standing desk can increase productivity by 10 percent. Having the option to stand up and move around during your day can benefit you in more ways than one.
Our bodies are not meant to live such a sedentary lifestyle. This is why sitting at our desks for hours on end can make us groggy and sometimes even achy. If that sounds something like your work experience, then maybe think about following Ernest Hemingway’s example. He preferred to work standing up, with his typewriter on top of the bookshelf in his bedroom.
2) Take a break
While it may seem counterintuitive, spending too long focusing on a task can actually detract from your productivity. Whenever possible, try blocking out chunks of dedicated time for projects, and allow for breaks in between. Elon Musk, for example, reportedly breaks up his day into 5-minute blocks of work. While that might seem a little extreme, he has said his secret to success is his disciplined schedule!
As for a reasonable idea, try the Pomodoro Technique, in which you divide your day into dedicated intervals of 25 minutes of work with five-minute breaks in between. And don’t skip the break! Taking a little time to not think about work will actually make the time you are working much more productive and focused. Get up from your desk, walk around the office (or around the block, if you have more time!), and give yourself a mental break.
3) Slow down
Speaking of taking a break every now and then, power naps and meditation are also great ways to boost your productivity at work. In fact, Arianna Huffington encourages napping on the job, and for good reason: according to a 2008 study, a power nap is more effective than caffeine for productivity!
Another study found employees who practiced alternative stress-reducing techniques, such as meditation, saw a 69-minute-a-day gain in productivity.
4) Don’t be too organized
If you feel like your messy desk has gotten to the point of no return, it might make you feel better to know that Albert Einstein was actually an advocate of messy desks. While we are not saying your desk space should be so disorganized that you lose important documents, everyone works better in different environments.
The lesson to learn from Einstein is to avoid focusing so much on keeping a tidy space that you stifle your brain’s creativity when you are in the middle of solving problems. If a messy desk works for you, own it!
5) Take advantage of open spaces
Offices with open floor plans, designed to foster creativity and camaraderie, have gained a lot of traction lately, popping up in well-known companies like Zappos and Facebook. And even many CEOs are making sure they’re part of the action; Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has the same desk setup as everyone else in his office instead of being secluded in an office. If your office has open spaces available to work in, take advantage of them! Simply changing your environment can often boost creativity and inspire new ideas. Even better, grab a group of coworkers for a brainstorming session, and revel in the energy; one study found that productive employees in a dense area tend to rub off on each other.
If your office has open spaces available to work in, take advantage of them! Simply changing your environment can often boost creativity and inspire new ideas. Even better, grab a group of coworkers for a brainstorming session, and revel in the energy; one study found that productive employees in a dense area tend to rub off on each other.
6.) Get “enlightened”
As refreshing as the fluorescent office lights are, exposure to natural light has been linked to happier employees, higher productivity, and boosted energy. If possible, spend part of your day working by a window. If not, make sure to spend your lunch break outside to get a healthy dose of natural light. Also, transform your desk into your happy space!
Frida Kahlo, as an example, decorated her art studio with books, Mexican Loteria cards, and newspaper clippings. Add whatever makes you happy, whether that’s mementos from your favorite vacation, pictures of cute puppies, or a unique coffee mug that makes you smile. Make your desk an inspirational place and you will not mind spending your time there at all.
7.) Meet Less, Work More
According to the Harvard Business Review, 15 percent of an organization’s collective time is spent in meetings. Reducing your meetings, or at least making the ones you have more productive, can improve your company’s output and efficiency. Oprah Winfrey, known for her success, lives far away from the office and only goes into work a few days a month and only scheduled meetings when absolutely necessary.
While this extreme is not necessarily realistic for most of us, it does demonstrate the lesson that spending a lot of time in meetings is not the key to success, rather being productive with the time you spend in meetings is.
More of a visual learner? Check out the infographic below to learn how about the desk styles and routines of the rich and genius, courtesy of National Pen.
Before reading these tips, you might have felt like your desk was just a place to send emails and get work done, but when you think about it, many people spend the majority of their lives there! So, don’t you want it to be an enjoyable space to spend all that time? Keeping this in mind, making your desk a place that makes you feel productive and creative may not be too bad of an idea after all. Creating an inspiring work environment for yourself can also lead to performing your best work.