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How to Set up Your Desk to Increase Productivity at Work

How to Set up Your Desk to Increase Productivity at Work

No matter how you want to approach the math, adults spend nearly 40% of their day at work according to a recent American Time Use Survey. While many of you have “hands on” jobs requiring physical labor, the majority spend our day plopped, posted, and perched at a desk staring at numbers or figures on a computer screen. So why is it that, even given the knowledge of our time commitment, that many people still overlook the significance of your desk?

Here’s some essential tips, tricks, and tidbits on how to effectively utilize your desk space to maximize productivity, output, and, most importantly, your happiness while at work.

Surround yourself with things that make you happy

Some argue that a clean desk results in an unobstructed mind. While that may be true for some, a lot of people find liberation in the freedom to decorate their own desks according to their tastes. Decorating your desk with personal items is a great reminder that, although you more or less have to spend 8 hours a day here, you still have a life away from your desk.Good reminders of this are pictures of loved ones, art you enjoy, an inspirational slogan or saying on a sticky note, a fake plant, and other trinkets and small objects that will arouse creativity.

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But be aware: there’s always a fine line with decor, and this is no different.

Enjoy window peeping

If possible, request a desk near the window. While some may find this distracting, putting yourself in a position to observe and consume natural light has many health benefits. It’s nice to be able to rest your eyes from growing droopy and tired staring at a computer screen all day. Looking out the window helps you avoid the eye strain caused from a lack of blinking when you’re zoning out on your work.

Listen to some groovy tracks

A workplace can be a hectic and noisy mess, especially if you only have a desk opposed to your own office. Even though sometimes people feel rude for doing this, putting on headphones to drown out the chaos can increase productivity and creativity by narrowing your focus of attention. Plus, even if you feel you aren’t artistic, music is a subtle but powerful way to express yourself artistically. It can evoke your deepest desires, inviting you to imagine yourself completing the task at hand, succeeding, and being rewarded appropriately for it. For these reasons, music availability at your desk is a must.

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Stand up

With all the research and discovery on the subject, we know that sitting all day will kill you faster. Thankfully, many companies are now rewarding employees who are conscious about their health decisions. Those inquiring about extracurricular options like gym memberships, organizing a company 5k fun run, or putting together a company softball rec team are usually given a smile and the “go ahead.”

Standing desks are now thrown into this request pool. Though they are fairly expensive for the company, having the option to stand as easily as you have one to sit will add years to your life.

Give yourself a break

This one may seem like the most obvious of the bunch, and the least about actual desk organization, but it’s probably the most essential. One of the best ways to increase productivity is to leave your desk frequently during the day. Don’t go printing this article out and waiving it in your bosses face as a valid excuse to take 168 photocopies of your rear end, but this is important.

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I find that drinking an obscene amount of water is not only healthy, but also encourages me to stand up and walk around not only to refill my canteen, but also to relieve my small child sized bladder. Again, this is no valid reason to slack off at work intentionally, but getting away and walking around for 5 minutes can be the mental refresher to get you over any mental slump.

If you notice that some of these are useless, or not as impactful on your workspace, experiment a bit. Even if your current setup is working for you brilliantly, be aware of the value in rearranging every so often.

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    Featured photo credit: How To Set Up Your Desk For Your Best Day At Work via huffingtonpost.com

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

    The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

    Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

    In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

    When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

    Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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    1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

    When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

    As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

    That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

    The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

    What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

    Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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    There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

    So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

    2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

    When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

    No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

    3. Move Your Body

    A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

    It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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    So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

    4. Connect With Another Person

    Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

    One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

    Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

    5. Use Your Imagination

    When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

    That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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    And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

    Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

    Final Thoughts

    Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

    Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

    More on the Importance of Taking a Break

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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