You might have been used to sitting down at a desk all day when you worked in an office or co-working space, for instance. Routine breaks, like walking across the building to go to the bathroom or chatting with a friend, were naturally built into your schedule.
Now, in the age of coronavirus, you’re confined to working from your home. It only takes a few steps to reach the bathroom, and then it’s back to sitting, maybe even slouching (a lot of us are guilty of it!) at your desk and staring at the screen.
Your brain and your body know that the short walk to the bathroom and back wasn’t enough to give you the break you need to keep going. And now you’re back in your original posture, staring at a screen and lacking energy.
There’s so much to keep in mind – and to keep practicing – when it comes to having healthy work habits, no matter where you’re working. If sitting at a desk is your de facto position, then you need to evaluate your energy levels. Here are five important steps that explain how to stay focused when you spend all day at a desk.
- Pay attention to your posture
- Keep your area clean
- Research, create, and stick to a schedule
- Stay connected to teammates
- Make time for nature
Step 1: Pay Attention to Your Posture
It’s easy and almost natural to slouch when you’re sitting, and especially when you’re sitting for long periods of time. The impulse to curve your back and lift your feet up off the floor is so easy to give into. But we shouldn’t!
It’s important to maintain a straight back with your feet pressed firmly to the floor. Why? Essentially, you could do long term damage to your shoulders or back if you don’t pay attention to your posture.
Maintaining good posture is important for your body and for your focus. When you allow yourself to slouch, your brain thinks it’s time to relax. By keeping your body alert, you’re sending a message to your brain that it needs to be alert, too.
Make sure you invest in a great office chair – you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it! Oh, and don’t give in to the temptation to work from the couch, and never ever work from bed.
The one exception is if you’re extremely sick and you have projects that you absolutely have to finish, but even then, you should communicate with your teammates or clients and let them know that your body needs to recover so that you can bring your best self to work on these projects later.
In addition to investing in a great office chair, it’s a smart idea to purchase either a standing desk or a riser, too. Standing desks are scientifically proven to improve posture, health, and to boost mood levels. Sitting too long is bad for your health, so a standing desk is a must-have for people who spend the majority of their time sitting.
However, they can be expensive, which is why it’s a great idea to choose a riser instead. A riser lifts your laptop or monitor a foot or two (they are adjustable) above your desk, so that you can simply stand while using the riser on your current desk. Risers are a fantastic alternative to standing desks, and both will help your health!
Here’s the key takeaway: To stay focused, make sure you use good posture and consider a standing desk or riser, which help you sit less and improve for your health!
Step 2: Keep Your Area Clean
It’s important to remove any clutter from your work space area. You might have household bills lying around on your work desk, and while it seems harmless enough, it can actually be distracting. When the temptation to pick up and deal with some non-work-related task is right there in your field of vision, you’re more likely to give in to it and lose productivity.
Another reason to keep your work area clean is that it decreases your overall levels of stress. Clutter nags at our brains, begging to be looked at, organized, and placed in the proper location. Before you begin working, remove any clutter from your area, and decrease your stress.
Step 3: Stick to a Schedule
There are tons of productivity books on the market right now, and there have been for several decades. That’s because productivity hacking is real and important topic that people, especially people who work from home or primarily design their own schedules, need to understand.
To start with, think about these two factors: your natural energy levels, and the type of work you do. If your job requires you to communicate consistently with people out the day, you might want to find a way to schedule your most important tasks at a time when you are least likely to be required to communicate with others. If you are naturally most energetic in the mornings, see if you can schedule that most important work early in the morning.
Once you’ve thought about the nature of your work and your own energy levels, you need to design a schedule. What matters most about the tool you use – whether it be a paper planner, a Word Doc, Google Calendar, or another option – is that you are going to consistently use it.
Don’t choose a tool that’s too complicated for you to easily use. You need to develop good productivity and scheduling habits, and in order to do that, you want the least amount of friction possible. Choose a calendar that you can easily access and that you’ll continue to use, and make sure you follow it!
Step 4: Stay Connected to Your Teammates
It’s difficult to sit alone, hour after hour, day after day, staring at a screen. When that’s your entire work environment, it’s easy to seek connection on social media, which gives you a false sense of connection and then takes up your time. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap!
Instead, make a conscious effort to stay connected to your coworkers. Reach out to them – preferably through a video call or phone call, but messaging works well, too – and talk to them about both work-related and non-work-related topics. Discuss what you would discuss if you were at the office. Once you’ve taken a short break to do this, you’ll feel more energized and ready to work.
Step 5: Make Time for Nature
It’s extremely important that, when you’re scheduling your day on your calendar, you include time for nature breaks. Spending time in nature boosts vitamin D and serotonin levels, which are critical to your health and happiness.
The mental break that you enjoy when you spend time in nature is important for both your brain and your body, and it will leave you refreshed and ready to go back to work.
What you do when you’re outside is up to you, but most doctors recommend some form of exercise; even sitting outside for 10 minutes and going for a short 5-minute walk will help your brain reset.
Walking, running, jogging, hiking – the choice is up to you, but the results are the same: you’ll feel more energized when you come back to your work!
When you pay attention to your posture, keep your area clean, follow a schedule for your day, stay connected to your teammates, and make time for nature, you’re setting yourself up for success. Spending your entire work day at a desk can drain your energy, so make sure you keep these tips in mind (and put them into practice) to feel more energized and to be more successful with your work!