According to an article from US News.com titled “Sitting Disease: The Slow, Silent and Sedentary Killer of the American Workforce”, about 86% of Americans work a desk job. In fact, the average American sits for 13 hours a day.
Personally, this level of inactivity during the day takes a harsh toll on my motivation, energy level, and overall creativity. I’ll admit, I've had weeks, even months in which I was having trouble staying energized, and began to slowly lose interest in my work. If I couldn’t change the way I worked (not having a standing desk), I knew I had to make lifestyle adjustments outside of work.
While each person is biologically different, here are some lifestyle changes that I noticed definitely increased my work productivity and quality (this list WON’T shock you).
I apologize for the ultra obvious response to start this list off, but it cannot be understated just how important exercise is to add to your weekly schedule. Not only does exercise increase physical health, more importantly, it boosts mental health.
Remember that day that you said you were going to go for a jog around the neighborhood, but instead laid in bed watching The Goonies with sleeve of Oreos? Well I do. If you fall into this habit, you may be stuck in a loop of constantly feeling guilty about not moving around nearly enough. When you bite the bullet and just do it, the feeling you get immediately afterwards (no, not the painful heavy breathing feels) is one filled with a sense of accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment can carry throughout the day, giving you a solid mood boost.
How does this help at the desk?
- Exercising gives you more energy at the desk for a couple reasons. According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercise is known to reduce obesity, reduce symptoms of depression, and help you sleep better at night. These three things are major contributors to sleepiness and fatigue throughout the day. If you can lessen these contributors to sleepiness, you’ll find yourself to be more awake and motivated.
- Join a gym and try to go at least three times per week for an hour.
- Go for a walk during the work day. Many of my colleagues do this. In fact, Scott encourages us in the office to take a break and go on a walk during the day.
- Try not to sit for more than an hour straight. Stretch, fill up your water bottle, or do a lap around the office to stay energized and combat inactivity!
Geez Andrew! What is this? I thought you were going to give me some super top-secret information! It seems like you just want me to be healthy.
Well the truth is, the healthier we are physically, the more energized we will be mentally. The point here is that I noticed a significant decrease in productivity and energy levels when I was eating junk food, drinking sodas, and consuming alcohol in the evenings. I would feel bloated, tired, and moody throughout the day at work if I had eaten especially poorly in the previous 24 hours. This is primarily due to processed foods being high in carbohydrates and fat, without offering essential vitamins and minerals that your body craves.
How does this help at the desk?
- The saying “you are what you eat” is not that far from the truth. If you eat like crap, you’ll feel like crap. And when you feel like crap, you are less likely to perform well at work, no matter your position.
Ideas to eat healthier:
- Meal prep: make healthy meals in bulk that will last you around 5 days. This will conserve the time it takes to cook, offering you an option to just grab your meal out of the fridge and head to work!
- Snacking is normal, but keep the snacks healthy. Try grabbing an apple, some carrots with hummus, or a low-sugar protein bar if you get the munchies.
- Limit eating out. Not only will this rescue your wallet, but food chains aren’t exactly known for super healthy food. Be wary of menu items that sound healthy, but are deceptively terrible for you.
Get Better Sleep
“Oh wow! Thanks Captain Obvious!” Look guys, it’s true. I’m a sham and I feel pretty bad that you read this far, but this is truly what worked for me. There are two ways to improve your sleep.
One is to find your sweet spot when it comes to sleeping hours throughout the day. It is recommended that the average adult get 7-9 hours per night, but this number will vary among individuals. If you find that you are awake enough during the day on only 6 hours of sleep, stick to it. Studies have shown that cutting down hours of sleep drastically has a negative impact on cognitive performance and reaction time which many jobs depend upon.
The second way to improve your sleep is to get better quality of sleep. You can achieve this by exercising during the day (hey that’s tip number one), eating healthier foods (*gasp* that’s tip number two), limiting screen time before bed, not drinking caffeine or alcohol before bed, and investing in a more comfortable bed.
When I was in my creative rut, I was only sleeping 6 - 6.5 hours per night, drinking coffee late, playing video games into the early AM’s, and not eating or exercising as well as I could have. This in return had a very negative impact on my alertness and motivation throughout the day.
Today, I found my sweet spot as 7 - 7.5 hours of sleep per night, I exercise in the evening, limit caffeine use after 5pm, distance myself from my phone 30 mins before bed, and have very comfortable and warm bedding that I cherish. Now that my sleep is so good, I do not feel my eyes getting heavy at work and am able to work with a sense of urgency and think about my edits more creatively.
And last but not least...
Nah. I 'm just kidding.
If you find yourself lethargic, underwhelmed and unmotivated, I strongly recommend you try these three tips; they are #lifechanging.