Guest Article by: Jay Acker
The problem with most work days is that 8 hours of work doesn't always produce 8 hours of results. As the hours of uninterrupted work go on, productivity slowly begins to dwindle and we end up accomplishing much less than we could have.
Science shows us that our brains function in waves of alertness that cycle between high (beta) and low (alpha) in 90-minute intervals. At our lowest point, we experience those familiar symptoms of reduced focus: grogginess or restlessness, hunger even though we may have eaten recently, the urge to take a nap. At that point, any work we do is just going to end up being performed at a fraction of our potential.
So do yourself a favor and take small chunks of time throughout the day to reset your mind. You'll thank yourself for it, and so will your boss. To help you along, here are some ideas:
- Get out of the house! Studies have shown that the attention we give to nature is involuntary – it just happens. Letting our minds divide attention this way allows all that tension we feel from pushing forced attention on our work all day to relax. Get some fresh air. Walk in the park and listen to the birds. Just try to make sure it's as close to nature as you can get; cityscapes, bustling and hyperactive as they are, may just make your brain work harder.
- Power naps. We absorb and retain information at a decelerated rate the longer we spend awake, it's true. A 20-minute power nap in the middle of the day gives your body and mind an opportunity to shut down for a moment and reset the batteries. In fact, people who take power naps have shown memory test scores 20% higher than those who don't.
- Snacking. Proper nutrition goes beyond nurturing your body. The connection between body health and mind health is strong, and a few healthy snacks during the day will keep the energy flowing. Work on making your snacks of the fruit/vegetable and whole grain varieties; large, heavy portions high in sugar or fats will only bog you down.
- Quiet meditation. Meditation is an effective way of shredding the pressure of stress and allowing our minds the opportunity to focus on a small, soothing center. Go to a quiet place, preferably where there is a lot of natural light, and give yourself a few minutes of breathing exercises and mediation.
- Take your brain away from the work. Your mind struggles less when it's focusing on things that bring you joy. We all know that joy = endorphins, and endorphins make us feel better. So jolt your system with a shot of joy from time to time throughout your work day. Maybe try to:
- Read a book or flip through a magazine
- Call and chat with a friend
- Play with your dog or cat
- Take a hot shower
- Doodle in a sketch pad
- Connect with others. If you're working at home, chances are you're the only one around during your shift. Maybe your spouse works away from home, your kids are at school, you don't have any pets. You can end up feeling disconnected after a while, and that can become tiresome. If you can, flip on the television or turn on the radio while you work so you can listen to people's voices. Call a family member and check in. Pick up a beverage from the corner store and chat with the shopkeeper.
- Take advantage of the internet. The internet is a veritable universe of entertainment resources, many of which may be just what you need to give your brain a light-hearted break. In fact, research showed that employees who took a few minutes to look at silly cat and puppy pictures on the internet during their work day had higher levels of productivity than those that didn't. Give these sites a shot:
- StumbleUpon – Input your main interests from dozens of option, and click the StumbleUpon button. Over and over again you'll be taken from one site to another with random, unexpected content. One site will take you through an interactive, panoramic view of a Japanese tea garden, and the next will show you a video of how to fold a shirt under 3 seconds.
- Lifehacker – This site is stuffed to the brim with unusual and innovative ways to get stuff done. It's a perfect site to browse when you have a few minutes and gather ideas on interesting things you can do when your work day is over.
- LOLCats – The classic, original home of cute and goofy cat pictures. Pages and endless pages of cats doing everything from the mundane to the extremely bizarre and accompanied by humorous captions.
Jay Acker blogs regularly and leads a team of producers at Safety Services Company. If these seven methods don't keep your mind sharp, SSC can provide you with personal protective equipment to keep you safe.