We are becoming more and more aware of how detrimental long working hours can be to leading a healthy lifestyle. Concepts like the four hour work week, popularised by Tim Ferris, can inspire us to achieve our full potential. As humans, in reality, for many people working weeks last for forty hours, not four.
When the job that you do requires you to be deskbound for many hours of the day, you need practical advice and tips that you can actually put into action.
The first thing to do is to address those behaviors and habits that are causing you more damage than good. Whether it’s excessive snacking, back, neck or shoulder pain from sitting for too long with poor posture, or even low-level anxiety that stays with you during your downtime, these are all things that you have the power to change.
Snack smart and keep hydrated
In the workplace, snacking is rife. Sugary goodies may momentarily satisfy your cravings and give you an instant energy boost, especially at 3 pm, but they really are doing more harm than good.
Snacking during the working day can help keep your brain and body in an energized and productive state, but it’s really important to snack on the right things to keep your blood sugar level as steady as possible.
Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day as well. If you can’t live without coffee then limit yourself to just one cup in the morning.
During the rest of the day switch to herbal tea, or green tea if you need to be a bit more alert. Invest in a decent water bottle and keep it filled at your desk – plain old water can help resist the urge to snack.
Get some exercise
When you’ve got deadlines to meet one of the first things to go out the window is movement. It may seem counterintuitive, but actually giving your brain and body movement breaks throughout the day will help you be more productive.
Find ways to get up and be active at regular intervals during the day. Walk or cycle to or from work, head out for a walk or visit the gym during long lunch breaks, take the stairs instead of the elevator – there are plenty of things that you can do.
If getting up from your desk isn’t an option, then do some gentle mobilization and stretching in your chair with yoga. As an example, this five-minute sequence was originally created for professional poker players, but it’s actually great for anyone who’s stuck working at a desk all day.
Actually take your lunch breaks
No matter how demanding your job is, you need to give yourself a lunch break away from your desk and preferably away from the office. Whether you’ve got thirty minutes or a whole, luxurious hour, your lunch break is exactly that – a break.
This is a time in the middle of the working day for you, so you should aim to spend most, if not all of it, eating a healthy lunch in a calm environment.
If you can, prepare your lunch in advance. That way, not only will you be able to control exactly what you are going to eat, a meal prepared at home will be much more nutritious than a sandwich or shop-bought lunch. You can find plenty of recipe ideas online for easy to make but nutritionally dense lunches.
Give yourself a change of environment for those minutes by leaving your desk and heading outside. If you work near a park or city square then head there. If you’ve no option but to stay in your office building find a different space to eat your lunch in.
Clean your desk
Working at a messy desk will never lead to true productivity, no matter how much you convince yourself otherwise. If there’s barely any space on your desk for your mouse and keyboard, or your screen is surrounded by a million post-it notes, you’re only making your job so much harder for yourself. Having a clean and tidy work area is both inviting and actually facilitates you in doing your job.
If you’ve let things build up then a spring clean will be in order (yes, even in the middle of winter); be ruthless and ask yourself if you really need the junk you’ve allowed to pile up.
Then, make it a practice to declutter your desk every day before you leave work – that way things will be nice and neat for the next morning.