Most people spend more waking hours at work than they do with their friends and family. It’s an unfortunate reality in which most of us live. Because we’re stuck at work so much, it can be hard to find ways to make every day productive and enjoyable.
Being riddled with deadlines, dealing with co-workers and battling through work-related stress can be difficult to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to feel better at work. Here are some straightforward tips to help you make the most of your time at work so you can make the most of your time at home, too. As a therapist, I have coached my clients on these strategies and seen great results.
Structure, Structure, Structure
The words “routine” or “structure” might convey a restrictive or boring experience, but daily structure can actually be your biggest helper when trying to make the most of your work day. Setting up a daily routine not only allows you to have consistency that is important to working efficiently, it also allows you to strategically carve out flexible time you can use to take breaks or do other fun activities in your life.
To craft your daily routine at work, start with the first and last hours of your workday. For freelancers, setting those hours is going to be a challenge. For others with more traditional schedules, you likely already have a rough idea how your day should break down. Try starting with a morning routine that could include anything from calendar review to creating a daily to-do list.
Ask Others to Hold You Accountable or Use a Timer App
One of the greatest assets we can use to get the most out of our work day is other people. Co-workers who are on-site can serve as reminders to keep you accountable for this new schedule. They can walk to your cubicle or office at designated times to ensure you take your designated breaks. They could even be your break buddy!
If you work from home, you can connect with friends or co-workers who can check in with you via email, text or an instant messenger app.
If you don’t want to have another person hold you accountable, you can make use of some great technology. Set alarms, create blocks on your calendar with alerts or use a timer website such as Tomato Timer to help remind you when it’s time to take a break and switch to your next task.
Take Frequent Breaks
For most of us, we get really bogged down with work, especially in the middle of the day and mid-afternoon times. Working straight through for several hours may work for you when you’re in a pinch, but for most days you need regular breaks.
There is research that shows taking a break allows you to better focus your attention and improve memory performance. So take frequent breaks, particularly if you have trouble focusing for long periods of time.
Alternatively you can make the most of your bathroom breaks by walking a lap around your building or spending five minutes checking in with another co-worker.
Don’t Forget to Eat!
If you are someone who gets engulfed in your work, it can be easy to fall into the trap of working through lunch and neglecting your most basic physiological needs. This includes eating a well-balanced meal.
Taking some time to eat and enjoy your lunch is an important part of any work day. Not only do you give your brain a much-needed break, you also nourish your mind and body. This will give you the energy and ability to focus and concentrate for the rest of the afternoon.
For an extra boost in productivity, you can try out some recommended superfoods to keep your brain as fresh as your diet.
Separate Work from the Rest of Your Life
If I could make only one recommendation to workers — especially freelancers or those with flexible schedules — it would be to create space between your personal and professional Iives. This means sticking to scheduled work times on most days, and shutting down when it’s quitting time.
For those with traditional workplaces, use the commute home to disconnect. Listen to some fun tunes, loosen the top button on your shirt and enjoy the moment. If you take public transportation, you can listen to music with headphones or read on your way home.
For those of you who work from home offices, set aside designated work areas or utilize co-working spaces that might be available in your area. That way you can switch up your location depending on the needs of the day and your personal preferences. The point is to create some space between your work and personal lives so there is the emotional space to maximize both.
I hope with these tips you can start to look at your work day in a different light. By taking some time to create structure and allowing yourself the freedom to be professional and pay attention to your basic needs, I think you’ll find greater balance and peace every day.