One of my colleagues used to head to the men’s room and brush his teeth every time he felt a surge of writer’s block. He swears it did the trick. Another exits the building and walks around the block to clear his head. I like to take advantage of the mid-day yoga sessions that Forbes offers in the gym on the ninth floor. When I return to my desk, my body is relaxed, my mind is clear, and I attack my work with new energy.
A growing body of research suggests that the longer you keep your rear end in your chair and your eyes glued to your screen, the less productive you may be. Getting up from your desk and moving not only heightens your powers of concentration, it enhances your health.
Many of us feel we shouldn’t waste time chatting with co-workers during the work day. But my colleague Andy Greenburg has written about research showing that talking with colleagues can increase your productivity. Specifically, a team of MIT researchers led by Professor Alexander “Sandy” Pentland discovered that call center workers who took the time to converse with their co-workers, instead of just grinding away, got through calls faster, felt less tension and earned the same approval ratings as their peers who didn’t schmooze at the office.
Finally, there is the increasing evidence for the importance of physically moving around during the day, and how it enhances productivity. My colleague Alison Griswold just wrote about Jack Groppel, a co-founder of a division of Johnson & Johnson called the Human Performance Institute. Groppel, who holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Florida State University, insists that stretching and walking around once every 30 minutes throughout the day stimulates blood flow and leads to a burst of hyper oxygenation in the brain, increasing energy and attentiveness.
After canvassing my colleagues, I offer this list of productive ways to goof off during the day and evening. They will boost your productivity and sense of well being. But beware not to overdo any of them. Take too many breaks and you may enter the realm of procrastination.
- Take a walk around the block.
- Take a nap.
- Chat with a colleague.
- Run an errand
- Brush your teeth.
- Spend ten minutes checking Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.
- Go to the gym
- Go out to lunch
Judging from the habits of my colleagues, lunch out of the office is a dying American habit. But a healthy meal and good conversation can be nourishing on multiple levels.