Imagine an ideal workday: everything goes according to plan and time for creative work is ample and uninterrupted. As dreamy as that sounds, it’s often unrealistic. And though you can’t always control the events of your workday, you can set yourself up to increase productivity at the office. Here’s how:

Tackle important items in the morning. 

While checking email may seem like a logical way to start your day, it’s actually among the worst things you can do. As science and media have long reported, you’re most alert within hours after waking up, so expending precious energy on routine tasks like email is not a strategic move. Instead, work on your most important assignments while your mind is fresh and alert (and your morning coffee is just starting to kick in). With creativity flowing, your productivity will increase.

Take breaks, and make them frequent.

Did you know our brains are not built for eight hours of uninterrupted, high-focus work? In fact, recent Steelcase research published in 360 Magazine says:

“Neuroscientists, however, tell us that focus is a limited resource. Like the rest of our bodies, our brains consume energy, drawing on glucose and oxygen as fuel. Controlled attention, in particular, is very hard work, drawing heavily on the prefrontal cortex. Activities such as analyzing, prioritizing, planning and other types of critical thinking are energy guzzlers. As energy supplies dwindle, brains get tired.”

That’s why a ten-minute break every hour and a half throughout the day is far more valuable than working straight for three hours and feeling burned out for the next one. Step away from your work and take a walk through your building or around the block to allow your mind to reboot. Consider setting a timer or using the Pomodoro Technique to encourage bio breaks and time to refill your water or grab a cup of coffee.

Eat a lunch – for real.

Even if you had breakfast, your brain will have used a lot of that energy by the afternoon time. A midmorning snack in addition to a hearty lunch (i.e.: that salad better contain protein!) is a great way to avoid or at least lessen the effects of that afternoon slump. Set aside at least ten minutes to replenish yourself and eat a balanced meal— and no, a granola bar during your conference call doesn’t count.

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How do you set yourself up for a perfect workday? Talk to me on Twitter @myturnstone or @officestylist.

productivity