Eight Ways Goofing Off Can Make You More Productive

Fresh air combined with a change of scene can boost productivity.

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.

John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management has described how concentrating on one task is like using one muscle for an extended period. The mind needs a break, to rest and recover before it can exert again. Among other things, Trougakos recommends that workers take serious lunch breaks, to recharge with food and a change of scene.

James A. Levine, a professor at the Mayo Clinic, told the New York Times that we don’t take enough breaks. Sedentary work habits are as dangerous as a sedentary lifestyle at home. Levine likes the idea of your standing or even walking while you’re working, including during meetings. If you feel sleepy during the day, you should be allowed to take a nap, he says.

Levine suggests that you work in concentrated 15-minute periods, divided up by breaks. “The thought process is not designed to be continuous,” he says. He points out that efficient, productive work is much more valuable than long hours of wasted or partially productive time.

Jack Groppel, a co-founder of a division of Johnson & Johnson called the Human Performance Institute, agrees with Levine that workers should regularly get up from their desks and move. 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.

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