How To Be More Productive In Your Workplace (And Everywhere Else)

A guest post by Rebecca Temsen. Originally published on Republished with permission.


There are lots of challenges that you face to be more productive in the modern workplace.
If you’ve been working for some time, you will know what I’m talking about.
And if you’re working by yourself or just want to add productivity in your personal life, you can still relate to this post.
Demanding deadlines, competitive promotion opportunities, and intense workloads all play a part in worker stress.
It can leave you feeling like you barely have time to breathe.

Perhaps you have come to the conclusion that minimising your sleep could be the solution to your deadline battles.
It could be that you have done away with your breaks at work to dedicate more time to your job.
You may be one of the 66% of American workers that skip lunch to meet workplace demands.

These conclusions seem logical.
It seems obvious that if you dedicate more time to something, you will achieve more.
While this may appear to be helpful, these productivity shortcuts are actually productivity obstacle.

So how do we become more productive, handle more work and get more done without breaking ourselves?
Here’s how…

The First Step Is To Actually Take Breaks


Taking breaks at work may seem unnecessary, particularly when you have a pressing deadline.

You might feel like cutting them out of your work day all together will help you get more done.

The truth is that cutting breaks out affects your efficiency, focus and mental attitude.

This might seem counter-intuitive, but a distraction can give your brain a break it needs.

These brief periods of mental relief can offer you a new perspective and fresh determination when you return.

This is in contrast with perpetuating feelings of frustration or anxiety that can ruin your workday.

Work days are long and getting longer.

The average American work day is now up to 9.4 hours! (Based on The Washington Post)

Concentrating on a single set of tasks or repeating a set of activities for that entire amount of time is bound to drive a person to the brink of insanity without something to break the day up.


Having a demanding career can make it feel like your schedule literally can not handle a break.
It can be a struggle to pencil in bathroom time on some days, let alone an entire chunk of time to unwind.
Despite what you may think, taking frequent breaks might not be as impossible as it seems.

Breaks don’t have to be as long as you may be used to thinking of them.
They can be anywhere from a few minutes to even just a few seconds.
This makes it easy to fit a brief breather into even the most hectic schedule.


Microbreaks are a good alternative to full breaks if you packed your day to full capacity.
They can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes long.
Even incorporating just one of these small breaks into your busy day can improve your mental acuity by up to 13%.
It can be easy to defend break times for labour workers, but office workers also suffer greatly from a lack of breaks.
Even just a 15-second break from staring into the abyss of your computer screen every 10 minutes can do wonders.
Taking these microbreaks from your endless emails and reports can help to decrease your fatigue.

If a short break is all that you manage, by all means, take what you can get.
While short amounts of time are certainly better than nothing, taking a larger chunk of time to decompress from the day’s stress is the preferable breaking option.
Extend your microbreaks whenever you possibly can.


In the era when being a workaholic is the new norm, breaking for lunch has become a thing of the past.
Drinkable meals and snacking on-the-go have replaced the away-from-the-office, sit-down meals of the past.
Even though this technically gives you more time for work, it turns out that extra time is a bit of a waste.


Two-thirds of the American working population skips their lunch break entirely.
Even if you aren’t part of that majority fraction, chances are pretty high that you eat your meal at your desk.
You’re hoping to get in just a little bit more work.
The long, non-interrupted period you spend at your job can create a monotonous mental state and quickly cripple your creativity.
According to a study referenced by NPR, only one out of every five United States workers steps away from their desk for their mid-day meal.
Research has shown that changing your environment helps to boost creativity and relieve stress, so getting out is important.
A stagnant work environment affects areas of work including problem-solving and time management for task completion.

Going through long, mentally draining days often have you exhausted far before it’s time for you to head home.
Along with the much-needed break from the workplace environment, it is important that you are taking the time to fuel your body properly.
Relying on vending machines and the occasional for sustenance will eventually leave you lethargic and unproductive.


High-pressure work sometimes find a way of making their way home with you.
You leave work and, even though you are home, all you can think about are all the things you left at work.
Partially finished tasks and looming deadlines help to make your time away from the daily grind anything but peaceful.

Stress is a serious contributor to insomnia and career stress is exceptionally common among Americans.
You might be one of the many professionals whose work ethic and dedication to their job make it difficult to relax.
Even when you are away from work.
Transferring career stress into your home life makes it difficult to shut your brain off no matter how tired you are.

Letting go of these workplace anxieties is much easier said than done.
There are a variety of different relaxation and meditation techniques that sleep professionals insist help alleviate the stress and tension that prevents sleep.
And with that, distracting yourself by reading or engaging in a relaxing activity might get your mind off your job long enough for you to drift off to sleep.

Training your brain to think about something other than that project at work or the presentation you have to finish isn’t a simple task.

Do Not Disturb

It takes a sincere effort and a lot of trial and error to find what is right for you.
While you may not always be able to keep your thoughts focused on things other than work, what you can do is make the commitment to minimise the amount of time you are working at home.

There are some times where bringing work home is inevitable, but it should not be a regular part of your day.
Working late into the night on your own time can easily seem like a productive and responsible thing to do to advance your career.
However, a consistent or even frequent lack of sleep will eventually make you a poor worker and your performance will soon start to suffer.
Exhaustion catches up with us all.
As much as you might like to think that you are the exception to the sleeping rule, you aren’t.
It turns out you need sleep if you want to avoid your performance being noticed for all the wrong reasons.



You may be among the many Americans who are deprived of sleep, and not only for work related reasons.
There are a plethora of things and events that might cause you to lose sleep.
The unfortunate truth, however, is that being low on sleep is bad for business no matter what the excuse may be.

There might not be anything that you can do about your sleepless situation, but what you can do is supplement it when you can.
Work instinctively feels like the worst place to grab a nap.
As it turns out, sleeping on the job is a good thing that employers should encourage.

Sure, it might seem strange to schedule a snooze into your work day.
All of our experiences tell us that catching some zzz’s during working hours, even if only ever on breaks, is not a good idea.
Napping is often professionally regarded as being irresponsible.

According to the CDC, 30% of adults get six or fewer hours of sleep on a consistent basis.
If you are one of the people who fall into this category, give yourself some shut-eye in the middle of your work day.
This can be just what the doctor ordered to get you focused and back on track.
A short 40-minute slumber can make you more alert by an average of 34%. (According to the National Sleep Foundation)
When you rest your body properly, your brain can operate more quickly and effectively. Increasing your mental capacity is beneficial no matter what field you are in.
Even if you can only fit 20 minutes of sleep into your afternoon, it can still make a tremendous difference.
In fact, studies have shown that sleeping for 20 minutes in the afternoon can provide you with more rest than sleeping in for 20 minutes after a night of little sleep.

Figuring out a way to nap while you are at work depends quite a bit on the type of work you do and your working environment.
For instance, if you have an office, you could even lie on the floor during one of your breaks.
If you work in a cubicle, finding somewhere to snooze may be a little more difficult due to lack of privacy.
Since simply laying your head down at your desk and snoring away is typically frowned upon, napping becomes quite the challenge if you don’t have your own office.
Places like conference rooms or other spaces that are often vacant might be a good alternative. In a pinch, sleeping in your car provides quite a bit of privacy from your colleagues for a mid-day nap.
The moral of the story is: if you are tired, get a little bit of sleep. Pushing yourself to your limit isn’t doing your career any favours.


Sleeping and eating aren’t the only things that you should be doing during your much-needed workplace breaks.
It turns out that job stress of the average American combined with the often sedentary nature of office workplaces can do physical damage.
Sitting in an office chair answering a phone or looking at a computer screen from between 8-10 hours a day can be harmful to your body.
Staying seated for extended periods of time can be the root of back and joint ailments. Pain from remaining stationary is a common complaint among those who work in an office.
These joint pains can range from annoying to debilitating regarding severity.
Objects like support pillows and footstools can help to alleviate the pressure while you are at your desk.
But the best solution is to move your body whenever you get the chance.

Standing up and for a few seconds during a swift break will help to keep your body from getting stiff.
Even a quick stretch of both arms to the sky can do more good than you might think.
Not only does it redistribute your weight to ease joint pressure. This simple move also drives oxygen into your brain.
A little bit of movement is also helpful when you are feeling lethargic or bored.
The action, no matter how short the duration, helps to tell your body that it is time to wake up and get back to the grind.

If you can manage to duck out of the office for a quick walk on one of your longer breaks, so much the better.
The exercise will help to wake you and relieve minor tension stress.
All this while providing a change of scenery and fresh air.
The physical effects of modern work aren’t just due to the stationary nature of office work.
Typing and gazing at a computer screen are also factors in impact office work has your health.

In a study done by workers who suffer from forearm wrist and hand discomfort, a short break of 5 minutes every hour eliminated their pain.
This means that these short breaks could prevent you from having permanent damage in the future.
Doing simple wrist and forearm stretches can also be beneficial and are easy to do at your desk.
While this isn’t necessarily an exercise, it is worth noting that your eyes endure quite a bit of stress.
Especially if you are working on a computer all day.
Taking a super quick 20-second break to gaze approximately 20 feet away can help alleviate and even eliminate the symptoms of over-strained eyes.


There are some things in your job that require your undivided attention.
Some people are depending on you to do your do your job well and to get it done in time.
That pressure can sometimes be overwhelming.
This can be a good time to take two.
Two minutes seems like a pretty short amount of time. But it is enough to give you a bit of a reset.
Take the little bit of time to move around.
Hydrate and connect to the world outside work by briefly glancing at your social media.


It may seem like spending your break surfing around social media sites is a distraction or a waste of time.
Studies show that this kind of distraction can be helpful to productivity in moderation.
Those who spend a small portion of their work time (less than 20%) on the web are shown to be around 9% more productive than those who did not browse.
Thinking about something other than work periodically throughout may help you from becoming frustrated with your job.
A little bit of indulgence can go a long way.

Your job is important to you.
You want people to recognise your work and your talent, and you strive to do the best you can.
Even if that means making significant personal sacrifices.
Taking your breaks is vital to your professional success.
It might seem like you are making a good impression by working through your breaks.
Abandoning your lunch, and spending all your free time working makes you seem more hardworking.
Your superior might even be urging or suggesting that you work more continuously.

Don’t fall for the misconception that more time equals more efficiency.
At the end of the day, your boss is concerned with results.
It doesn’t matter how many hours you put in if the result is only average.
You are better than sufficient work.
That means taking care of yourself properly so that you can be your very best.
Taking breaks, whether full breaks or microbreaks, will keep you working in peak performance condition.

Sleeping right, eating right, and taking care of yourself physically and mentally aren’t things that you should abandon once you clock in.
Productivity and efficiency are the things that makes careers.
So making sure that you are at your most productive and that your work is done correctly and efficiently is done by breaking up the stress and boredom or your average office day.
Fit in breaks where ever you can to begin with.
Then gradually extend those breaks and figure out times and places that work best around the demands of your job.
Do this until you are taking your full breaks every single work day and you will definitely increase productivity in your workplace.
Setting work/home boundaries and making your health and sanity a workplace priority will contribute to making your job the best that it can possibly be.
Of course, not everyone wants to stay in their jobs.
To find your true passion and quit your job, check this article out with 13 steps to pursue your dreams.

Do you have any other tips to be more productive? Let us know in the comments below!
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