If you’re working long hours to tackle that ever-extending to-do list, you may find your energy levels draining very quickly and your mind becoming easily distracted. Staying productive and motivated when our bodies are calling for rest is a serious challenge, and while it’s always recommended that you take time off when you’re feeling exhausted, sometimes in your work life there are deadlines and goals that need to be reached – and working long hours is the only way to tick them off.
Here are some top tips on how to be the most productive when you’re tired:
1. Make lists: List everything you need to do, pick the most important task and do it first. This will help you prioritise difficult and urgent tasks, helping you get them done.
2. Take regular breaks: It is recommended that you take a 5-minute break every 50 minutes as it boosts productivity. Research has shown that employees are more focused and energised after stepping away from their desks, even if it’s just for a minute. Also, make sure to take your full lunch time as it helps prevent the unproductive afternoon slump.
3. Allocate time for reading emails: Notifications are productivity killers because they create a sense of urgency. You could be in the middle of an important presentation but as soon as a notification pops up on your screen (even if it’s not particularly important), you exit your work and go straight to your inbox. Allocating time for checking, filtering, and replying to emails is one of the best ways to stay productive. Try to check your email twice a day and set times that suit your work.
4. Work while standing up: Research has shown that employees who stand whilst working are more productive and less tired than their co-workers who sit all day. The research published in the British Media Journal (BMJ) followed trials involving 146 NHS staff, just over half of whom swapped their regular desks for sit-stand workstations. The study found those who went from relatively sedentary work lives to standing more often reported better engagement with their work and fewer musculoskeletal problems. Boost your brain power by standing for periods of your working day.
5. Work by a window: Various studies show that working in natural light is associated with increased job performance. A 2013 study from the Netherlands found that when people were exposed to more daylight during the week, they reported feeling more energetic and less sleepy. And researchers from Turkey found nurses who experience 3 or more hours of daylight each day feel less stressed at work – and even feel more job satisfaction. So, if you want to be more productive, open the blinds and let in the (natural) light.
6. Stretch regularly: Stretching regularly increases your flexibility, improves your performance in physical activities, is great for stress relief, can calm your mind, and helps decrease tension headaches. Here are basic stretching exercises you can do at your desk;
- Neck and shoulders: Hunching over your desk can strain the cervical spine and stiffen our shoulders. Try reaching your arms behind you, interlocking your fingers and lifting your arms. You should feel this stretch in your chest and shoulders.
- Overhead stretch: Raise your arms above your head, interlock your fingers and push away from yourself.
- Forward bend: Stand several feet behind your chair. Raise both arms overhead and hinge forward from your hips, keeping your back straight. Hold on to the back of the chair to keep steady for a few second, then rise back up to stand straight.
- Spinal twist: Staying seated with your knees in line with one another, place your left hand on your right knee and twist your entire upper body to the right, looking behind your shoulder. Hold, then twist back and repeat on the other side.