Looking for tips on how to be more productive at work? A focus on wellness can boost your performance and help you to work smarter, not harder.
Most of us have heard the old adage about “working smarter, not harder” so many times throughout our work careers that it’s become a cliche, yet there’s a lot of truth to the saying, and never more so than when it comes to the relationship between health and productivity. When you don’t feel well or when you are sick, you just aren’t at maximum productivity – that’s fairly obvious. But what’s less obvious are the many ways that we can hijack or inhibit our productivity with less than optimal health habits: skipping meals, eating fast food on the fly, spending too much time sitting, or shortchanging sleep.
If you devote energy to improving your diet, upping your exercise routine and learning to manage your stress, you will reap many productivity benefits, both at work and in your personal life.
How can you be more productive? Here are a few tips to get you started:
Focus on the right diet.
Nutrients are the fuel that gives you energy, but for maximum benefit, it’s important to have a balanced diet designed to do just that. An imbalanced or poor diet can result in peaks and valleys in your energy levels, leading to fatigue, irritability, decreased mental concentration, and increased stress. Ron Friedman discusses how What You Eat Affects Your Productivity in Harvard Business Review. He talks about how a poor choice at lunch can derail you for the day:
Here’s a brief rundown of why this happens. Just about everything we eat is converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused and our attention drifts. This explains why it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach.
So far, so obvious. Now here’s the part we rarely consider: Not all foods are processed by our bodies at the same rate. Some foods, like pasta, bread, cereal and soda, release their glucose quickly, leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump. Others, like high fat meals (think cheeseburgers and BLTs) provide more sustained energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us groggy.
Friedman goes on to offer tips for healthy eating. You can learn more about the science of healthy eating designed to bolster your energy through a bit of research, or you can contact a nutrition coach to help you customize the right diet for your lifestyle and goals.
Add more exercise to your daily routine.
The CDC advises a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a day, but this is a case where more is better. Exercise can boost your energy, strengthen your heart and lungs, reduce your risk for life-limiting conditions like heart disease, diabetes, help control your weight and aid better sleep. It also has many mental health benefits, sucha s reducing stress and anxiety and elevating mood. Exercise releases endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals that can ease conditions like depression.
Exercise also has many “brain benefits” too. In another HBR article, Regular Exercise Is Part of Your Job, Friedman talks about how:
When we think about the value of exercise, we tend to focus on the physical benefits. Lower blood pressure, a healthier heart, a more attractive physique. But over the past decade, social scientists have quietly amassed compelling evidence suggesting that there is another, more immediate benefit of regular exercise: its impact on the way we think.
Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. Consider the following cognitive benefits, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine:
Improved concentration; Sharper memory; Faster learning; Prolonged mental stamina; Enhanced creativity; Lower stress
Friedman cites studies that link performance to exercise and offers tips for how to work more exercise into your daily routine. A wellness fitness coach can also help you to develop the right exercise regime to meet your personal goals and lifestyle.
In addition to many benefits for you, wellness programs can translate to many productivity benefits for employers, too:
- Fewer sick days (absenteeism)
- Fewer days at work while sick (presenteeism)
- Less time recovering from illnesses or injuries
- Reduced workers comp costs
- Improved morale
- Lower turnover