Why You Should Treat Your Workday Like a Workout
What do your gym and your office have in common?
Chances are, neither of them are places you want to get up and go to on a Monday morning! But both are also places that – with enough dedication and hard work – can change your life for the better.
So if you’re hankering after a promotion or aiming for peak productivity, you could do a lot worse than taking some tips from the world of fitness.
Have a Training Plan
Nobody expects to go from couch potato to Ironman without time, patience and some seriously hard work. Put the same expectations onto your professional life. Bear in mind Malcolm Gladwell’s famous saying that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become world-class in anything, and forgive yourself for not being incredible at your job from day one. Set goals, but give yourself the time and space to learn, and you’ll be amazed how quickly you improve.
Similarly, avoid comparing yourself to your colleagues. Sometimes, people will be better than you. Engaging in the professional equivalent of a tennis match with Serena Williams will only leave you disheartened. Instead, take pride in your own strengths and overcoming your own weaknesses, and work on becoming the best worker you can be.
Fuel Your Body
Healthy eating doesn’t just confer physical benefits: eating well corresponds to an 11% boost in job performance. The more fruit and veg you chomp down on, for example, the happier and more creative you’ll be.
It also important to stay hydrated in the workplace. You presumably wouldn’t dream of running a marathon without drinking any water, but when it comes to putting in an eight-hour stint at the office, barely one in five of us drink the eight glasses of water nutritionists recommend. Yet even mild dehydration saps your cogitative performance, depresses your mood and makes you feel tired. So drink up!
Crank Up the Motivational Music
Most fitness fanatics keep a playlist of high-energy tunes specifically to pump them up for that extra mile. Playlists for the office are a great idea too: science shows that listening to music improves our work performance.
Music motivates partly because it makes us happy. When we hear our favourite tunes, it boosts our mood and that makes whichever onerous task we’re wading through seem more bearable. Listening to music also helps us focus by blocking out distracting background noise. To get the best effects of plugging in, avoid lyric-heavy songs and play “natural” sounds (think waves, white noise, and whale song!).
Remember to Stretch
To stay on top form, we should always be challenging ourselves. Yogis know that pushing themselves an extra inch each time they hold a pose is the key to twisting themselves into a human pretzel; employees should similarly stretch themselves a little bit further each day in the pursuit of some career-enhancing goal.
When you set yourself a goal, always break it down into itty-bitty steps, and focus on achieving each in turn. Getting just that little bit better every day helps us stay on track and meet goals we once thought would be impossible.
Take a Breather
The biologists amongst us will be quick to point out that the brain is not a muscle, but thinking of it as one can help you look after it properly. After all, if you got on the treadmill at 9am each morning and ran full-pelt without stopping, you wouldn’t be surprised when your legs started to ache and you needed to stop for a rest.
The same thing happens with our brain. When we work it hard for a prolonged period of time, it becomes tired and we need to take a break to get it back up to speed. So, stop feeling guilty about your afternoon slumps, and encourage yourself to step away from your screen when you feel your attention start to wander.
Switch Up Your Routine
Let’s be honest, doing the same thing every day is boring. That’s why exercise fiends find ways to inject variety into their routine, from exercising in a different location to trying out different sports and classes.
Add a bit of change to your workday too. Eat lunch in a different spot. Talk to a colleague you’ve never met before. Organise your desk differently. Find unusual ways to complete inane tasks. Variety truly is the spice of life, and researchers have found that doing something different over the course of the workday makes you a happier, and more productive, worker.
Beth Leslie writes careers advice for Inspiring Interns, who specialise in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs listings for roles.