We know that you love your office desk. We know that you like to spend hour after hour of your day sitting or standing next to your office desk. We know that you and your office desk are inseparable: a timeless double act. But even the best partnerships work well when they’re apart. Sometimes it’s good to create space for your partner to miss you - and your office desk is no exception.
No matter how much you love your office desk, the truth is that staying late at the office doesn’t make you more productive. Studies have shown that working for longer actually reduces your productivity leading to diminished returns. Although it can be tempting to push through into an evening to get through a workload, spending one late night at the office can have a knock on effect for you productivity for a whole week, not to mention the next morning. Even if you manage to not sleep through your alarm, you’ll know as soon as you wake up, that you’re less alert than you should be. If you can’t jump out of bed to embrace the day, you’re not at your vest for the work day ahead. If we can learn to stick to the 9-5 and say goodbye to our office desks at a reasonable time, the truth is, we’ll get much more done.
It’s not that surprising that being tired reduces your focus or your cognitive ability. It’s something we all inherently know, or else, learnt from our student days, sloping into lecture theatres after boozy nights out or our early working years, attempting to do the same. We notice that if a colleague or friend is tired, that they forget things, are more irritable and less engaged. Yet it isn’t always easy to apply what we know to our own working lives or general life for that matter. It can be hard to say goodbye to your office desk at the end of the day - thinking about how much more you can achieve together.
Yet it shouldn’t be too hard to convince yourself if you think of the world of opportunity waiting for you. If you manage to spend some time away from your office desk, you can delve into new experiences on the weekends. You can go to dinner friends, go to theatre, take a stroll uptown or just curl up in front of your favorite box set. Although sometimes our impulse is to defer life’s pleasures and put work at the forefront of our minds, by creating more downtime for ourselves we’re doing ourselves a favour in both the long and the short term. You could spend every evening on a new adventure and still be getting more done than if you’d spent the night alone with your office desk.
You can even head out on new adventures by day, leaving your office desk for 20 minute bursts or even a nice hour long afternoon break can do you some good. A brisk walk, a chat with a colleague, a trip to a coffee shop or trying a new spot for lunch will help you to take your mind of work and come back to your office desk it refreshed. You could even try and make your way around an art gallery for an afternoon dose of aesthetic appreciation and inspiration. The opportunities are endless. All in all, allowing yourself some down time allows you to work better with your office desk for longer.
We’ve all tried plenty of new productivity techniques: creating morning rituals, getting regular exercise, tracking our tasks, trying out strange diets or cutting the coffee out altogether. Maybe we stick to the pomodoro technique, using a small digital apple to differentiate focused time from less focused time. Yet all of these efforts are in vain if we can’t get enough sleep, enough down time and enough headspace integrated into our working days. In our efforts to excel our productivity to inhuman standards and bypass the humanly possible, sometimes we neglect the basics: sleep, relaxation, regular breaks. Think of it as your bread and butter, the water of life, the air that you breathe. You can;t be superhuman if you aren’t human first.
What’s more, you don’t need to feel guilty about leaving your office desk behind. Although not human, your office desk understand that a bit of respite from one another is healthy. With some time apart you’ll find that your partnership with your office desk will only get stronger. You’ll be able to retain focus, work quicker and problem solve with greater ease. With regular breaks you’ll find yourself working with more momentum and getting into a better flow. You’ll find that you have less of an urge to scroll online, respond to messages on your phone or click on listicles as they pop up on your screen. Overall, preserving your office desk as a productive space is the best way to stay productive while you’re working with it and to keep that timeless partnership golden.
Sometimes focused work at our ergonomic office desk just isn’t what we need. From time to time we get writers block or stumble over a technical problem or need a new idea to take us to the next step in our workflow. No matter what the profession, occasionally we have to wait for that lightbulb moment when everything comes together. As great as your office desk is, we all know these moments happen almost solely in unexpected circumstances, when you’re buying milk at the shop, cycling home from work or, I guess... changing a lightbulb. The truth is when you need a revelation, your office desk can do little to help you, you need a change of scene, to get the juices flowing. At these moments stepping away from your office desk can save you from an afternoon wasted on observing the marks on the ceiling.
The need to bring a balance to work lives seems to be a trend accepted by many business professionals. Todays innovators and trendsetters are heading home early to get their 8 hours, leaving their office desks behind to spend their evenings in peace. Sleepless CEO’s are becoming a thing of the past. Although Donald Trump is still said to sleep 4 hours a night, Elon Musk, Tim Ferris and Barack Obama all make sure they get a healthy eight hours. If you can’t catch enough zzz’s, you can’t be at your best at your office desk. Getting enough sleep is also about getting enough downtime before bedtime and that means leaving your office desk in the early evening to make sure you have time to wind down. That means sticking to the 9-5. We know staying at your office desk for that extra couple of hours feels like progress, but it is quite the opposite.
We too are office desk lovers, we know they are the best place to get work done, the best place to find your flow, to streamline your work processes and steam your way through a list of tasks. Our office desk is the centre of our working world, a home away from home and a safe space to focus and be productive. As our communications have migrated online we can talk to anyone in the office, access any information and see what others are working on from the comfort of our desk. Even outside of our work tasks, more and more can be done from our office desks. They’re even the best places to catch up with friends or do a bit of light shopping. There’s no doubt it is a great partnership. But that’s precisely why we need to make time for our office desks to miss us. Because otherwise we’ll never leave.
Like your body, your brain requires different workflows to stay healthy. If you push too hard on one day, just like a strain to the hamstring, you’ll feel it the next. In fact, you may well feel it all week. Needless to say, spending a week on the back foot isn’t productive at all. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race and the same applies to working. Keeping a steady rhythm in a productive workflow is the best way to make it over the finishing line and hold you hands up in glory. So if you truly love your office desk and slogging through workloads in a flow of productivity then give your office desk some reprieve, do what’s best for the both of you - give your office desk some time to miss you.
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