3 lifestyle tips experts say will boost your productivity
Success at work isn’t just down to what you do in the office – here’s what you can be doing out-of-hours to help your career soar.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Catch enough z’s and the rest will fall into place – it’s that simple.
That’s according to health experts Natasa Kazmer and Jim Callaghan of Wellnessstory, anyway, who have spent the last 30 years combined in high-octane aviation careers, often moving between time zones.
After recognising their health was taking a beating, they dedicated their lives to researching and implementing the best techniques to optimise their wellbeing – and the results firmly pointed to prioritising sleep.
The best news of all is that anyone can do it – irrespective of time, money or lifestyle – and it’s guaranteed to improve every area of your life.
Here, Natasa and Jim share their top nine tips for getting the sleep of your dreams:
- Prioritise sleep. If you see sleep as your top priority when it comes to benefitting your performance, it will help you build healthy habits.
- Get quantity and quality. Between seven and a half and eight hours is the magic number. But you need to spend enough time in deep and REM sleep to feel fully rested.
- Reset your circadian rhythm. This is our natural sleep/wake cycle based on sunrise and sunset, which modern life has disrupted. To reset, get exposure to as much natural light during the day as possible.
- Put away devices. You knew that was coming, right? Blue and white light emitted from electronics mimic the sun, confusing our brains when we’re exposed to them late at night. Avoid devices at least an hour before bed.
- Create a routine. Our bodies crave consistency. Bedtime should be before 11pm, to ensure we hit prolonged, deep sleep cycles. Then, add eight hours to that bedtime – so if you have to get up for work before 7am, push your bedtime back accordingly.
- Avoid social jetlag. Many of us sleep less during the week and then try to ‘make it up’ at the weekend. Don’t. You’ll have higher energy and concentration levels through more consistent sleeping patterns.
- Moderate to vigorous movement for at least 20 minutes a day has been shown to help us sleep deeper at night. Just avoid strenuous exercise within two hours of bedtime.
- Eat light at teatime. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and tea like a pauper will make sure your digestion isn’t disturbed when you’re trying to sleep. Eat your last meal three hours before bedtime.
- Put yourself to bed. We make a bedtime routine for our kids, why not ourselves? The power of bath, book and bed can’t be understated.
Read more on why fixing your sleep could change your life
LEARN TO SAY NO
In 2019, the World Health Organisation recognised burnout as ‘an occupational phenomenon’. And that was before lockdown.
Now, we’re facing a whole new pandemic – one which is ravaging our mental health as we attempt to balance growing pressures with greater feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and exhaustion.
We’re burning the candle at both ends – and it’s not even benefitting our careers.
Mental Health UK defines burnout as ‘a state of physical and emotional exhaustion’ It can cause us to feel unable to meet the demands of our jobs, as feelings of tiredness combine with self-doubt, procrastination, negativity and a drop in creativity to leave you unhappy and unhealthy and your employer unimpressed.
But the core of beating burnout comes down to a simple, two-letter word: no.
Start saying “no” to…
- Out-of-hours emails. Communicate with your colleagues and your family that you don’t want to check messages past a specific time so they can help keep you accountable – and healthier as a result.
- Immovable working patterns. For those who are juggling work and caring for family members, flexible working hours are a big help. Speak to your employer if you feel like adjusting your work patterns could benefit you.
- Multi-tasking. You can never put 100% into anything. Mono-tasking can help create a clear roadmap of your daily workload.
- Stressful starts. The ‘Bare Minimum Mondays’ trend on Tiktok really helps workers cope with the ‘Sunday scaries’ and reduces feelings of being overwhelmed at the start of every week.
- Working through lunch. Taking regular breaks is essential to maintaining concentration levels and productivity. If possible, get outside for a walk.
- To social plans. While it’s great to get out and about with your friends, planning too much into your week can leave you feeling more stressed than ever. If you feel like you don’t have enough time to yourself, make time.
- Your phone. Speaking of making time for yourself, this includes eliminating the nagging of texts or alerts from your phone. Make sure you have quiet time, alone, where your phone is off and you can fully decompress.
And remember to always say yes to talking to someone. Talking about your feelings can feel like a weight’s been lifted from your shoulders and will remind you that your feelings are valid.
If you don’t have anyone to share your worries with right now, there are loads of helplines online where you can talk to someone over the phone.
Not sure what burnout looks like? Here’s how to spot the signs…
HEALTHY SNACK YOUR WAY THROUGH THE WORK DAY
We all know that eating a healthy, balanced diet can create a ripple effect of goodness through the rest of our lives.
But it’s easier said than done, right?
Life-work balancing, increased pressures, boredom and tight turnarounds can all lead to overindulgence and stress-eating – which is not only detrimental to our health, but also our careers.
‘Glucose is what provides our brain with the energy it needs to stay alert and focused,’ explains Brianna Hansen, foodie and content marketing manager at Wrike.
‘Just about everything you eat is converted to glucose. When we’re running low on glucose, we tend to lose focus easily. This is why it’s hard to work on an empty stomach.’
But the key to a great work day isn’t just about making sure our stomachs are full. It’s about making sure they’re full of all the right foods.
As Harvard Business Review reminds us, foods like pasta, bread or cereal release their glucose quickly – leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump.
Others, like high-fat meals, provide more sustained energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us feel groggy.
The top takeaway tip? Instead of letting your glucose bottom out around lunch time, graze consistently throughout the day to perform better.
Spikes and drops in blood sugar are both bad for productivity and bad for the brain. Smaller, more frequent meals maintain your glucose at a more consistent level than relying on a mid-day feast.
So, let’s just start with the easy stuff – snacks.
Instead of reaching for a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar for your next quick energy hit at your desk, try some of these healthier alternatives:
- Almonds. Easy to store and packed with healthy fats and necessary calories. Plus, the protein in almonds helps curb your appetite without leaving you feeling sluggish.
- Green tea. A healthy, caffeine-packed alternative to coffee and guaranteed to provide you with nutrition and feelings of productivity.
- Bananas. A single banana is packed with the daily amount of glucose your body needs to stay productive throughout the day. They’ll also keep you feeling full for longer.
- Eggs. Chock-full of a B vitamin called choline, which is known to help improve memory and speed up reaction times.
- Dark chocolate. The sugar and caffeine in dark chocolate gives you just the right amount of energy to get work done without getting the post-coffee jitters. Its magnesium content also helps relieve stress and anxiety.
- Water. Hydration plays a big role in productivity. Two litres of water a day is recommended to boost energy levels and improve mental flexibility.
- Apple and peanut butter. Apples are rich in antioxidants and their sugar makes them a more effective energy source than coffee. Pair them with peanut butter and you’ve got the perfect combo of energy and protein.
- Carrots and hummus. The luteolin in carrots helps improve memory, while hummus contains Omega 3 fatty acids and amino acids, which improve intelligence and boost your mood.