A year ago almost during the same time of the year I was practically in a very bad shape. I was neck deep in my work which I had brought upon myself with my unrestrained passion for work and hunger to learn more and grow faster in the organisation. It involved a lot of brain at work.
Initially, it was not that difficult for me, it was rather more exciting for me. I was working with more than one client and multiple consultants for different regions. All I could think of was excelling in each and every one of these projects.
There was more work, more projects in a row and queue awaiting me before I wrapped up with my current projects. But I was unaware of what lay ahead of me, despite having a clear look at everything on my desk.
By the passage of some time, due to such pressure work, I started showing signs of absent-mindedness. I made the small and smaller mistakes in the work which was quite unlike to my reputation of delivering error-free work. I was juggling between multiple projects and overhead appraisals. Client visits, learning and development backlog were behind my head.
One day I broke down and steamed out my frustration to my colleague and dear friend at the office. Since he was a reliable person I vented out everything that was on my mind looking for answers.
Wisdom comes with experience, and rightly so, with his experience he gave me a terse but extremely impactful advice. He advised me to work on my workday schedules, and by that he did not mean my meetings and division of labour for the projects. I had to learn to include some activities and steps that will help me maintain a productive and active brain at work. Even in the worst of situations and unmanageable amount of work I needed to keep my brain active. An art to keep cool amidst and despite high dim and din.
Seems like a familiar situation? Feels like been there done that? Or are you in this situation looking for the same answers that I was once looking for? Read on.
1My Expedition for an Active and Productive Brain at Work
I started with writing down the things that were going wrong in my workday, the mistakes I made and the patterns. This step is called Identifying the Problem. You need to consciously make note of the pattern of your mistakes. Identify what is driving your brain towards unproductiveness. This will increase the productive and active Brain. It is an organising pattern required for every activity for success.
Once I had identified the root causes, I started working on them. It is the physicians used to say that diagnosing the problem reaches the 50% stage of the healing process. This is the Making Repairs step. I made conscious efforts to not repeat the patterns that I had figured in the Identifying the problem step. You can take small measures like putting up post so that it’s on your desk to keep a reminder of the mistakes/patterns you have identified from the past. Reading these regularly will wire your brain to become cautious against repeating these mistakes.
Once you have wired your brain to making repairs, start new habits/practices at work that will help boost the productivity at work. As an initial step, I started having small breaks with the team where we indulged in the weekly quiz. Or it might be indulging in weekly outdoor games for an hour on the Fridays.
I read a lot of self-help material to channelize my energy at work into productive outputs and to keep my brain active. I know probably you are doing the same right now or even some different step as deem fit for you locally.
Here is a list of everyday activities that you can include in your schedule to help keep the brain churning and shining. You may not enjoy doing all or many of them, hence chose for yourself the activities that you will enjoy doing. This should be without diverting a lot of your precious time away from work.
2Play that favourite song on your playlist- Make sure to put the headphones on!
This is my personal favourite and number one on my to-do list for keeping my brain focused and productive. Music helps me keep the brain aligned to what I am doing. Helps me not to get distracted by the otherwise nearby distractions on the floor. These might be anything + from something as small as chit chats to something as big as team huddles from an adjacent team.
Music has been identified as a natural healer for many people suffering from hypertension and anxiety. However, this will help you focus only if you enjoy music and not take it as another distraction. Another substitute psychologists suggest keeping a small or medium size fish tank near your active work spot to kill fatigue and keep the mind fresh.
In case the music is a distraction to you while working, take out some time to just play one of your favourite tracks while juggling between projects. This is the most time efficient and brain stimulating break you can take while sitting at your desk.
3Major Distraction- Keep that phone away from your eyes!
As much as we all want to find ways to make the brain effective, we all become sweet victims of those unwanted group chats and Facebook messages. These generally come your way while in the middle of a conference call. Or even while working on that important year-end review presentation, phones sometimes hinder the active thinking.
It is great to have the easiest way of communication at the distance of a hand. However, it is equally important not to fall trap to the distractions that it can create and hamper the work schedule.
Feel free to put mobile breaks in your schedule and give yourself the liberty to check updates in your phone, but in a planned and scheduled manner!
4Productive and Active Brain – A Clear Space leads to a Clear Mind!
It is true! The more cluttered your workstation or desk space is, the more it will clutter your thinking and effective management at work.
Keep your workspace clean. Make a habit to clean the desk before you leave for the day. If it interests you go ahead and put up a small picture frame with the picture of your beloved pet or the person you love the most. Looking at them will remind you of good times, imbibing positive spirits in your head. You can also personalise the desk with motivational collages or put up a small bonsai plant on that desk and make a habit to nurture and care for that plant. This will subconsciously train you to nurture your brain and use it effectively. Brushing off the unwanted is double quantum rewarding with reference to the actually required works. A cleaner environment though felt abstract is really a catalyst to the brain’s studious role.
5Keep the TODO list updated- Everyday!
I understand that you may have multiple projects you are working on. Then there are those deadly deliverables that your manager keeps buzzing you with, and somehow sometimes it may seem a lot to take.
Become tech smart, use the most effective tools available to organize the work. You can start using Evernote, One Note forms Microsoft Office, Tasks and Calendars from the Office
Exchange Email account, and something as small as a virtual sticky note. All these little things will sum up to a great help to keep you organised and hence enhance the productivity.
Why not a walk down the hallway! Or better why not work from some other workstation for a change?
If you are working at one of those places that do not restrict you to your workstation, why chain yourself? Go ahead, move to a new workstation; sit in the cafeteria, or more so go ahead to that nearby coffee shop that has the most amazing aura. See how the change of place enlightens the mind and activates those stimulating brain cells.
However, I do know there are some places where the employee is allocated a desk from where they need to work. Do not be disheartened, you can always have a friend who sits down the aisle and you can invest sometimes from the day to walk down there. Indulge in healthy conversations with the people from your surroundings, share a joke may be!
And in case you are the “I likes my solitude person”- walk to the coffee machine. Pour yourself a coffee and enjoy being lost in your thoughts while you finish that coffee.
6Go out in the open- Breath some fresh air!
I do not think you want me to tell you the benefits of breathing fresh air now- Do you? And while you are away from the desk, try to keep the thoughts of those deadlines and work pressure away. Enjoy the beauty of nature, may be just look up at the sky and smile.
Train your brain to live in the moment and enjoy the perks of nature around you, instead of drowning yourself in a sea of work problems.
If you have those group of friends at the office, take this break with them. The more the merrier! Indulge in healthy conversations with them especially that are not related to work. Share your hobbies, passions and maybe discuss some politics (No not the work politics!)
Every couple of hours- Sitting right at your desk! You do not need to carry your yoga kit with you to meditate! After a long duration of sitting in one place, straighten up have a few steps walk and come back. Sit there right at your desk, close your eyes and focus- deep breathing- breathe in and breathe out! Follow this for a couple of times and get back to that important project and deliverable again.
A Footnote- Little Changes Bring Big Results! I know you have a busy schedule and I also know you will try to include these steps in the everyday work schedule to benefit for a productive and active brain. It is the little things in life that make a difference. Eat healthy food, avoid junk food, go for those everyday walks, keep you body active to stimulate an active brain. A positive outlook is the biggest weapon to leading a positive life. Channel your brain to look at the brighter side, not only on the sunny days but also on the rainy days! Keep your thoughts healthy to have a healthy and active brain!