Work can be stimulating, but there are times where it can be difficult for us to keep engaged.
I have personally experienced this, but notice that these times come and go. They are a normal part of working, but how do you get through them?
It’s a good question and something I spent a lot of time in my professional life trying to perfect.
So, I decided to write about some of my strategies for keeping stimulated at work.
Focus on One Task
We all know the word multitasking and it is is something that is often seen as a skill, but in my experience, it hinders my productivity.
I prefer to practice something called monotasking or focusing only on one task at a time. I find that my brain is the most stimulated when I work on only one thing at a time.
If I am thinking of several things, I can never give any single task the kind of attention that it needs or deserves.
Also, trying to juggle too many tasks at once has the tendency to make you feel overwhelmed with things to do. This is also the cause of your to-do list never getting completed.
The biggest benefit for me is accomplishing things and being able to cross things off my to-do list. Every time you finish something your brain experiences a little victory.
A multitasker's brain never gets to feel that feeling of achievement and stimulation.
There is joy in work. There is no happiness except in the realization that we have accomplished something.
- Henry Ford
Develop a System
Keeping your brain engaged is also very dependent on having a good structure for keeping yourself engaged and fresh when you are at work.
I use the Pomodoro Technique to help keep me organised.
You divide your time into 25-minute blocks of work with 5-minute breaks between each one. Every third block you take a 10-minute break and then start it all again.
It's amazing how much you can get done in such a short period of time. The breaks also keep you feeling fresh.
I use this Pomodoro timer to manage the time blocks.
There are a number of productivity tools that you can use to help you to develop a more engaging work structure.
Watch What You Eat
Nutrition is a huge part of keeping your brain working optimally whilst you work.
Think about what you eat for breakfast and lunch, as these are the meals that you will most likely have at work.
I try to avoid heavy meals as these make you feel sleepy.
Try to eat foods that have a low glycemic index (GI). These release energy over a longer period of time, rather than sugar. Which gives you a spike of energy (sugar high) and the inevitable crash (sugar low).
Here is a good article I found about some healthy snack ideas for work.
To keep yourself engaged with what you are doing, you need to take breaks.
Many people might interpret this as a distraction from executing on a task, but this is not true. Taking breaks can help us to be more productive and to help keep you stimulated at work.
Breaks allow us to be productive because they help us to reset and recharge.
The next time you are trying to solve a problem and are getting nowhere: take a break. It is much easier it is to stop for five minutes and then start again. You come back energized and can look at the problem with “fresh eyes”.
We should stay hydrated all the time to keep our brains stimulated and our bodies working at an optimal level.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t do this and it can be very easy to forget staying hydrated during work hours.
I like to combine getting some water with regular breaks so that I can give my mind a rest as well as making sure that my engine is running efficiently.
The reality is that keeping hydrated not only keeps your brain happy and healthy but the rest of your body too. When your whole body is feeling good, your brain is more likely to be more stimulated.
Take a Nap (if possible)
For me taking a nap is a great way to keep my brain functioning at its best when I work.
For many of us, sleeping at work is unthinkable, because it is seen as “lazy”.
The reality is that napping makes us far more productive than the time we “lose” whilst napping. Napping has a number of benefits, like improved mood and reduced fatigue. It is something that we should aim to do every single day.
20-minute naps are my sweet spot because I don’t feel grogginess (or sleep inertia) afterwards. You should experiment for yourself to find your optimal napping time.
Understand When You Work Best
Have you ever wondered why some people are wide awake in the morning? While others take some time to get going?
Everybody is different and we all have our optimal hours of operation. To keep stimulated, we can base our days around these optimal work hours.
For example, if you are a morning person, you can plan to do complex tasks in the morning. At the end the day you can do easier tasks that don’t need so much brainpower. Especially when your brain starts to slow down.
You can use some of the other techniques mentioned above to keep stimulated in your "off" hours.