Since I have joined Standing Dog, now Wpromote, as an agency over two years ago, I have enjoyed the opportunity to provide a lot of value to clients. As a client lead I am at liberty to their needs and try to be available as much as I can during the 9 – 5 work hours while continuing to produce the kind of results necessary to perform at a high level. As a result, I am not able to take mental breaks during the day as much as I have in previous positions. I used to break up my day with a workout at lunch time and most of the time, at least when I’m in the office, I don’t have that luxury. I try to maximize my time as much as possible when I’m in the office as well. That does not mean that I don’t work late at night or early in the a.m. because I do but I try to be effective during the day so I am decreasing my odds of that being necessary.
The Value of Tracking My Time
At work, we have excellent training in all things digital. Everyone is a knowledge expert in their field and as a client lead I get to hear and be apart of a lot of those calls and meetings. One thing that I am grateful for the training unrelated to general knowledge training, is, for a year and a half, we were required to track everything that we did during the day and post it in a time tracking tool. It was a pain in the butt! I hated it. But, over time I was able to notice any gaps in my day as I entered my time at the end of the day. It was then very natural to take 10 to 15 minutes to assess results of my work for the day, whether I was reactive or proactive and if I got what I wanted completed in that day as well as prioritize items for the next day. As my company was bought out and have a new employer, we are not required to track time anymore, which I certainly appreciate as it saves probably 30 minutes of my day, probably fifteen minutes of writing down on a time notepad as I’m going and fifteen minutes at the end of the day adding it to Intervals, our time tracking tool. But, I consider that time taking training a very valuable lesson in knowing the quality of my work during the day and determining whether the day was a success or not. And quite frankly, I never would have been as rigorous on my own tracking my time except that I was expected to. This has allowed me to notice stop gaps quickly and improve the quality of my output in a workday.
Every time I added a new tactic to help increase my productivity and energy for each day, like the standing desk among other tactics, I noticed a large difference almost immediately with each one. I consider the last few years to have been a bootcamp in personal productivity and the fact that I have a wife and kids at home has helped ground me in priorities. It has allowed for extreme focus that even I have been surprised at how much work impact I am able to make, the brain truly is a muscle that can be improved.
Less Time For Exercise
That being said, I used to exercise a minimum of 3 days a week and had much more ‘me’ time before I was a parent. Now that I am a parent and working at a fast-paced agency, I have had to come up with creative ways to get physical exercise and physical and mental rest. Most people that work in the agency are not married or at least do not have kids and the ones that can sustain this environment long enough to get noticed and move up devote many extra hours to their job in order to stay on top of the constantly evolving digital landscape and make sure nothing slips through the cracks. For me, in order to have the same type of productivity, I’ve had to consider different ways to take care of my body and consider periods of rest. This helps me maintain stability and not go crazy with the level of production required and personally expected of myself. Here are some key tactics that have really served me well over the past two years.
A Standing Desk
There are way too many types of standing desks available and it is certainly a fad…but if anyone knows me, my middle name is cool. Actually, quite the opposite. I practically run from fads. But, when I say that I use my standing desk, I mean that I don’t have a chair anymore. I do have a stool to lean back on occasionally. But, I use my standing desk and I find it invaluable to keeping my waistline from growing when I cannot workout like I used to. Even more importantly, my main motivating factor is back pain. I have found over the years as I was an active weight lifter and sports lover, that the more I sit the more my back gets tight and aches. In most cases my back just plain feels better if I am doing something active every day and if I cannot workout or be active, sitting a full day is too painful! Even just standing and leaning back on a stool keeps my back from tightening up like it does when I am directly sitting. It feels like I am the only one in the world that has this problem as no one seems to complain about intolerable pain from sitting. Well, I am glad to have found a solution.
The Expensive Standing Desk or the Ikea Hack?
One thing that is helpful to note, since standing desks are fads there are tons of them, but they don’t have to be expensive or luxurious. I started with an Ikea standing desk hack and used it for about 8 months before my company sprung for a handful of them and raffled them off to employees. I lost the raffle but another person that won had pity on me after a few weeks because I used mine all the time and they never used theirs. Thanks Bridget! So, I now use a Veridesk. It’s nice because you can change the height setting if you need to but it definitely takes up more room than my old one. And I have not changed the height setting since I got it. Quite honestly, I don’t notice much of a difference between my IKEA hack and the Veridesk. [Side note: I am writing this article from home on my Ikea hack standing desk. As I was writing this, the front portion ripped out of the legs and fell to the floor. I had to reattach the prefabbed piece that holds the keyboard. I don’t think it helps that I lean my palms on the edge of the attached piece, that caused over time the stress to be too much. So, you might start with an IKEA home-made one and if you decide you like it, upgrade to a home-made solid wood hack so it will be sturdy enough.]
Other important factors of sustained energy and productivity are the shoes you wear with your standing desk, the food you eat during the day, the standing pad, and a stool to sit or lean on when you need a little relief.
Shoes for a Standing Desk
For a period of time I used the most comfortable shoes that I have ever owned, which also happened to be the ugliest pair I’ve ever owned. After some convincing from my wife that a good pair of shoes is worth the expense, I decided to try a good pair. And, after an afternoon at the outlet mall trying on shoes that could pass as dressy but considered comfort as the first priority, I found that Cole Haan is second to none and created an especially comfortable shoe with rubber soles called the OriginalGrand Long Wingtip Oxford. These feel comfortable on my feet and keep me hipper than the cool kids. Most good looking shoes hurt my feet. I stand by these and it will be hard for anyone to steer me away from Cole Haan’s outlet store when I need a new pair.
Energy Food for Work
With the food that I prepare myself and bring to work, I do NOT notice a mental dip in productivity or a mental crash between 2 – 3p. The only time that I do is when I eat out for lunch or someone brings pizza in. Those days I am more tired and find myself either having a slight headache, staring at the clock in a coma like fashion or wishing I could lean back in my chair and take a nap. When I bring my lunch it consists of a lettuce wrap with turkey and cheese, a fruit, a vegetable, and most days a sweet potato. I don’t do breads in my lunch routine anymore, at least the majority of the time. At my work, we are fortunate to have almonds available which I snack on throughout the day or if I get hungry I pull out a carrot! People always ask, how can you eat the same thing everyday? So boring. The answer is, ‘It’s an easy routine. I don’t have to think about it and it’s healthy. I never miss a meal and I’m always hungry when it’s lunch time!’ All of these food items can be found at Walmart or any run-of-the mill affordable grocery store. I also drink water from the faucet all day long (like everyone did before the early 2000’s). So, it is a reasonable price!
Standing Pad for the Standing Desk
Some standing pads are quite expensive. I have not had the luxury of trying out anything crazy here. Instead, I asked my mom for a standing pad and she bought me the Harbor Freight standing pad for those at their garage work bench. It is quite comfy. So, moral of the story is you don’t need to make this one too complicated. If it were up to me I would have bought the expensive one because every blog I read told me I should. Well, I come from East Texas and my kin got me this one. I have noticed improvements so I am sticking by it. P.S. some of my work friends who were ready to make fun of me for buying the cheap standing pad tried it out and decided that it did have pretty good support.
The Stool for Standing Desk
Lastly, go ahead and get a stool that is high enough for you to lean back on and still type away at your standing desk. Most days I have at least one meeting where I find myself sitting for 30 minutes to an hour. On days that I don’t sit in meetings and primarily work at my desk, even leaning back for 5 to 10 minutes ever hour is enough to relieve my feet for a few minutes.
Limiting Screen Time and Notifications
Finally, my productivity has increased tremendously in a work day as a result of these practices and I overall can stand the work day even with limited absences from my screen. I tend to try and stay off of my computer and phone one day of the weekend and leave it at the house when running general errands. I also wear a watch all the time so I am not glued to my phone and can afford to go without it for a few hours at a time if need be. I also go with the silent vibration for calls instead of sound. The only noise that comes from my phone is my morning alarm and an occasional meeting reminder. I see text messages on my screen the next time that I look at it so I don’t miss much. Also, no push notifications except for a few of my favorite twitter followers that don’t post a million times a day.
I hope these productivity tips are helpful for you, limit the strain on your body, and help provide energy and productivity for your work day.