Health

The Art of Postpandemic Productivity Breaks

THE GREAT OFFICE exodus of 2020 proved that success can be less about working more hours, and more about how you use them. That’s true even if you never left the office—and especially good to remember if you’re on the way back to one. In that spirit, executive coach and the author of The Practice of Groundedness, Brad Stulberg, M.P.H., shares more about how to ace back-to-work season. (Plus, we’ve got three other ways to keep you moving and grooving at the office.)

Has working from home shown us how to be more productive?

People are realizing the importance of little breaks throughout the day. If you’re an Olympic athlete training your body, or you’re a knowledge worker focusing on a spreadsheet, the sweet spot for work is between 30 and 90 minutes, followed by breaks of five to 30 minutes. It’s almost like interval training.

How can we treat work like interval training in an office?

Instead of one-hour meetings, schedule 50-minute meetings. Instead of 30-minute meetings, schedule 20-minute meetings. Use these ten-minute periods to take a walk around the office. Do the stairs once or twice. Listen to music. It doesn’t have to be physical.

What are some other productivity hacks?

Power naps work for some people, absolutely. Do we have to get all fancy and have, like, corporate napping rooms? Probably not. You can probably do it at your desk. We all did it at our desk in eighth grade. Another trick: Try walking meetings. Walking doesn’t fall into that category of [distracted] multi-tasking, because you’re just moving your body.


Enjoy a Fitness Snack or Two!

Soothe your old office aches with this ultra quick, anytime, anywhere set of stretches.

INCHWORM TO SCORPION STRETCH

Place your hands on the floor and gradually shift into pushup position. Lower your chest to the floor, then lift your left leg in the air and reach it over to your right side, twisting your hips as you do. Aim to touch your left leg to the floor. Reverse the leg movement and repeat on the other side. Do 3 to 5 reps to fire up your core and loosen your hip flexors.


LUNGE TO BOW AND ARROW

Start standing, then step your left foot back to do a reverse lunge, bringing your left knee to the floor. Now extend both arms in front of you. Keeping your right arm extended, reach your left arm as far behind you as possible. Return it to the front and repeat with the right arm. Stand explosively. Do 5 reps per side to strengthen your hips and glutes and relax tight shoulder and back muscles.


PLANK-SWITCH SHOULDER TAP

Start in pushup position, hands directly below your shoulders. Without letting your hips shift, lift your left hand and tap your right shoulder. Return it to the floor and repeat on the other side. Without shifting your hips, step your feet forward into a bear plank, knees under your hips, then tap each shoulder. Repeat for 40 seconds, then rest 20 seconds. Do 3 sets to reignite your core.


BEATS FOR THE GRIND

Matching the right tunes to the time of day can boost productivity and mood. Cue the MH Playlist, based on research by Indre Viskontas, Ph.D., author of How Music Can Make You Better.

7:00 a.m.
GET UPBEAT AND AT ’EM

Stress can cause you to reach for junk at breakfast. So kick things off with a mellow, positive vibe.

“Graceland Too” by Phoebe Bridgers

“My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison

“Fireman” by Katy Kirby

12:00 p.m.
FIND YOUR MIDDAY MOJO

Tune in to some relaxing, immersive music to slow your heart rate and help you take a much-needed breather.

“Bonny Light Horseman” by Bonny Light Horseman

“Not in Our Stars” by William Tyler

“My Little Brown Book” by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane

3:00 p.m.
AMP YOUR AFTERNOON

Higher-BPM jams will get your heart rate jumping.

“Let It Happen (Soulwax Remix)” by Tame Impala

“All My Life” by Foo Fighters

“Levitating” by Dua Lipa

6:00 p.m.
SET A NEW MOOD

Variety can help you decompress. Try these upbeat songs to settle into the evening.

“Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast

“Dragonball Durag” by Thundercat

“Hardlytown” by Hiss Golden Messenger

A version of this story originally appears in the October 2021 issue of Men’s Health.

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