How to Survive Your Desk Job (Part 2)
Last week we explored some of the mental & spiritual tips to help survive your desk job. But, we all know that it's not just those elements that make desk jobs hard. Sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day is horrible for our health! Have you seen the studies that suggest that a sedentary lifestyle is as bad for heart as smoking cigarettes?
Terrifying, but true. Our bodies were made to be moved, to be pushed hard, and then given ample rest, but it wasn't designed to sit. Not like this. For hours on end... So, below we'll shift to the physical aspects of surviving your desk job that have helped me immensely.
The setup of your office space and desk can make a huge impact on how you feel each day. There are five items that I'd recommend for people who have 4+ hours of computer work a day. I've also included a photo of my desk, so you can see what I've got going on.
These are E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G! I don't know how I made it so many years without them. If you weren't aware, the blue light from your computer screen wreaks havoc on your eyesight and your circadian rhythm. On days when I forget to bring these to work, I find myself staring blankly at my screen, completely non-functional. It's like the blue-light zaps my life force. If you're interested in more of the science behind these, check out this article from Mercola. I got these Eyekeeper Readers from Amazon for about $12 and it was worth 10x that!
I never really understood why a 2nd monitor was beneficial until I had one. Depending on the nature of the work that you do, you may or may not need one of these. But I usually have 4-5 programs open at a time: Outlook, Chrome (multiple tabs), Slack, Excel, Adobe, etc. To be able to reference one document while writing in another without needing to constantly toggle back-and-forth, is invaluable. While I had a monitor at work, it took me another 2.5 years to acquire a 2nd monitor for my home office. I'm so glad that I finally did! In fact, studies show that a 2nd monitor can increase productivity by 20-50%!
It's easy to compromise your posture when working on a laptop because it sits lower than your line of sight. A laptop stand is crucial to accompany your 2nd monitor as it puts your laptop screen on the same eye-level. Glancing from the laptop screen to the monitor screen will be much more comfortable for your eyes and neck. This is even more beneficial if you work at a standing desk (which I highly recommend).
Keyboard & Mouse
Here's another aspect I would have overlooked had I not observed everyone else in my office. They all had a separate keyboard and mouse from the ones that came imbedded on their laptops. And boy oh boy, is this needed, especially if you have a 2nd monitor. I'm not going to make a recommendation on keyboard, but I'm obsessed with my Logitech mouse. You can set up this mouse so that you can pan out from one window to switch between applications with one click! You can also zoom & scroll, without moving your mouse.
When I first got my job, I thought that a standing desk would be the solution for my sitting woes. So I commandeered one of the community standing desks and made it my own. After a few months, I noticed that I had a tendency to stand in some awkward positions, like hiking my leg up on a filing cabinet and collapsing into one hip. It ended up causing some back pain and made me ever curious about the true benefits of standing desks.
After ample research I learned that the benefit of the standing desk would be lost if you simply stood still at your desk all day. The beauty in them is that they're adjustable. The key is MOVEMENT. So, I began alternating between sitting and standing and prioritized working simple movements (calf raises, bodyweight squats, etc.) into my day when I would change the desk position. (More on this in #7).
I'm not a nutritionist (though I did study nutrition in college) so my thoughts on nutrition are entirely anecdotal. After a few months at my desk job, I found myself suffering from the familiar "afternoon slump." To remedy this, I started supplementing with Peanut M&M's or Snickers, maybe some extra coffee, or a bag of Classic Lays. Yeah...that didn't go over very well.
With a reduction in exercise and an increase in processed food consumption (mainly in the form of bread and pasta), I started having issues with maintaining my energy and mental clarity throughout the day. By the time I was off work and could do an activity for my enjoyment, I was drained of all energy.
I hit the wall in February 2017 and needed to make some changes.
After a lot of research, I stumbled upon the Ketogenic diet and got sucked into the fascinating science of Ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body starts burning ketones (fatty acids) for fuel instead of the more readily accessible glucose. I committed to the diet for about 6-months and found that my ability to maintain focus throughout the day increased, the soundness of my sleep improved, it became easier to wake up in the morning and the anti-inflammatory effects that the diet had were astounding.
But the diet was difficult for me to maintain and led to some obsessive thoughts that didn't feel healthy. I've backed off of following a strict Ketogenic diet, but it has liberated me from my fear of fat and instilled in me a great value of prioritizing whole foods over processed ones. I rarely eat bread or processed foods and keep sugar consumption to a minimum. Keto still serves as the foundation of my diet and I follow it more strictly (along with intermittent fasting) to reset my metabolism a few times a year.
As far as my recommendations for you: be mindful about how the food you eat makes you feel. Prioritize the foods that give you lasting, sustained energy, and make you feel good over the long run. I do not prescribe one singular diet for every person.
Everyone has their unique preferences for exercise. Much like nutrition, I really don't care what you do exactly, just move and sweat every day. Even if it's only for 10 minutes. I came to this desk job after more than a decade of movement & exercise for 4-8 hours a day, nearly every day. It was hard for me to comprehend that a 20 minute workout could be beneficial. So, ironically, I started not exercising much at all. If I couldn't fit in a 2 hour workout, I did nothing instead. Much like Peanut M&Ms and Snickers above, this was not beneficial.
I have found that a light stretch/yoga session every morning and a mid-day workout 2-3 days during the work-week keeps my energy and spirits up. Then I can get my big adventures in on the weekend when I have more time.
If you're really trying to kick productivity into overdrive, here are some apps and products that I love:
I spend about an hour at the end of my week to schedule out all my tasks for the next. The Passion Planner has excellent resources and structures to help you stay focused on your personal goals, while still allocating space for your work to-dos. For me, it's been the best way to organize my days. When I don't take the time to set myself up for the week, I often find myself in a blank, directionless stare after I finish a task and get all too easily sucked into my phone (Instagram, anyone?). And, since time is the only resource that we can't get back, I end up wasting it.
Am I the only one who loves a good inspirational quote every now and again? Didn’t think so… The Momentum plugin for Chrome of Firefox transforms your homepage into an inspirational quote message board. They also usually have incredible landscape photos as the background that change daily. The ToDo component is a comprehensive task tracker. I honestly can’t do this thing justice, but it helps you plan your day into burst of higher intensity work and lower intensity work. Here’s a breakdown for the FREE version (upgrade to PRO for even more):
• New inspirational photo and quote each day • Set a daily goal/focus/intention • Keep track of tasks with Todo list • See the weather and forecast • Links and search • Show bookmarks bar on new tab • Default Chrome Tab/Apps links • Customize the dashboard by showing/hiding widgets • Set your uptime and downtime with Balance mode • Feel good and get things done!