Tired of feeling tired every afternoon at work? Try one of these 3 ideas to get the blood + ideas pumping again.

We talk about how rest is an essential element for many aspects of our lives: creativity, school, relationships, to name a few. What about at work?

For many of us, our workdays involve lots of desk time and even more computer time.  Each day, our calendars quickly fill up with meetings and projects and events. We’re sending email after email, crafting presentations for clients, writing briefs for new campaigns, tracking trends, and much more. Our computers and phones are our best friends, our work lifelines, if you will.

The digital and electronic nature of work is a double-edged sword: in some ways, it’s more expedient and more organized, but extended screen time can border on unhealthy. Staring at screens for long periods of time grows tiring. I often experience soreness in the shoulders and neck, along with eye strain, and sometimes a nasty headache after extended screen time. I think I can get away from it when I go home, but since I have weekend duties, that’s not always the case.

Eye strain, soreness and headaches are no fun. This is why you should learn to take productive breaks at work (and when working at home).

This doesn’t mean taking naps at work or keeping a sleeping bag at the office (although I’m all for office blankets, if your office always feels like the arctic, like mine does). Taking breaks and refreshing our minds is important, but staying alert and mentally present is just as important. There’s an art to taking productive breaks on the job that let your brain rest and recharge, but don’t draw you completely away from the task(s) at hand. After all, you still have a to-do list to work through.

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Here are some tips on taking productive breaks at work:

1. Do a short stretch routine.

It doesn’t have to be a perfect yoga or pilates sequence, but take five minutes to stretch your legs, shoulders, neck, and arms at least once a day. At my office, we hold a “daily stretch” everyday around the mid-afternoon slump. It’s nothing fancy, but we have fun, and it lets us step away from our screens for 10-15 minutes each day. We even have witty narration to go with it.

Our daily stretch keeps our blood flowing and eases any headaches we have from leaning over our computers for long periods of time. Stretching in general is a good practice, anyway. It’s even more fun when we invite our friends from other businesses on our floor to join us. The more, the merrier, as always.

2. Hold “walking meetings.”

Meetings, especially smaller ones, don’t always have to involve sitting at desks or tables, or in tight conference rooms. I like walking and talking, so sometimes I’ll ask to do walking meetings for my one-on-one talks. Walking keeps the blood flowing, too, and I feel like the activity stimulates some great conversations. Even if you’re just walking around the office, you might see something or someone that sparks an idea–like a new poster on the wall, or a special announcement for an upcoming event.

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Personally I would keep walking meetings to three people at the max; any more than that, and it gets a little hairy. Even with three people, it’s hard to walk three side by side. Someone will always have to stand behind the others. Walking conversation is easier to facilitate between only two people.

3. Take a walk around the office, or a quick stroll around the block.

Sometimes, you just need to take a walk by yourself. Other times, you might tag along with others on their coffee run, even if you don’t get any coffee yourself. Maybe you can take a stroll down the street to find a bite to eat on your lunch break. Any of the above are okay. Give yourself that time to slow down and refresh before getting back to work.

Some days are much busier than others, but even on those days, giving yourself a short, productive break (or two) will make you feel better. When we stretch at my office, everyone immediately feels better.

And plus, when you give yourself time to rest, you’ll be able to tackle everything on your to-do list with much better focus and efficiency. So don’t forget to rest for a little bit, even at work. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

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What’s your favorite way to take a short, productive break at work?

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