Editor’s Note: Part 2 of “18 Ways to Make the Most of Your Workday.” You can read Part 1 here.
10. Skip the watercooler gabbing. Gossip is enticing. “Hey did you hear that about …” begs an “ooh, do tell.” But when it comes right down to it, juicy tidbits cause more strife than they’re worth. When asked how Christians can best live out their faith on the job, Kevin Miller, author of Surviving Information Overload, says, “Gossip less. It’s so easy for me to get pulled into unkind conversations about others, and as a Christian, one thing that would immediately make me stand out is to not do that.”
11. Take your lunch break. Make eat-at-your-desk lunches few and far between. Your brain needs the break of a new atmosphere for the 30 minutes or hour that you’re allotted. And when you chow, avoid heavy meals (think high fat: fried foods, cream sauces, and so on) that make you feel sluggish the rest of the day or simple carb selections (like rice), which fill you up momentarily, then leave you hungry an hour later. And pack healthy snacks to curb mid-afternoon munchies (apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter or trail mix with nuts and raisins), avoiding the sugar spike-and-dives of vending machine choices.
12. Get moving. If you prefer, use your lunch break to take a nearby exercise class or go for a walk with a favored coworker. Exercise benefits your cardiovascular health, weight, and work mentality, allowing endorphins to elevate your mood and enhance your productivity.
13. Play well with others. A few extra minutes to build relationships isn’t wasted time. “Establishing good rapport with coworkers is absolutely necessary for the success of our projects,” says Ryan Wojcik, a business systems analyst/consultant in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It doesn’t matter if I like the person or not—I need to be able to communicate in a cordial manner with this person if the project is to be completed successfully.” So take time for people who cross your cube. Good interactions make good business sense.
14. But don’t get too chummy on the clock. Ever notice how sitcom characters never actually work at their jobs? And while coworkers can become good friends too, one of the biggest office time-wasters is spending too much time gabbing (or IMing) when you should be focusing on work. While it’s always fun to catch up on a friend’s hot date or to see what someone thought of an episode of “The Office,” reserve longer chats for lunch (or after hours).
15. Minimize multitasking. “We never concentrate on one task anymore,” says John Challenger, chief executive of outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. “You take a little chip out of it, and then you’re on to the next thing. It’s harder to feel like you’re accomplishing something.” Instead, focus on doing one task at a time well. Join the revolt against multitasking, and enjoy the thrill of finishing projects fully and promptly.
16. Control your e-mail (not the other way around). It’s lightning fast, but e-mail isn’t always your friend. “The average worker receives 220 messages every day in e-mails, memos, people visits, advertisements,” Miller says. “Most people think they have to respond immediately to every e-mail.” But you don’t have to. Miller suggests two simple solutions: Turn off the Pavlovian chime on incoming e-mails (so you don’t become distracted) and space e-mail deliveries further apart.
17. Plan for chaos. In his book Never Eat Barbeque in Maine: Proven Career Strategies From People Who’ve Been There, Done That, Ken Tanner advises, “Before you leave for the day, spend 15 minutes planning the next day. And plan loosely. The fact is that new priorities will pop up, your boss will re-direct your plans, and your assistant will get sick on the day you need her the most. Plan for interruptions and chaos, and build it into your schedule.”
18. Do a reality check. Even with a daily three-page to-do-list, Isaacs makes it a point to maintain perspective. “My coworker once gave me the best advice, and that was that this job is never tied up in a pretty red bow at the end of the day. It will always be ready for you in the morning,” she says. “I think that has helped me realize that everything won’t be crossed off the list every day.” Plus, knowing what really matters in the grand scheme of life has been a great reality check.