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Dr. Johnson's Guide to Productivity

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

In this blog, we have compiled some of Dr. Johnson's favorite tips and tricks to increase productivity in your workday, whether you're in the office or still working from home.

Dr. Johnson, work, productivity

Analyze how you’re sitting:


You’ve probably been told dozens of times to sit up straight while working. But did you know good posture while working can actually increase productivity? One study found that sitting up can increase performance for any task when compared to participants that slouched. The theory behind this phenomenon is related to how the brain stores and interprets memories. Your brain has associated slouching with negative memories like being sick or feeling sad or defeated. This will impact how the brain functions when attempting to complete cognitive tasks.


Your posture is also connected to how the reticular activating system functions in the brain. This system is a network of nerve pathways that connects the spinal cord, cerebellum, cerebrum, and mediates your overall consciousness levels. Due to the connection between the reticular activating system and the spinal cord, better posture means better cognitive performance and alertness.


Consider your screen placement:


When you set up your workspace, it’s important to consider where to place your computer screen in relation to your direct line of sight. Dr. Johnson swears by keeping her computer screen above eye level. Research has found this uncommon monitor positioning will actually increase alertness throughout your workday. While a computer screen below your eye level can induce drowsiness and sluggishness.


This practice is very easy to incorporate into your workspace. Simply place your laptop on a couple of books or lower your office chair to increase the distance between your line of sight and your computer screen.


Start your workday with electrolytes:


Did you know that when you wake up in the morning, you’re probably already dehydrated? It makes sense, you just spend seven to eight hours without water while sleeping. Thus, the absolute best way to start your day is with a drink full of electrolytes. Electrolytes will not only replenish your dehydrated body, but will also provide you with a boost of energy.


Some of the best ways to get electrolytes are through:

  • Coconut water- This drink is also known as “mother nature’s natural energy drink.” While it does have fructose and sugar, coconut water is also packed with antioxidants, minerals, and electrolytes.

  • Sea salt- Technically, the word electrolyte is a term for salts or ions in the blood that carry a charge. By adding sea salt to your morning glass of water, you’ll automatically be replenishing your body with this essential electrolyte.

  • Lemons- Adding a squeeze or two of lemon juice to your morning drink is another great way to incorporate electrolytes into your morning routine. Not only do lemons provide a naturally energizing flush of electrolytes, but they also come with a plethora of other health benefits.

  • Electrolyte supplements- The most straightforward way to flush your body with electrolytes first thing in the morning is to take an electrolyte supplement. Most of these supplements are also packed with other essential vitamins and minerals.

Especially for those of us whose genes determine that we cannot drink coffee, starting your day with a nice cup of electrolytes will give you an energizing boost to carry you through the workday.


Figure out when you are most productive:


One of the benefits of working from home is that you can structure your workday around the hours in which you are most productive. Peak hours of productivity are different for everyone. It largely has to do with your sleep schedule and if you’re an early riser or a night owl. Your peak productivity levels also change throughout the year. In January, when there is less sunlight, your circadian rhythm starts later, which means the brain starts working later too.


One fun way to determine your most productive hours is by writing a 6-word story several times throughout the day. An example of such a story could be: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Keep track of when you’re writing these stories and look for patterns in them. Did the stories easily flow at certain times of the day? While at other times, did you find the task impossible? If you keep up this routine for at least three days, you’ll have a pretty good schedule of your most creative and productive time periods. This exercise will also demonstrate when your “creative dead zones” occur.


Some studies have found averages for peak productivity. Mondays in October at 11 am are the most productive time of the year. The study also found that most people are not very productive before 7 am and after 5 pm productivity drops again. Productivity peaks each day at 11 am, but takes a hit at 1 pm and never again reaches that peak. Monday is also the most productive day of the week, with Fridays being 20% less productive.


Incorporate plants into your workspace:


Beyond looking nice and pleasant in your workspace, a nice houseplant can also add benefits to your workday. An Australian study found that anxiety and tension fell by 37%, depression and rejection dropped by 58%, anger and hostility fell by 44%, and fatigue dropped 38% just by adding plants to the workplace. Plants in the workplace have also been linked to a 25% decrease in fatigue and concentration difficulties.


Plants have also been found to increase productivity and creativity. One study found that productivity increases by 15% when plants are introduced to a workspace. The 2015 Human Spaces report found that employees that worked in an office with plants scored 15% higher in creativity than those with no plants.


Integrate movement into your day:


Especially if you’re working from home, it’s critically important to take breaks to incorporate movement into your workday. While you may not realize you’re decreasing your activity level while working from home, the average office worker still gets in around 8,000 steps per day. Walking around the office, commuting, and walking to lunch all get you moving when you’re working in the office. Whereas at home, you may actually be significantly less active without the commute or walks to get lunch.


Taking small breaks every 90 minutes to incorporate some form of exercise will not only benefit your health but will also increase your productivity and give you an energy boost. Try these quick moves to get your heart rate pumping:

  • Do a simple yoga flow

  • Take a walk outside

  • Do some easy stretches

  • Try doing some crunches

  • Go up and down the stairs

For more of Dr. Johnson's tips and tricks, subscribe to our weekly newsletter!


The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach / Norfolk locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!

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