The newest most powerful productivity hack could be standing right in front of you, quite literally! Dr Callum Forrest explains why our posture plays much more of a role than first thought and the science on why productivity and posture are linked is solid.
Task orientated people will agree they are most productive in the mornings. You’ve had a good night’s sleep, feel refreshed and the mind is clear to tackle the day ahead. In fact many of the world’s top entrepreneurs and business leaders advise scheduling key priority tasks in the mornings.
But where does the drive and productivity go by the afternoon and is there a way of bucking this trend of decreased efficiency? Well the good news is one simple free solution could change the way we work forever.
Lack of movement and prolonged sitting have a global effect on our health, much more than just causing muscle tightness and an aching low back. So much so that Clinical Professor and Director of Women’s Health UCLA Dr Camelia Davtyan, says that, “Sitting is the new smoking”.
So let us have a look at what sitting does to our body and more importantly our brain. A study conducted by Harvard University looked at the effect of a slouched sitting posture compared to an expansive upright posture (standing, shoulders back and chest out). The results were fascinating. Slouched sitting postures promoted feelings of inferiority, sadness and depression whilst expansive postures increased feelings of confidence and leadership abilities. The standing postures actually altered participant’s hormone levels by decreasing the stress hormone Cortisol and increasing levels of Testosterone. So something as simple as standing tall and pushing your chest out can change the chemistry in the brain. This theory known as Embodied Cognition explains how the mind body relationship is a two way street. Emotional experiences have a direct influence on the function of the body and visa-versa the postures we adopt have a direct influence on our mood, concentration and productivity.
The lack of movement associated with prolonged sitting also plays a role in our brains stimulation. Nobel Prize winning neurobiologist Roger Sperry discovered that 90 percent of the stimulation of the brain comes from movement of the spine. Prolonged sitting in a slouched position reduces this stimulation drastically. Conversely walking and gentle stretching stimulates the brain. Making movement a regular part of our day is key to keeping productive.
Poor posture and slouching also effects our breathing. Over time prolonged sitting leads to the adoption of a shallow breathing pattern resulting in a reduced oxygen intake. Common signs of this are feeling tired and sluggish mid-afternoon and yawning in the middle of the day.
The running theme in all these studies is prolonged sitting decreases how well our brain and body functions. It’s like trying to drive a sports car with the handbrake on. So what small daily disciplines can we implement to take the handbrake off and tap into increased productivity and tangible results?
We share our top five productivity hacks for ultimate performance and consistent productivity:
Implement the 30 for 30 rule – Move for 30 seconds every 30 minutes as an absolute minimum. Break your day into 30 minute chunks. Set a reminder and get up and move for 30 seconds. This movement stimulates and wakes the brain.
Stand for attention! Where possible work standing up. If holding a team meeting or taking a lengthy call do these standing. This reduces postural fatigue making it less likely you will slouch when you sit down.
Chest up and out. Whenever you walk through a doorway raise your sternum by 2 cm. This small change in posture increases lung volume and releases hormones which increase confidence.
Utilise your lunch time. Changing your environment and moving for 20-30 minutes will make you more productive than if you worked straight through your lunch. The movement stimulates the brain, the new environment takes your mind off work preventing mental fatigue.
Box Breathe. When feeling tired or stressed close your eyes and breathe deeply from the diaphragm. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds and hold for a final 4 seconds before repeating 4 times. This not only increases oxygen uptake which will perk you up but also reduces the release of stress hormones.
As Jeff Olsen famously said, “The following are easy to do and easy not to do”. These productivity hacks need to be replicated daily for tangible results. Don’t keep these a secret. Share them with your colleagues and enjoy improved posture, productivity and performance.