Work Life

6 ways to feel less insane at the office

I don’t care whether you adore your job or despise it. Either way, it’s tough to plant your glutes in the same desk chair for 8+ hours and not get stiff. Or start to waver on the spectrum from mildly stir-crazy to borderline insane.

Since my writing career inherently forces me to be attuned to my own stream-of-consciousness all day, I try to implement some of these tricks to keep my head on straight. You can too.

(1) Answer emails intermittently

If you fall into the trap of answering every single email as it pops up in your inbox, that’s all you’re going to accomplish all day. Those suckers will derail your focus from what you’re actually trying to do. Take a few minutes at the end of every hour to check email, or do it between each completed task.

To lighten up our inboxes a little more, the C5 team opted to try out Slack, an app that allows you to interact on topic-specific channels rather than send emails every time you have a thought or question. Email threads are the worst.

(2) Implement the headphones rule

Coworkers are super fun to have. You should banter with them about the symbolism of Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement, ask them about that house you know they’re rabidly hunting for in east Charlotte and maybe even pry a little bit about that drunken thing you know they did on Saturday. But when it’s time to be in the zone, it’s time to be in the zone. Put on some bulky headphones or jam some earbuds in your ears. It’s the universally polite-yet-firm symbol for,  “I am working really, really hard so do not speak to me or I will freak out.”‘

I recommend “Peaceful Piano” on Spotify. It’s soothing, yet just the right amount of dramatic.

(3) Keep stressful personal calls at bay

A few “Hey, just checking in” text messages from your honey or your best friend during the day are encouraging. They boost your mood and likely positively influence your productivity. But if you know your next phone call is going to be a fight with your boyfriend or an explosive interaction with a family member — and it can wait until tonight — then, for the love of God, let it wait so you can meet your deadline without a meltdown.

(4) Avoid mindlessly scrolling through social media

Not only is it distracting, it might mess with your mood. Studies show that heavy social media usage, including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, can cause depression. One study cited exposure to “highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives.”

Kind of hard to avoid those feelings when you’re stuck at your desk. Drop the habit.

(5) Add a habit to your routine that shakes up the day

There are plenty of (weird) things you could try, from unrolling a yoga mat in your cubicle, to closing your eyes and meditating, to standing up and doing jumping jacks. But I love this piece by an office worker who took daily plank breaks in her office for a month to re-energize herself. As she found, “Luckily nobody seemed to notice—or they just accepted that I was somewhat eccentric. ”

(6) Have a plan — and a backup plan — for post-work satisfaction

What’s your silver lining for the end of a long day? A jog around the neighborhood? A new recipe you’re planning to tackle with a glass of wine? A movie with a friend? Keep that in mind. But also have a back-up plan if you know your workflow could delay you. You don’t want to implode at work just because you missed The One Thing You Were Looking Forward To On This Day.

Have a happy work day! And many more.

Photo: Katie Toussaint