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June 24, 2016, by Elizabeth Smith

10 things to make your working day better

“It’s never too late to start over. If you weren’t happy with yesterday, try something different today. Don’t stay stuck. Do better”

Our Twitter feed is full of articles being shared on how to make the working day more efficient, enjoyable and exciting. From making a to-do list to practicing desk yoga – we’ve read about them all.

After some very scientific testing by the Ingenuity Lab members and staff, we’ve come up with our tried and tested definitive guide to making your day at work better. You can thank us later…

Get into the habit of making to-do lists

The Science: Daniel J Levitin, author of Organised Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information
Overload, argues that human brains can only pay attention to three or four things at one time. Offloading the less important tasks and the nagging internal voices that tell you you’re super busy allows us to excel in the moment, and enjoy it.

Source: How to stop to-do lists ruining your life (The Guardian)

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The humble to-do list

Always be aware of your goals

The Science: Along with serotonin, the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a key role in our emotional, and working, life. Dopamine acts as a motivator, and creates a sense of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Setting (realistic!) goals allows our brain to work with us to achieve and successfully develop our businesses.

Source: The Science of Setting Goals (Lifehack)

Tested by: Dr Terri Holloway (Director, Swapmeat Ltd)

The verdict: Being aware of how to reach your goals is imperative to accomplishing tasks. I find it most useful to start with monthly goals and break them down into weekly and daily targets.

Reward yourself for a power hour

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Tea and biscuits is the best way to celebrate a successful power hour

The Science: Researchers at Florida State University have found elite performers who work in intervals of no more than 90 minutes are more productive than those working without a break for longer. So achieve what you need to during that power hour, and then reward yourself with a five minute break. The energy you bring to your business is far more valuable than the number of hours you work.

Source: 15 Ways to Increase Productivity at Work (Inc)

Tested by: Lizzie Smith (Marketing and Events Assistant, The Ingenuity Lab)

The verdict: I am such a fan of power hours. I find it so useful to stick my headphones in, blast some Ibiza anthems, type away to my heart’s content and tick things off my to-do list. My advice to others embarking on a power hour would be to only make the hour as long as you can focus for – don’t frazzle your brain by trying to hit the 60 or 90 minute mark. And of course, savour your five minute break and cup of tea after!

Bring your dog to work

The Science: Now this is one of our favourites! A study published by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management showed that people who took their four legged friends to work reported lower stress throughout the day than those without pets or who left their pooches at home. Plus, taking your dog out for a walk during the day is a great opportunity to be more physically active!

As today is, #BringYourDogToWorkDay, it would have been rude not to include it in our list!

Source: How ‘Bring Your Dog to Work’ Days Could Lower Stress (TIME)

Tested by: Trishna Daswaney (Director, Kohl Kreatives) and Tia; Genelva Meikle (Marketing and Events Consultant, The Ingenuity Lab) and Missy

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Genelva and Missy on #BringYourDogToWorkDay

The verdict:

Trishna: Tia is my best friend, so working all day with your best friend is pretty incredible. She’s always up for a snuggle when I’m having a stressful day and of course she’s always the centre of attention being the socialite she is!

Genelva: Bringing Missy to work certainly was an interesting experience. Whilst the dog lovers in the room loved it, I soon realised that a colleague next to me was petrified of dogs and another had severe allergies. Missy is only 17 weeks, so we only stayed for a few hours. In the first hour she was comfortable and relaxed chewing on her favourite toy. However, the second hour she spent running up and down the corridor of Sir Colin Campbell Building, interrupting meetings, chewing post-stick notes, crumbs and random bits of plastic we didn’t even know we had in the office. Since we’ve been here I’ve managed to send about four emails and write this paragraph. On a scale of 1-10, I would give it a 6, although for her first visit she has been well behaved! #Puptastic!

Have a nap

The Science: Napping has a long line of advocates: America’s own champion of liberty, Thomas Jefferson, was a champion of nappers. Research has shown that a power nap can boost your memory, cognitive skills, creativity and energy levels. But how much nap time is the right time?

The 20 minute power nap is great for improving alertness and motor learning skills, while napping for approximately 30 to 60 minutes is goof for decision-making skills. If you’re in need of solving creative problems – take 60 to 90 minutes out. Having this time out during the working day allows your brain to make new connections and overcome the common barriers entrepreneurs face on a daily basis.

Source: The Secret (and Surprising) Power of Naps (WebMD)

Embrace the Comfy Bum

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Sarah with her Comfy Bum cushion

The Science: The Comfy Bums cushion helps reduce lower back pain when sitting down through reducing the weight exterted on the base of your spine. It uses layers of extra firm foam and memory foam to ensure maximum support and comfort.

Run by Ingenuity Lab member Sarah Found, who has just finished an Undergraduate degree in French at the University of Nottingham, Comfy Bums is a relatively new product in the market, but one that definitely needs taking notice of!

Source: Comfy Bums

Tested by: Sarah Found (Director, Comfy Bums)

The verdict: My cushion is fantastic, as for a long time after my back injury, it was the only thing that enabled me to sit down. The importance of this cannot be underestimated: I was in agony and very demoralised from the way that my back injury was disrupting so many normal activities that I previously had taken for granted – such as having coffee with friends, going to lectures and travelling for work meetings.

It’s got a much longer shelf life than previous coccyx cushions I’ve bought, and has been designed to look like a laptop case when it’s in transit – which is a great feature for avoiding awkward questions!

Have a healthy lunch

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Terri preparing some healthy food

The Science: We spend up to 60% of our waking hours in a work environment, and consume over a third of our daily intake while working. Although being busy entrepreneurs makes squeezing in lunch breaks a difficult task for Ingenuity Lab members, your nutrition – particularly your glucose intake – will decide your productivity for the rest of the day.

Ingenuity Lab member and University of Nottingham Alumni Dr Terri Holloway says, “a healthy lunch is a colourful lunch filled with lots of gorgeous fruit and veg. This is the perfect time of year to try out exciting new lunchtime salads and green smoothies, so there’s no reason to miss out on your 5 a day!”

Source: 8 Reasons Why You Should Definitely Take That Lunch Break (Fast Company)

Tested by: Dr Terri Holloway (Director, Swapmeat Ltd)

The verdict: For me, a healthy lunch is a colourful lunch filled with lots of gorgeous fruit and veg. This is the perfect time of year to try out exciting new lunchtime salads and green smoothies, so there’s no reason to miss out on your 5 a day!

Sniff a lemon

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Amur testing the strangest of the list

The Science: We admit, this sounds weird. But Japanese researchers have found that linalool – a substance found in lemons – can work as a quick de-stressing trick. Research also shows that laughter fosters a positive work environment, and a team is much more likely to be successful if they are comfortable enough to laugh in each other’s presence. So if you don’t want to try it for the lemons, try it for the laughs that will inevitably follow after your team catch you trying this one out!

Source: 10 Ways to Improve Your Day in Just 5 Minutes (WedMD); This is Why People Who Laugh More Are More Productive Than You (LifeHack)

Tested by: Amur Anzorov (Director, House of Education)

The verdict: I would rate sniffing a lemon as a de-stresser a solid 7/10. The scent of the fresh citrus is so refreshing and really did make me happy. I reckon you could get away with trying any citrus fruit. My advice for anyone wanting to try it during their working day: Sniff, Eat, Relax!

Do some desk yoga

The Science: The start of this week saw #YogaDay, and our eyes were opened to the world of Office Yoga as a result. A growing body of scientific research from the likes of the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois has demonstrated that practicing yoga can reduce stress, boost your mood and improve your cognitive function.

If the thought of treating yourself to some lunchtime yoga is laughable, desk yoga is the way to go. Discrete moves and stretches can deliver many of the benefits yoga has to offer without having to fit yet another task into your busy schedule.

Source: 18 Ways to Make Your Workday Suck Less (Buzzfeed)

Tested by: Jordana Chin (Director, Nutri2Go)

The verdict: I had just come out of a meeting with my mentor, so I had a million and one thoughts whizzing around my head about what I want to achieve over the next few weeks. A spot of desk yoga with Terri and Lizzie was really relaxing and made me feel much calmer. The stretches were so nice and it was much nicer than just going straight back to me desk and sitting there. Although I think I’m ready for a nap after it, it was fun to try something different and get the blood flowing.

Leave on a positive note

The Science: At the end of your working day, after you’ve completed your to-do list, rewarded you and your dog for your power hours and sniffed some lemons, make sure you take note of something that went well, compliment a member of your team, or drop a thank you note to a client.

Make sure the last thing on your mind as you walk out the door, or switch off for the evening, is something positive that reminds you why you do what you do.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to try out our top tips! We hope they’ve helped make your Friday that extra special.

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