Productivity at Your Desk: Exercises, Pomodoro, and Getting Things Done

I’m not at my desk very often, so when I am, I need to be productive.  And because I’m not at my desk very often, when I am, I need to make sure I stay in decent shape.

We have been seeing more studies on the dangers of too much sitting during the day.

For exercise, I came across this article called The Desk Jockey Workout: 8 Ways to Stay in Shape at the Office by Brett & Kate McCay from the Art of Manliness blog.  They make their case in these opening paragraphs:

For most of human history, work has been a physically demanding activity.  Our cavemen ancestors chased down mastodons and hurled spears into their tough, but tasty flesh, American homesteaders tamed the wilderness into productive farms with nothing but grit and sweat, and just 60 years ago, the majority of men in America flexed their muscles on factory floors or construction sites.

Fast-forward to today.

Instead of feeding ourselves by the sweat of our brows, most of us just slouch in a chair all day in a climate-controlled building while we push buttons and send documents through the ether. And the sitting doesn’t end after work. When we get home, we plop down in front of the TV to watch reality shows of men performing the kind of virile, physical, and often dirty work we fantasize about doing while answering emails in our cubicle.

Man’s transition from callused-handed, blue-collared laborer to soft-handed, white-collared desk jockey has done a number on us physically and mentally. Not only have our desk jobs made us weak, flabby, and stiff, sedentary work is sapping the very hormone that makes a man a man: testosterone.

What’s more, all this sitting is slowly eating away at our life meters. One study showed that men who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day had a 20% higher death rate than those who sat for three hours or less. For the desk jockey, death comes wrapped in a Successories Poster and waving a USB drive.

“Ah-ha!” you say. “I work out out like a beast in the gym every day and have a physique that rivals Eugen Sandow’s. My hour-long, herculean effort counteracts all the sitting and slouching I do at work!”

Sorry to break it to you Mac, but your visits to the gym aren’t doing much to mitigate the damage that accumulates from all that desk jockeying.

Studies have shown that consistent, vigorous workouts don’t do much to offset the damage we do to our bodies by sitting down all day at our cushy Dilbert-esque jobs.

So what’s a modern man to do?

It makes a difference.  Take time to read on!

In the midst of this article, they referred to the Pomodoro Technique.  I’ve used it for the past week, and it has really helped me be more focused and productive while I’m at my desk.   Created in 1992 by Francesco Cirillo, who based everything around a simple kitchen timer.

Why?

  • A ‘pomodoro’ is indivisible—lasting at the very least 25 minutes.  So for 25 minutes you focus on a task.
  • After one ‘pomodoro,’ you take a short 4-5 minute break.  But make that productive.  Do some situps, crunches, something to keep you active and alert.
  • After that is done and nothing else is pressing, you put on another pomodoro, then take another short break.
  • After four pomodoros, you take a 15 minute break.  Walk around your building, climb some stairs, more pushups/situps, etc.
  • If you have an interruption that takes you away, you’ve lost your pomodoro (remember, they are indivisible).
  • If something else comes across your mind that is urgent, write it down on another sheet of paper, and deal with that (maybe during your break).

You can download the PDF of the Pomodoro Technique, along with PDF’s of other sheets to help you along with a Cheat Sheet, To Do Today Worksheet, and Activity Worksheets.

You can also download free apps from the iTunes Store.  Just search for Pomodoro and you will get a number of options.  Some do cost, but try the free ones out to see if you like it.

What are some other ways you have found to exercise during the day in an office job, and other ways that have improved your time management and productivity?

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