10 Ideas to Free You From Your Desk

Every now and then, your office will feel stale. Maybe even oppressive. You may be procrastinating, in need of vacation, butting heads with your boss, or just drained by the fluorescent lights.

Whatever the reason, recognize your restlessness for what it is. Don’t deny or judge it — just flip the script by changing your routine. Here are some ways to D-I-Y it:


Try a change of scenery. 

Hit the library. Libraries are free, quiet, and designed to enhance focus. While you’re there, take a few minutes to wander the stacks and soak up some literary inspiration.

Grab a cup. Coffeeshops offer soothing background noise, free wifi and unlimited caffeine. Need I say more?

Try co-working. Co-working studios have transformed my work more than once. In fact, I’m writing from one right now. They typically offer modern aesthetics, entrepreneurial energy, and a variety of workspaces (mine has carrels, sofas, shared desks, reading nooks, conference rooms, and outdoor seating).

Work from home. Treat yourself to a day at home, complete with your favorite tunes and your stretchy pants. Seek out the brightest room in your house — take advantage of that natural light while you can.

Reserve your office conference room. Can’t pull away for a half or whole day? Reserve your organization’s conference room for a window of time and escape from distraction right down the hall.


No laptop? No problem.  

Cultivate a reading list. Maintain a folder of articles and either print or bookmark them for easy access. (Bonus points for actual books.) If you think can’t afford to  slow down for this, you are wrong. Very wrong. You can’t afford not to.

Schedule a walking meeting or call. Stay alert for meetings that will not require note-taking. In my experience, this works best when your teams are reporting on status and for informal discussions with a close colleague. Do you sometimes find yourself pacing in your office? Take that nervous energy to the streets.

Schedule email sessions, and hit a park bench with your phone. This serves the dual purpose of removing you from your desk and imposing better email discipline. Turn off your email client in the interim. (I know, this one feels impossible. All the more reason to try it.)

Keep a running list of tasks that you do better offline. In addition to reading, my offline list includes outlining, theoretical work, reviewing client notes, proofreading, and task management. Grab your notebook and relocate.

Are you goal-setting regularly? You should. Goal-setting requires a fresh perspective, so it is tailor-made for unlikely settings. Try a sunny patio, a yoga mat, or even a bar stool. Wrap your week by reflecting on accomplishments and setting the next week's focus. Allow yourself extra time at the end of the month and quarter to consider upcoming projects, performance review goals, and personal aspirations.


The idea is to experiment. 

These ideas are low-risk, but substantial enough to alleviate the grind.  Try one for a re-engagement hack, or incorporate them all to revitalize your work life. If your otherwise awesome job lacks flexibility, discover alternative spaces within your organization. Keep your manager abreast of where you will be and why.

Whatever you do, challenge the assumption that you must be tethered to your desk or computer. Get off the treadmill and take a walk in the woods.