One day out of the blue, I found myself working in an office full of fitness balls. It seemed strange, but everyone who had tried it was singing its praises, insisting it made them feel more focused and energized.
So, I thought, What the heck—let’s give the ball a shot.
But a data-backed shot. I decided not to just test sitting on a fitness ball for one week, but also to measure my productivity and work efficiency with the DeskTime time tracking and productivity app.
I was determined to see if it really was all it was cracked up to be.
Spoiler: It turns out that while my productivity (how much I got done) went slightly down, my work efficiency (how well I did on the stuff I did do) went up by over 16%—meaning that when I was physically at the computer, I actually worked smarter and more effectively than before.
The Week Before
The Week After
Here’s why I (and science) think this happened:
1. Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Activates Your Brain
Studies show that people are able to think more clearly and remember complex things better when conditions change. Turns out, the changes don’t have to be that big and extreme to keep your brain awake and sharp.
While it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable seat, there was something about that yoga ball that made me want to keep using it. Every time I switched over to it, it felt like my brain had just woken up—suddenly, I felt more focused, new ideas came to mind, and I was able to notice patterns in piles of data that I couldn’t see before.
I was very literally out of my comfort zone, and that made my mind work in a more intense mode.
2. Good Posture Helps Fight Procrastination
There was one more thing I noticed from the moment I sat on my ball—it physically required me to straighten my back and sit with better posture.
Sitting upright felt a bit awkward, but it did give me the “can-do” feeling, and I quit procrastinating and simply got things done, one task at a time.
And, there was more: I also noticed that I was mostly tackling tasks that I didn’t particularly like or had put off for much too long.
3. A Change of Seating Forces You to Take Breaks
OK, I know what you’re thinking—nonsense! But, think about it: My unconventional seating forced me to take frequent breaks. It simply didn’t let me get too comfortable and sit for hours straight.
It made me want to stand up, stretch out, and take a spin around the office. And that’s exactly what physicians are encouraging people to do. Because it’s not sitting per se that’s unhealthy, but that we generally spend too much time on our bottoms and not enough time moving.
4. More Breaks Mean More Productivity
While any doctor would agree that taking breaks at work is good for your health and productivity, not all breaks are the same.
Confused? Let me explain.
My goal was to keep the experiment going throughout the week while avoiding any discomfort. So, I decided to switch back and forth between my desk chair and yoga ball every 20 to 30 minutes.
With this, I noticed that sometimes, if I was in the middle of a task and needed to change seats, it was distracting and I needed a significant amount of time to get back into my workflow.
So, to avoid this, I started to cut my more time-consuming tasks into smaller ones (kind of like my own version of the Pomodoro Technique). That way, I could take advantage of the productivity boosts that came with the first few minutes after switching to the yoga ball. And, I could take short breaks between each swap and not feel distracted.
Taking a nice long lunch may be the right idea for some people, but this experiment proved to me that shorter, more frequent breaks are actually more motivating for me.
I may have you convinced to go out and buy a yoga ball right this second, but I also get if your boss wouldn’t be too keen on the idea.
The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to convince them—you can still reap the benefits of a yoga ball without actually using one.
For example, you can set a phone reminder that encourages you to fix your posture throughout the day, or invest in one of these easy-to-use gadgets that does the work for you.
Or, you can download an app that’ll remind you to take breaks throughout the day.
Or, if your company allows it, you can simply change your scenery by leaving your desk and working elsewhere in your office.
Because it’s not about the ball—it’s about working a healthy lifestyle into your daily routine so no matter how much you have to get done, your body and mind are ready to tackle it.
Photo of person on yoga ball courtesy of Jetta Productions/Getty Images.
Krista is a co-founder of Truesix.co, a content marketing agency that helps European startups access English speaking markets. She has a Bachelor's and two Masters' degrees in communications, yet she believes that the most important lessons are learned by doing. Her goal in life? To travel the world, one corner of the Earth at a time.More from this Author