Leadership

3 easy ways to ‘spring clean’ your work life, according to a Stanford professor

It's officially spring in the U.S. and over 75 percent of Americans are getting ready to do their annual spring cleaning at home, the American Cleaning Institute found in a recent survey.

While this time of the year is often associated with cleaning your house and removing clutter, Stanford professor Emma Seppala says now is also a great time to "spring clean your mind" and work life.

"Given that we take in [at least] 64 GB of information every day, according to research from UC San Diego, there's probably a lot of clutter in our minds," Seppala, author of "The Happiness Track," tells CNBC Make It.

Factoring in the time people spend at their desks multitasking between desktops and mobile phones, checking email, browsing social media and streaming videos, Americans consume media about 12 hours a day.

"The more information we fill our minds with, the poorer our ability to remember things becomes," Seppala says. "The brain literally acts as if it were cluttered and we're less able to ignore irrelevant information."

Here are three of Seppala's tips that will help you be more productive and successful at work this spring:

Take more deep breaths

If you ever find yourself constantly checking your inbox for new work emails, there is an easy way to cut that habit out of your daily routine: Do breathing exercises.

"One of the easiest and fastest ways to lower your heart rate and blood pressure is to slow down your breathing, especially your exhales," Seppala says. "In minutes, you can calm yourself down."

This exercise is not only easy to do at your desk, but it's quiet and doesn't draw much, if any, attention from your coworkers. Taking deep, slow breaths reduces anxiety and stress, research finds.

Have some fun

As adults, many people feel like they don't have time to be creative and engage in playful activities, Seppala notes. But studies show that when people do entertain their childlike side, they actually feel less bogged down by work.

"Play has a positive impact on creativity because—in addition to helping us both mind-wander and diversify — it stimulates positive emotion, which research shows leads to greater insight and better problem solving," Seppala writes in "The Happiness Track."

For workers, this may look like taking team meetings outdoors, going to a comedy show with coworkers or playing a game of pool.

"When we feel good, we gain the ability to pay attention to a wider range of experiences," Seppala writes. "In other words, if you feel stuck in a rut or you can't think yourself out of a problem or don't see a way out of a situation, play may be a way of getting 'unstuck' and coming up with innovative ideas."

Add some plants to your office

"In terms of spring cleaning your career, add plants to your office," Seppala recommends. "Research shows it will improve your mental well-being significantly."

Having greenery at your desk or around your office has the ability to clear the air quite literally, as one NASA study found plants remove indoor toxins in the air.

According to a study from the University of Exeter, having plants in the office can also increase concentration, workplace satisfaction and overall quality of life. The study further found that plants make workers more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work.

"Similarly, resolve to take walks outside on your breaks instead of scrolling through your phone," she says. "This small action can significantly boost your happiness."

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