Continuing on with our productivity intensive series, another way to stay productive is taking breaks throughout the day. After having convinced you of the need to take a vacation in yesterday’s article, let’s talk about the benefits of taking small breaks every day.
The first hour or two after I get to work probably go by fairly quickly and I find that I have been quite efficient and feel a sense of accomplishment. But as lunch time creeps closer, I find myself distracted with various irrelevant thoughts and my productivity plummets. Even after lunch, this does not always improve as I begin to feel sleepy and lazy. Have you experienced something similar?
Regularly taking a few moments to recollect our thoughts, track our progress and break away from the task at hand can help us feel more calm and content as well as improve our productivity, physical and mental wellbeing.
[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Maintaining unbroken focus or navigating demanding intellectual territory for several hours really does burn enough energy to leave one feeling drained -Ferris Jabr[/quote]
Studies have shown that performance begins to deteriorate after 50-60 minutes of continuous work. However, taking rest breaks every 40 minutes at least can reverse this decline in performance. Setting a reminder to take breaks has been found to be more effective than breaks taken on an as-you-need basis.
Research has shown that those who work in 90 minute spurts may be more effective and productive than those who do not. Regular, short breaks that involve physical activity also only help relieve physical tension and discomfort built up from doing continuous work. You will return energized and ready to get things done. In the long term, taking small breaks can also help lower stress and reduce risk of accidents, soreness, musculoskeletal disorder and eyestrain. And if you were trying to get back in shape, you’ll be killing two birds with one stones as short breaks are also linked to having a smaller waistline, lower body mass index (BMI), and lower triglyceride levels .
Breaks are scientifically-proven to boost focus and productivity. Taking short breaks enhances concentration, alertness and speed & performance. Usually, I put off my projects for as long as possible, then scramble at the last minute to get it done, sitting for long hours without taking a single break- this has often lead to poor insight and the quality of my work has suffered. Do you have any similar habits? Keeping this very basic logic in mind the next time something is due, will save us all from a lot of agony and potential burnout.
[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]I think people get so caught up in what they’re doing that they feel like they’re going to get behind if they stop. But everything you ever read, it’s always better to get away for a little while than keep going, going, going, all day. You come back with a clearer perspective and it’s more clear after you’ve taken that little break. –Toni Lozano[/quote]
Remember that breaks spent cyber-loafing or social media connecting are not real breaks. You are still sitting in front of a screen probably slouching, your eyes are straining to read the screen, your wrists, shoulders, and back have been in the same position for quite a long time. You need to change up the pace and make space within your body. You need to take active breaks and get moving. People who are more physically active during the day tend to be more productive.
What to do on your breaks
- Get up and stretch
- Use the bathroom
- Go for a short walk away from your workstation
- Get away from the screen
- Grab a coffee
- Snack or drink water
- Have a conversation with a coworker or a friend
- Close your eyes and practice visualization
- Focus on your breathing
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Bring out a pen and paper and answer the following questions:
- Reflect on the kind of work you do. Is it sedentary or physical, do you have the opportunity to take frequent breaks to switch things up and stay recharged?
- Do you take breaks when you have the opportunity? Why or why not?
- If not, what are the obstacles you face in taking regular breaks?
- How can you overcome these obstacles?
And my favourite:
- What activities best recharge you (e.g. running, art, writing, painting your nails)?
- Identify one simple way in which you can incorporate these activities into your daily breaks.
Share in the comments below any thoughts or opinions that came up while reading this article.
Quit procrastinating, start early and take lots of breaks to get things done without losing your mind.