Why Taking A Break Is Healthy For Productivity
Look, as much as we all want to be superhuman productivity machines, that is not possible. There are a few of you I know out there that need to hear this. Plus, if all you did was work and try to be productive, that would not be a very enjoyable life, now would it? Breaks are a crucial part of maintaining productivity as well as creating more! Breaks are not weaknesses, they are an important aspect of your workday.
Trust The Science
Neuroscience test data is showing some interesting information about the human ability to focus and the need for breaks. Humans are cyclical and rhythmic beings, we have internal clocks, our circadian rhythm, our hormonal cycles, digestive cycles, respiratory cycles, and behavior cycles. Why wouldn’t our focus and attention spans have limits and cycles too?
Well, they do! Data shows us that the human mind can maintain undivided attention for approximately 90 minutes but that is quickly shrinking. That means you can sit down and do 90 minutes of work with minimal internal distractions. After those 90 minutes, your attention begins to fade and become brittle. Some studies show that in today's world, it's hard to hold attention for 15-18 minutes, so what is that going to look like in the traditional workplace?
Our Attention Is Fragile
Fragile attention spans are more likely to be broken by simple things, like a phone ringing or a coworker asking a question. We can get irritated, worn out, and stressed way easier when we are pushing ourselves past our natural attention spans.
Good thing, though, that we are creatures of cycles! After a short 20 to 30 minute break, our attention is ready to go again! However, your break has to be unrelated to attention. You can’t shift over to another task to take a break from another. That defeats the purpose.
Take your eyes away from whatever you are doing, change the view, play a silly game, have a snack, get some water, make some tea, go for a quick walk. Let your system reboot the attention cycle and you will find yourself feeling way more refreshed when you come back to the task at hand. One of the best things you can do especially if you are at a desk is to stand up, move around, stretch, and get your blood flowing.
The Pomodoro Technique
One great method for remembering to take breaks and taking those breaks effectively is the Pomodoro technique! The Pomodoro technique is a super easy and effective time management system that helps you to see how much time you spending on tasks, as well as take timed breaks to recharge your mental attention!
The Pomodoro technique breaks down your day into 25-minute sections with planned and timed breaks. Here is how it works. When you sit down to begin a task or project or your workday, set a timer for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, you get to have a five-minute break! Once the five minutes are up, you set the timer for another 25 minutes!
At the end of each 25-minute period, you get a five-minute break. After 4 cycles, (four 25 minute work periods and 4 five minute breaks,) you get to take a 20 to 30-minute break!
In this method, you get approximately 100 minutes of work in, 20 minutes of spaced-out breaks, and then a nice chunk of time for recharging and relaxing. That's actually getting more working time in than a solid 90 minute stretch, and you don't feel as drained in between.
The Pomodoro technique is very helpful for people who struggle with time management. Not only because the Pomodoro technique helps to section out your day, but also because after the timer goes off for each 25 minute work period, you can see how much work you got done in that time. Maybe you can notice patterns about your work like maybe this task is taking longer than you expected! The Pomodoro technique is great for fidgety kids, energetic adults, people with ADHD, and those who have weak time management.
When You Know It's Time To Take a Break
There are also several signs that you can look for that may indicate it is time for a break. These are some signs you need to step away: fidgeting, nervous energy, getting distracted by outside forces easily, zoning out or daydreaming, getting frustrated when something does not work out immediately, making silly mistakes, feeling eye fatigue, and other physical indications that you are wearing yourself out.
When you realize it is time for a break, take one! Whether you are using the Pomodoro technique or not, get up out of your chair, stretch, walk around, get some water or coffee, use the restroom, say hi to a coworker!
Be Smart About Your Breaktime
Make your break from working something simple and easy that you can do quickly that can also reset you! Your breaks should not be stressful or intense, so do not try to cram something into a five-minute break if it does not fit.
For example, do not try to cook and eat lunch in between Pomodoro periods! Five minutes is simply not enough time, no matter how quick you think you can go. You will most likely stress yourself out and still be hungry. Grab a snack instead, or start part of the cooking process! When the next Pomodoro ends, you can continue!
Having appropriate breaks that switch your mind off of work will help you to feel way more refreshed when the next Pomodoro begins!
Another way to incorporate breaks into your workday is to have a set time each day when you step back and take a break. Maybe you tell yourself that after 3 hours at your workspace you will take a moment to stretch and get water. Maybe you tell yourself that after you accomplish something on your task list, you go for a quick walk or have a snack if you are hungry.
Some people will take a longer break after every 5 items they cross off their to-do list, others will have a buddy who takes a break at the same time they do so they can both relax and reset together!
The buddy method is a great way to remember to take breaks while having some social time. It also helps your brain to switch from work mode to something relaxed and enjoyable. When the break ends, you will find your mind feeling a bit crisper than it was when you started the break. Even if you and your buddy just sit in silence and have a snack.
Regardless of How You Take Your Break, TAKE A BREAK!!!
Actually in the United States, by law, employees have to take periodic breaks. Now they can't necessarily use the Pomodoro system, depending on the type of workplace, and what kind of boss you have. In that case, you might look for another job, or look to becoming your own boss! But if that is not in the cards at the moment, do what you can to make your work time more productive by making sure you give yourself some time during the day.
You always have to make sure to take care of yourself, even if it is just a quick 5 minute breather between tasks. So make sure to work hard and break harder, lol. It's hard to keep the hustle going when you are out of gas. So remember to...
Until next time hustlers...
Keep calm and Hustle on!
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