Today we’re going to talk about something that might sound counterintuitive, but is VERY important for time management and productivity: Breaks!
How often should you take breaks?
Studies have shown that the most productive people are actively engaged in work for an average of 52 minutes before taking a 17 minute break.
Let that sink in for a minute!
52 minutes of work, then 17 minutes of break.
Have you ever done that? (Or rather, have you done it intentionally, without feeling guilty, rather than going down an unintentional internet rabbit hole?)
Here’s why it’s not so crazy:
Breaks allow us to recharge, and they act as rewards. In fact, when we return from a break we return more focused, more creative and more productive. The time away from our work allows us to return to it with more vigor.
I think you probably know this deep down. If you’ve ever worked a whole day through, no breaks, back to back meetings, well then you know the state your brain is in at the end of the day…and it’s not good.
Our bodies and our brains CRAVE breaks. And when we deny ourselves, we’re not doing ourselves any favors.
Intentional, time-bound breaks increase productivity, meaning that they are actually a GOOD use of our time. So take an (intentional) break and stop feeling guilty about it!
Here’s what taking adequate breaks throughout the day does for you:
Provides your brain with time to think, which increases our ability to make creative connections and problem-solve in the background.
Increases performance, focus, creativity and energy.
Reduces eye strain.
So, do you believe me that breaks are important yet? Yes? Good; let’s move along.
How to take breaks the right way (hint: intentionally)
If you’ve been reading my blog or newsletters, you’ve heard me talk about not allowing yourself to be distracted by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit (or your site of choice) when you are working. When we take unintentional breaks, we wind up just feeling bad or guilty. And we don’t necessarily get all of those good benefits mentioned above when we are taking a mindless, unintentional break. In fact, this kind of break rarely feels like a break at all.
So how do we do it the right way?
After you’ve completed a block of work (you finished that big report!), or a batch of tasks (you spent an hour getting to inbox 0!), by all means, give yourself 5, 10, even 17, minute break!
But do it intentionally so that you don’t have to feel guilty.
In fact, take a moment RIGHT NOW to think about the types of breaks that are right for you so you’ll be prepared the next time you’re ready for an intentional break.
Do you feel best when you stretch or get a bit of exercise?
How about a quick power nap?
Would you feel best if you let yourself indulge in checking your preferred social media site?
How about reading one of those articles in one of your 50 open browser tabs?
Maybe you just need a coffee and a quick chat?
Try it. Start taking intentional, time-bound breaks and see what happens to your productivity, and your stress.
I’m willing to bet you’ll reset your head, recharge, and be ready to start on your next task or project with gusto.
(Although I didn’t cover it in this post, disconnecting from work for longer periods (the evening, the weekend, or even a full vacation) is also super beneficial to productivity and mental health. But doing so can seem unattainable at first. I’ve got another blog post about how to do that here.)