We want to be productive at work... and for many of us, that means doing as much as we can in one day, leaving us with hardly any time for breaks. Did you know that by doing so, you’re doing your career more harm than good? That by not taking breaks, you become less productive?
You read that right – breaks are actually good for you and you should take more of it. Science backs it up too. Being completely overloaded with tasks can bring down your productivity, which is why according to this research, you are better off taking breaks to not only reduce your stress level which in turn helps you stay more focused and reach your peak productivity. Plus, the research has also proven that taking regular breaks of 1.5 minutes increases productivity by almost seven per cent. And if you take regular breaks of two minutes, your productivity level increases about twice as much.
Additionally, the brain is a muscle and when you overuse it, like any muscle it becomes tired. Which is where breaks come in to give your brain muscle enough time to rest, recuperate and reset. According to another research, taking frequent breaks also helps you become more creative.
A no-break work day also hinders your focus and attention span, says a study. It’s like recharging batteries; when you don’t, you go slower and are less efficient. So when you take five to recharge, it boosts your mental capabilities ensuring you perform better (like new batteries!).
Then there are the physical reasons. When you sit too long, you strain your neck and back. When you are looking at the computer for too many hours, your eyes get tired. Working on that report non-stop? Hope you’re ready for painful arms, wrists and hands! Constantly standing and on the go? Ouch for your feet, legs and back. You get the idea, right? Not to mention, the pain can worsen and slow you down when you don’t give your body the chance to relax.
The next question is how often and how do you make the best out of your breaks? No breaks are equal and if you’re serious about being more productive, the idea is to take breaks that benefit you. What you need to do is to detach yourself from work thoughts, plus work out how long and when your breaks should be to be productive and not just an excuse to bum. Experts recommend you take a 15 to 20 minute break for every 90 minutes of work you do (read more about it in MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Bob Pozen’s bestselling book Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours and Tony Schwartz’s The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working). Or if you’re keen on the 20-20-20 rule especially if you’re constantly looking at your computer, do this: Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
What to do during your break to make it effective? Here are some ideas:
Streetccchhhhhh.....your arms, legs and back to help relieve muscle tension. Or get up from your seat and take a walk around the office to help regain focus.
Eat and drink. Not sweets, junk food or your sixth cup of coffee for the day; these food will only make you more tired. Instead think healthy snacks like nuts or fruits.
Unwind on the Internet. Watch a video, preferable a funny one. Research actually shows that watching a funny eight-minute video improves your performance when you return to the task. Or read an article that’s completely not related to work. Just be careful you don’t end up spending more time than you’re supposed to on the Internet!
Mini office spa. Rub essential oil onto your temples (bergamot to relax or peppermint to recharge). Take 10 deep, slow breaths through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Listen to relaxing music.
The next time your boss asks what you’re doing, show him this article and say you’re taking a break so that you can be better at your task!