Being productive is essential for success, burning out is optional. Here are 3 science backed reasons why you should be taking more breaks and what you should do with your time.
Fact: A 15 second break from staring at your computer screen every ten minutes can reduce your fatigue 50%
Taking a break from work can be one of the hardest “to-do’s” for people. Checking emails, reworking spreadsheets, answering calls and the list goes on. Though on occasion circumstances can prevent you from taking a break and leave you working right through lunch. If this happens on a regular or consistent basis it can scientifically effect your performance (in a bad way) as well as impact your health, happiness and your sense of job satisfaction.
There are many reasons for not coming up for air, such as but not limited to: it’s embedded into your companies culture, your boss pressures you to complete a workload greater than the time available or your own personal belief of achievement and setting the bar. Regardless of the “why” – we are less productive without taking breaks.
According to this articles research, there are 3 reasons backed by science on why you should be taking more breaks:
- Breaks keep you focused
Your brain wasn’t built for the extended focus we ask of it these days. Our brains are vigilant all the time because they evolved to detect tons of different changes to ensure our very survival. Focusing really hard on one thing for a long time isn’t something you are ever going to be great at. The fix for this unfocused condition is simple—all you need is a brief interruption (aka a break) to get back on track. University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras explains:
“Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused and when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself!”
- Breaks help you retain information
Your brain has two modes: the “focused mode,” which you use when you’re doing things like learning something new, writing or working and “diffuse mode,” which is your more relaxed mode when you’re not thinking so hard. Studies have shown that the mind solves its stickiest problems while daydreaming (in diffuse mood)—something you may have experienced while driving or taking a shower. According to engineering professor Barbara Oakley:
“When you’re focusing, you’re actually blocking your access to the diffuse mode. And the diffuse mode, it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.”
- Breaks help you reevaluate your goals According to one Harvard Business Article, we have a limited capacity for concentrating over extended time periods, and though we may not be practiced at recognizing the symptoms of fatigue, they unavoidably derail our work. No matter how engaged we are in an activity, our brains inevitably tire. And when they do, the symptoms are not necessarily obvious. We don’t always yawn or feel ourselves nodding off. Instead, we become more vulnerable to distractions.
Here are some ways you can begin taking breaks. There are many theories out there for you to experiment with – some may work, while others may not. The key is for you to start somewhere, anywhere and begin building the muscle.
- Pomodoro Method
In a nut shell: Just set a timer for 25 minutes, and when it goes off, take a short break for 5 minutes.
- 90 Minute Solution
In a nut shell: Backed by sleep science experts, this method works with our bodies’ natural rhythms. After studying elite performers, Professor K. Anders Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”
- The 52-17 formula
In a nut shell: Basically, working times are treated as sprints and they make the most of those 52 minutes by working with intense purpose, but then rest up for 17 minutes to be ready for the next burst.
Science aside, taking a break is not just important for your work life but critical for your overall happiness. Start today, and give your brain a much needed and well deserved break. Try some of these activities with your new found time:
eat something healthy, exercise, read, grab some caffeine, mediate or listen to some music. If you are thinking to yourself, “I am not able to take a break” – consider you just took one now by reading this article, so there is your evidence.
The floor is your: How do you seek balance during the workday?
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