Taking breaks in between the work to boost your productivity might sound odd to some people.
Even quite counter-productive and contrary to hearing it for the first time. But guess what! It’s true.
And there is a number of researches and studies done to prove the same.
If you are someone who is hard-working and truly believing in the hustle, that’s great for your career but more likely you will be either
- Get exhausted in short-term
- Reduce levels of productivity on a long-term basis
- Reduce levels of efficiency in work on a long-term basis
- Completing your task on time
- Affect on mental health
- Imbalances in the work/life
And there are other repercussions about continuing working without taking any break.
So if you believe that it is not a big deal to not take a break, it is quite delusional and ignorant, and you’re missing out on tapping into your full potential.
Well, here is how you should take breaks and how to optimize them to boost your productivity.
Why Should You Take a Break From Work?
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It is very evident how taking breaks from work can rejuvenate you, give you instant relaxation, fun, and some entertainment.
So, to some extent, it does make sense how you feel more energetic and pumped up to work even after a very short break.
What you don’t know is how taking a break from work directly impacts your productivity and efficiency levels.
More than that, how big of a deal it is, especially if you are a business owner, remote digital worker, and freelancer.
Or, actually, anyone who is :
- Spending more than 8-10 hours a day in their work
- Having difficulties with managing time
- Feel they can do more but they couldn’t at the end of the day
- Want to increase their productivity and efficiency
- Ambitious to bring the best out of themselves
Taking a break from your work does more than you think! And there are different aspects to look at.
Science-Backed Reasons Why Breaks Boost Your Producvity
It Prevents Decision Fatigue
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So first of all, what is decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue is the mental or psychological situation where an individual’s capability of making quality decisions starts degrading after a long session of decisio making practises.
It is a temporary situation or condition for sure, usually as an after effect but it does impact even to take decisions in the simplest form.
It might lead you to other tons of problems such as procrastination or simplistic-decision making.
How Taking Breaks Prevent Decision Fatigue At Work?
What is Desicion Fatigue?
It is pyscholgcal situation where individual’s capability or capacity for making quality decision deteriorate after a long session of work.
Taking Break Prevents Decision Fatigue
- Helps you have better concentration at work
- Anticipation of a break act as a reward for completing the work
- Refreshes your mind with full energy
- Change in the nature of work allows you to refocus on the task
Decision fatigue starts rolling out after a long hours of work, so you tend to give up on decisions that seem easy and convenient to you, not essential right for you.
There was a detailed research done on court judges and here is what we have learned from the study :
- Judges are more likely to grant parole to prisoners after coming back from breaks compared to when they make decisions in between their work hours.
- The rate of granting paroles goes down as number of working hours increases on the day, even dropped to 0%
- Judges after long hours of working resorted to the least amount of thought,as mentioned simplistic decision making, that in this case is saying NO to paroles.
Image Source: TNYT
This applies to your work life as well, so here’s how consistent working hours without any break does to your brain :
- As your working hours increase, you will lose the ability to make sophisticated, well-thought decisions.
- Even if you are upholding yourself through consistent self-motivation, you have to accept the fact that your brain is tired and exhausted.
- After the long hours, you are more likely to make bad decisions at work or even procrastinate your projects for the rest of the day.
So to prevent this, it is essential you take small breaks inbetween these long working hours.
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Getting rebooted after every specific time duration of working, you will gain freshness to give it all again for next some time without exhausting.
This is only going to get you more work done in the given time and that’s too without exhausting yourself and risking rest of the work.
Above, is the graph representing the afternoon decision fatigue on the doctors taking appointments in the afternoon.
It talks about how there are less breast and colon cancer screening done in patients who visited the doctors in the afternoon as compared to the morning.
The ordering rate was highest at the morning 8 am which drops to 10-15 percent lower in the afternoon.
It Restore Motivation For Long-Term Goals
According to a study in 2011, continuous attention to a particular task can affect your performance.
It is always important to deactivate and activate your goals to keep your stay focussed on them.
Image source: SpringerLink
According to the Pyshcology professor Alejandro Lleras from University of Illinois, whenever you’re setting yourself for a long-term goal such as completing a project to submit the next day or finishing your taxation, you need to take brief breaks inbetween.
These short breaks will help you to keep your focus on the task and there is more chance to complete it or without getting exhausted.
Boost Your Overall Creativity & Productivity
Another science-backed reason to take breaks from home, is it boost your overall creativity and productivity towards the tasks
It eases your mind, relaxes it from preventing consistent stress and mental exhaustion.
Even all those sudden solutions or ideas getting dropped at these laid back moments of breaks.
The research backs it that the most “aha” moments come in those breaks between the work.
Sometimes it is like the solution presents itself when you’re not trying to get it or trying too hard.
So problem solving and creativity also gains a lot from these short term breaks you get amidst long stretches of work.
Walking breaks inbetween your work hours seems to be a proven method to increase your creativity.
Tips & Strategies To Optimize Your Breaks
Take a Movement break instead
According to the Pyschology Today, “Movement is medicine”, so instead of taking a sitting break, prefer going out for a walk.
This becomes even more important when you are spending long hours working on the desk and on a laptop.
Taking a “walking break” can help you improve your focus and boost your efficiency.
You will notice after the movement break, you will be more able to concentrate on the task.
If you work from home or from a remote worker, walking down the street to get coffee or just get one round of a nearby park is way better than taking other ways of break.
Taking some sweats in-between the lethargic long hours of sitting work will keep you amped up at work.
It is definitely a mood booster that helps you get the work done on a lighter note rather than getting all exhausted in-between.
Recharge Yourself With A Quick Nap
One of the most effective ways to boost your productivity through taking breaks inbetween your work hours is – take a quick nap!
It will make you feel refreshed, rebooted and energetic, almost like the way you started.
There is study in Nature Nueroscience talks about people who take 30-minute nap between work stay more alert than others.
Surprisingly, a 60-minute break showed even better results.
Now, it all depends upon your sleep cycle, habits and pattern. There is something about taking nap breaks which you need to take care of.
If you sleep more than 45 minutes but are still not able to go through one full sleep-cycle, you might end up having a sleep-interia.
This is going to be counter-productive and going to affect your work since you won’t be able to completely concentrate until you’re fully awake.
Meditation works charmingly to reduce work stress, anxiety and high pressure at your work.
It is not something that you have to do only in the morning; rather you can replace your break time with mediations.
You can do it first thing in the morning, then during the afternoon, again at the end of the day as well.
You can even just do meditation anytime at work when you’re feeling too anxious or stressed out.
Use Distractions To Recharge your Focus
Distraction is always considered to be the enemy of productivity and focus. And it is, for sure!
But what if instead of forcing yourself to not get distracted, you do get distracted only in your breaks.
This means you schedule your distractions rather than it to be sudden and unplanned ruining your work routine.
One of the most common problems with regular intervals is it becomes extremely hard to ‘switch off’.
What happens is when you are working for like 40 to 50 minutes, even in the break you are more likely to think about it.
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According to the research, it shows that this kind of intense focus makes you less focussed in the long-term basis.
The psychology professor Alenjandro Lleras from University of Illinois published in the journal Cognition.
He talks about how human brains just stop registering all those sounds, sights, feeling naturally that are consistent over a period of time.
The reaction towards these thoughts that remain consistent also stop getting registered.
So what does this mean?
Clearly, you cannot keep doing anything longer and consistent without giving it a break as it may become less important or get habituated.
So basically if you sustain longer on the awareness of the problem or giving an unwavering attention to something to such an extent, it is more likely to become ignorable for your mind, and you would want to escape from it.
So it is better to create distractison for your work, very managed and scheduled but distractions to keep your mind fresh to the task.
Schedule Your Distractions
Don’t cling too much or too long on the task as it is going to burden your brain to get bored from it, find ways to escape it and that will be unhealthy for the long-term.
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Now, this kind of break doesn’t have to be productive. It might not counter-intutiive towards the subject of this article.
But these distractions or unproductive breaks actually make you productive in the run provided they are scheduled and well-integrated.
These distractions can be anything- watching cat videos, calling your friend, checking your social media, anything.
Taking The Natural Pauses
One of the best ways to optimize your breaks and make the most of it, is selecting your breaks naturally.
You have to take breaks when you really need it and only continue to the time when you know you can get back to the work with full power.
So better take natural pauses inbetween your working hours.
The moment you feel drained out, defocussed and sluggish, you know this is the best time to take the break.
Because if you don’t, you will start losing your focus and coudn’t maintain your efficiency or productivity as well.
Reacting to your body when it needs the break and sends out the signal only makes your break worthwhile and highly effective to boost your productivity.
You have to be attentive with the natural rhythm of your body and take breaks when it is needed.
Take The Outdoors
Artifical spaces with closed windows with a lot of other people and stuffed with furniture is the setup designed to get work done in a corporate world.
But nature or the outdoors is so important for humans to connect with. And that is very much connected with your mental health and performance as well.
According to various studies, it has been noted that spending time outdoors, in nature, helps reduce mental fatigue and stress.
Image Source: TWP
It also helps relax your mind and restore your mental peace for better functioning.
Again, humans are inhabited to live in forests and are very close to nature. It has been a part of human’s survival and their level of efficiency as well.
Today we have successfully removed that equation from our lives, so it does have a strong impact on us.
Being in nature also gives you proper exposure to sunlight, fresh air to breathe and boost your happy hormones.
It increases productivity and improves the qualiy of your sleep as well.
So if you can make nature or outdoors as a part of your break inbetween the work, nothing tops it.
It can be spending some time in a nearby garden or even if your office has an open green space like a terrace garden, that will work too.
Even just staring out from your window to the surroundings gives you such pleasure and tranquility for a while, that it makes a good option for getting a break from work.
Make Sure You Follow Company’s Break Policy
To fully optimize your breaks for an employee, it is crucial to understand the company’s break policy.
And small businesses also need to have a clear break policy that must be documented in their employee handbook.
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This is only going to increase the productivity of employees. And you, on the other hand, will help you structure your working hours and breaks as well.
Lot of people weren’t able to take the advantage of taking breaks while working and ended up getting exhausted.
Lot of people weren’t able to take the advantage of taking breaks while working and ended up getting exhausted.
Making Your Snack Break Healthy
Taking a snack break is great inbetween long hours of working in the office or some project.
You might be tempted to get yourself a pizza or chicken fries, and it will be fun for sure.
But the thing is it is not going to add productivity or promote it in your work.
In fact, taking so much of highly unsaturated fats and carbohydrates is going to make your brain slow down, turn you sleepy and slow at work.
Same for taking high sugar snacks or carobonated beverages. So to really optimize this break, you need to add a healthy snack to your eating break
Don’t just eat anything. Have some healthy options such as yoghurt, protein bar, almonds, fresh fruits, tomato juice and other options.
Take Breaks Using Pomodoro Technique
Pomodoor technique is one of the most popular productivity hacks used worldwide amongst students, employees and digital workers.
It is a simple method which gives you this structure to work for 25 minutes and take a 5 minutes break.
Image Source: Sketchplanation
Since, the pomodoro technique is scientifically researched and studies where it resulted in increasing focus and productivity without exhausinting the person, you can adapt it in your work schedule.
This is like putting science behind your reasoning for optimizing your breaks in the best way possible.
And don’t feel restricted with the given time duration, you can change it but make sure the ratio should be same or similar.
The key point of Pomdoro technique is to take a short break after a certain work is done as human brains start losing focus or efficiency after a certain time.
You can take 52 minutes work and 17 minutes break or 40-50 minutes work and 10 minutes break as well.
Add Coffee To Your Breaks
Either you can go for an entire coffee break or just add coffee to your usual breaks in between the work hours.
Coffee makes your brain focus on the task at hand.
According to a study in 2010, employees who take consistent coffee throughout the day in their breaks are more productive and efficient than others.
Coffee contains caffeine that keeps you alert, active and helps you reduce stress and increase focus as well.
Decide How Often To Take Breaks
The basic rule on when to take breaks is quite simple – you need to take a break when your brain feels tired or just saturated.
However, there are many studies on how often you should take breaks to boost your productivity and efficiecncy.
Here are those studies :
- You should take break every once every hour ( University of Illinois)
- It is suggested to take breaks every 60-90 minutes ( Inc. Magazine)
- Work for 25 minutes followed by 3-5 minutes break and then 15-30 minutes break after every 90 minutes ( Pomodoro Technique)
- Most productive people work for 52 minutes followed by 17 minutes break ( Time tracking apps)
Overall, you need to come up with your own timings that suit you perfectly. However, these studies do suggest the data that can help you lay the grounds for your work.
You can simply start trying these different researches on you to see what works for you the best.
At the end of the day, it still depends on you how long you want to work before taking a break.
However, it is always suggested to take a break after 90 minutes at max and even earlier if required and that’s for a 20 minutes break.
Schedule Your Breaks
One of the best ways to assert the optimization of breaks in your working hours is to schedule it just like other important tasks.
Create events to block the time on Google Calendar after every a while of the working.
Now when to take these breaks and how often, that depends upon you and your working schedule, environment and other factors.
It will also depend upon the break policy of your employer as well.
When you create a schedule for breaks, it becomes almost as important as other tasks and you will be more inclined to take breaks if it is in your schedule.
Improving Flow State By Taking Break Every 52 Minutes
Surely you can customize the pomodoro technique but instead of customization, you might want to instead trust the science on this.
Let’s find out how you can optimize your break by taking it for every 52 minutes with science-backed reasoning for it.
What is a Flow State?
Do you remember those moments when it feels like time slips away and you end up doing a lot of hours without even realizing?
Image Source: UX Collective
Well, those moments are called Flow State.
In these moments, you do excellent work within a short span of time or a burst of time.
And according to various researches, that’s how the human brain works. Hard work doesn’t mean you don’t have to take breaks inbetween.
You have to consider your workdays to be a series of small battles that you need to win , rather than a full all-out war.
How to Protect Your Concentration and Focus?
In order to successfuly complete your tasks, you need to protect concentration and focus towards the end of the day.
But they are consistently affected and under-attack due to all the resistance to the bad choices surrounding you.
For example, you might have resisted checking your social media at the moment you reached your desk.
There are dozens of resistance we face while we are working and it is ready to surface all the time.
Now, you might think you’ve won by beating these resistance inside you, but they all add up and affect your ability to focus and concentrate.
It reduces your efficiency towards the work and hampers your productivity, especially hitting your will power to work.
And that’s why the popular pomodoro productivity hac emergencies that suggest working in ‘sprints’ or series of short burts of work rather than plowing yourself in the work all day.
Because that’s not going to work and it is going to catch you up in one way or another.
So the best idea to conjure these flow states in your work is to adapt the pomodoro technique of working in sprints, ideally breaks after every 52 minutes.
Where does this 52 minutes work and 17 minutes break ratio come from?
Image Source: Apploye Blog
More than 5.5 million daily records of office workers are checked along with the data from time management applications.
Based on this, the top 10% of the highly productive workers have an average of 52 minutes working before they take 17-minutes break.
So why does this work ? Here are various reasons for it which if you understand, you are more likely to boost your producvitity tool.
- Having breaks prevents your body and mind from reaching their saturation points, so it never really has to reduce its efficiency and productivity.
- When you know that there is a break coming up, you are more likely to be focused on your work and complete it, as having a reward or purpose by yourself.
- The human body isn’t meant for sitting for long hours, especially as long as 8-hours a day. So much so that now it is called ‘sitting is a new smoking’ as it has too much potential to affect your body and mental health badly.
- When you take breaks, it actually boosts your productivity as compared to when you do not. It is essential to hear your body and mind on what it needs in order to make it work effectively.
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Carol T. Mahaffey is a certified American Author And a creator of Theleaderboy. Carol is a Self-Taught Marketer with 10+ Years of Experience. She brings her decade of experience to her current role, where she is dedicated to writing books, blogs, and articles, inspiring the world on how to become a better Leader.