You’ve heard all the tips for improving productivity. Stay away from social media. Remove distractions in the environment. Get a good night’s sleep. But what if the key to being more productive is working less?
The Case for Work Breaks
It seems counterintuitive to stop working to get more work done, but giving your mind a break may help you focus better, work faster and stay alert. Other potential perks of work breaks include a reduction in stress, eye strain, musculoskeletal problems and work-related accidents.
A survey conducted by Staples shows that 86 percent of respondents think breaks make them more productive, yet more than 25 percent of those surveyed don’t take breaks except lunch. Are you part of the no-break crowd? Try getting a boost with these 10 tips for productivity-boosting breaks.
- Step Away From the Desk
Don’t check your email. Don’t check Facebook. In fact, leave your phone behind so you aren’t tempted to jump at every ding.
These activities don’t energize you. Instead, stretch your muscles. Take a quick walk around the block to get your heart pumping and the oxygen flowing. The change of scenery may even spark your creativity and help you come up with new solutions to work problems.
If you can’t stray far from your desk, stretch it out in your work space. Reach your arms in the air, twist your torso or touch your toes. Just get yourself moving in some way to recharge.
- Sip and Snack
Hold on to those quarters. As a general rule, anything found in a vending machine won’t make the cut when you’re looking for healthy nourishment at break time.
Instead, fuel your body with nutritious foods and hydrate with water to improve your concentration when you return to your desk. Try nuts or fruit for a quick, easy-to-eat snack during your break.
- Find Your Split
Unless you’re self-employed, your break schedule is probably dictated at least in part by company policy. If you have flexibility, experiment with different ways to split your time between working and resting.
The popular Pomodoro Technique uses a 25/5 split. You work for 25 minutes without distractions before taking a 5-minute break. If you’re on a roll, keep working for 50 minutes before taking a 10-minute break.
Try different time splits to see what works best for you. You may feel like you’re just getting into the groove at minute 25 and don’t want to take a break yet. It’s okay to switch it up throughout the day.
- Work Hard, Play Hard
Keep your break time in check. If you’re going to take a 10-minute break every hour, the remaining 50 minutes need to be extremely focused work mode. Get the most out of your work time, knowing that another break is around the corner.
However, be just as serious about your break as you are about your work. Find a diversion that completely removes work from your brain. If you’re still thinking about work, you’ll miss out on the recharging effects.
- Revamp the Break Space
Nothing kills your break vibe like the glow of fluorescent lights and discomfort of stiff plastic chairs. Soothing blues and grays in the break room help reduce stress by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate. Comfortable seating also encourages relaxation, so let in the natural light or add cozy lamps for an inviting feeling.
Not in charge of making these kinds of decisions? Take the evidence to your boss, and offer to plan a break room update.
- Find a Partner
If you’re a serial break-skipper, it’s time to get help. Just like your workout buddy, a break buddy keeps you honest and forces you to step away from work. Enlist the help of a colleague to pull you away from your computer. You may discover you have a lot in common with a co-worker when you take breaks together. Just don’t give in to the temptation to chat about work — keep it casual and lighthearted.
- Take a Mental Break
Can’t physically get away? Let your mind take a brief holiday to refocus your energy. Close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes. Doodle on a scrap of paper. Slip in some headphones, and listen to your favorite song. Find an activity that clears your head and makes you feel relaxed.
- Don’t Wait
You may feel like you need to keep working, but don’t wait too long to take your break. If you notice your mind wandering or find it difficult to focus on your work tasks, it’s probably time to step away. Don’t ignore those feelings. If you try to push through them, you may actually lose time because you aren’t on top of your game.
- Plan Your Breaks
It takes discipline to take breaks. Sound silly? Maybe, but if you don’t plan ahead, you’re likely to skip over breaks in favor of powering through a task. Decide when you’ll take a break ahead of time, and set a timer if you have to.
- Just Say No to Guilt
We get it. Taking breaks goes against the “nose to the grindstone” mentality. If you feel guilty taking a break, you’re not alone. It turns out one out of every five people skipped breaks because of the guilt factor. Put you guilt to rest by reminding yourself that you’ll always be more productive after a break.
So what’s your favorite way to take a break? Tell us how you break to feel more energized and better able to tackle your job!