Sometimes you just need to get up and take a walk. It may not seem like you have the time to disengage from the tasks at hand during a busy workday, but taking breaks may actually improve your performance and boost your productivity. And a growing body of research is uncovering ways to maximize the positive effects of breaks.
People who take better breaks reap significant health benefits, like fewer headaches, improvements in eyestrain and less lower back pain. They also report increased job satisfaction, and and are more sociable at work. If all that weren’t enough, good breaking habits also protect against emotional exhaustion, or as it’s more commonly known in the entrepreneurial world, burnout.
It turns out the human brain just wasn’t designed to work at full-capacity while sitting upright for eight hours straight. Here are three ways you can take better breaks and boost your productivity.
The best time to take 10
Mid-morning breaks are the most effective according to a study from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business. Researchers surveyed 95 employees (ages 22-67) over a five-day workweek, asking participants to document each break they took during that time. They found that a respite earlier in the day re-upped energy, concentration and motivation—a bigger set of mental resources than breaks taken at other times.
“We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” the researchers wrote. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”
Find an activity you enjoy
It matters not what you do, but what effect it has on you. Your break activity can even be related to your job—a passion project you’ve put on the back burner, for instance. The Hankamer study found no evidence that engaging in non-work activities was more beneficial than.
Try the 52 and 17 rule
Job search site The Muse studied their own users, and found that the top 10% by productivity treated their working times as sprints, then took a quick break. They arrived at a specific combination: work intently for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes.
Those ratios can be modified based on your preference and working habits. The Pomodoro Technique advocates something similar—working for 25 minutes and breaking for five minutes. What’s important is to maintain the cycle of work-and-break, and to disengage completely during your time off.
“Repeating tasks leads to cognitive boredom, which in turn halts your ability to thrive at whatever you’re doing,” wrote The Muse‘s Julia Gifford. “The human brain just wasn’t built to focus for eight hours at a time—the best way to refresh attention span is to take a break.”
MORE TEMPORARY RESPITES:
- The Art of the Leisurely Lunch Break »
- Why It Pays to Take a Break »
- How Successful People Spend Their Weekend »
- Why a Midday Workout Makes You More Productive »
- How to Accomplish More by Procrastinating »
What’s your break strategy? Let us know using the comments section below.