The term work smarter, not harder rings true when it comes to the impact that taking breaks has on productivity and overall work effectiveness. You might be the type of person who sits down at their desk at 8am and works straight through until 5pm every day. You might be very focused and disciplined, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re as productive as you could be during the workday.
How is this possible?
Well, the ideal work-to-break ratio is 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. This breakdown means that during those 52 minutes of time, people who followed this flow were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish and didn’t get distracted by outside forces (i.e., Facebook or chatty colleagues). So whether it was knowing a break was coming or getting the opportunity to recharge during those 17 minutes allowed people to be more disciplined, the work got done and got done effectively.
So, how can we make this ratio work for those of us not used to taking breaks or working for more extended periods and taking shorter breaks?
- Know How to Turn it Off – When you are in a good flow, it can be hard to break away from what you’re doing. Research proves that keeping an intense focus for a longer period of time actually makes someone less focused long term. And turning it off isn’t just like a light switch. It must be a deliberate action taken to create distractions that take you away from the work on hand.
- Feed Your Mind and Body – You might be more apt to take a break when you’re hungry. Listen to what your body is telling you, and make sure you choose the right source of replenishment. You need energy-boosting foods, so stick with higher protein choices that are easy to prep, are portable, and nutritious.
- Give Your Eyes a Workout – Think of the amount of time you spend staring at a screen. And this doesn’t just mean your work computer. It’s your work computer, iPad, iPhone, television, and anything with a screen. The average American spends over 7 hours looking at a screen daily. For some of us, that is more than the amount we sleep at night. Therefore, it’s very important to give your eyes the care they need during your breaks. You might be tempted to check your personal emails or scroll through your social media accounts, but if that isn’t a necessity during your breaks, give your eyes the time to recharge too. You can do this by dimming your lights or even opening and closing your eyes, almost like you’re performing eyelid exercises.
- Just Do Nothing – What about just letting your mind wander? When we stop overanalyzing or focusing specifically on something, it can actually open up our minds to new ideas. Think about the process of brainstorming. You start with a blank slate and allow ideas to pop into your head organically. When you take a step away, your mind can re-shift the direction it was initially focused on and take a look at something from a different perspective. In fact, daydreaming is actually a great way to access our subconscious and flex our creative muscles.
There is a stigma that taking breaks is a sign of laziness when it’s the key to being productive and innovative. So how does your workplace support taking breaks? Join the conversation on LinkedIn and check out How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Work.