In this world of hustle and competition, working hard is the only option to improve financial status and grow professionally. Sometimes there is a better way to do things but we are too busy to think otherwise. We keep going the way we always have as it seems like the best way. To think of other options and have more productive and creative ideas, it is mandatory to have some breaks in between your work hours. We can’t push ourselves to work for long hours even though we think we should, to be more productive.
Research studies show that after the break you will come back more energized, creative, passionate, and with the new perspective, you might even get the breakthrough you needed. It is unsustainable to be hustling 24/7. It is amazing to have some time when you are not working as your brain comes out with the best solutions.
The Science behind Taking Breaks
Our brain is a muscle and needs the energy to work efficiently. The circadian rhythm of the brain controls eating, sleeping, and thinking, thus our body has the natural rhythm of rest and energy and we need to play into that. To make work productive it is to be ensuring that you are giving the right attention and taking some necessary rest breaks according to your body rhythms. Everyone has a different body rhythm so maybe your way of taking a break is not considered as a break by others.
The secret to this productivity is that you need to take a break before you realize it. As most people take a break only when they are fully exhausted and can’t handle any more work and feel distracted. Your brain and body should take a break before you reach that point. But that does not mean that you take many breaks in an hour, it’s not productive. It is recommended to take breaks hourly or 15-20 minutes after every 2-hour constant work session.
Balance Between Energy Expenditure and Renewal
There need to be the two states that you need to be consistent in while you are at work and if you truly want to be high performing and productive i.e., energy expenditure and energy renewal. It is important to have a balance between the two
- Energy expenditure is the work time
- Energy renewal is the break time
The balance is mandatory because if you are focusing on one thing, you will either burn yourself up because of work or come up with nothing. Always remember that as hard you work it is equally important to take a break that is just as effective for productivity. Our energy throughout the day is not linear, it just doesn’t decline linearly, and there are peaks and valleys throughout the day. So we need to make sure that we are taking time to make our peaks higher which is increasing performance with the use of time blocks and other productive strategies.
Scientific Reasons to prioritize Breaks
- Breaks keep us from getting bored or unfocused
It is often observed that shortly after starting a business or job with enthusiasm, many people lose the spark on this journey. There is a misconception that the only time we are being productive is the time we are working and all non-active times are considered non-productive but this is not the case. Our brain is vigilant all the time to detect changes in surroundings and that is mandatory for our survival but it can’t focus on one thing for a long duration. Research shows that taking breaks is an effective strategy for productivity as well as to remain more focused.
- The Break helps us retain information and make connections
Our brain has 2 modes based on the focus and level of engagement.
- The focused mode
There are Periods of high focus and high engagement that need high attention, high energy, or the time when you are actively working on the project and you are fully engrossed for an indefinite amount of time. After that, you need to have your strategic recovery that is your break time.
- The diffuse mode
These are the periods of low focus, low energy, or daydreaming kind of mode as the lackluster break will carry into your high-intensity energy engagement. It is misunderstood that only the focus mood plays a role in productivity as the diffuse mode plays an equally important role. Scientific research proves that the activity of many brain regions increases when it is in the diffuse mode that’s why many brilliant and creative ideas come in this mode.
- Breaks help us to reevaluate our goals
Breaks allow us to reconsider and reevaluate whether we are going in the right direction or not to achieve our goals thus encourages us to stay mindful about our goals.
Best Break methods to try
If you want to take a break but don’t know how to schedule or implement it, here are few methods that are better to be considered
- Pomodoro Method
It is recommended to schedule work in small bursts. For example, set a timer for 25 minutes then take a short break of 5 minutes and so on. After 4 Pomodoro sessions, it is advised to take a longer break.
- 90-minute work blocks
It is the waveform of 90 minutes of activity with 20 minutes of rest. It is one of the most favorite and recommended methods as it works with our body’s natural rhythms as we move from higher to lower alertness levels.
- The 52-17 methods
In this case, a 52 minutes intense working session comes with 17 minutes of break. It is considered productive as shorter working sessions are considered as working sprints.
- Two 15-minute breaks per day
If your job or work type does not allow you to adopt above-mentioned methods or frequent breaks, take at least 15 minutes break twice a day; one in the mid-morning and other in the mid-afternoon.
Kinds of Boosting Breaks
It is recommended to take the break in a way that completely disconnects you from work. Stand or walk away from your working area. Not all kinds of breaks are considered equal as the wrong one can make you more tired. Good brakes feel like you rested and re-energized to be ready to go and that is important. Following are some of the boosting breaks to maximize productivity
- Relaxation break
It includes daydreaming, sketching, or doing something that just physically relaxes you. Your subconscious brain keeps on working even though you are taking relaxation breaks. That’s why mostly you get your best ideas while taking showers or so, as it is constantly transforming information. Space or relaxing time of even 10 minutes is enough to re energize your energy.
- Movement break
Going for a little walk reduces stress and boosts creativity by increasing blood flow to the brain. Stretching your body as for every 20 minutes of working you should move your body for 2 minutes. It is important to incorporate some movements in your day.
- Solitary break
Taking time for yourself, some reflection time, or meditation. Meditation is recommended as it is like an exercise for your brain. Turn on some soothing music or a soothing screensaver in an office break. People also take breaks by sitting in a car or on the bench in a nearby park for reflection as we all need time for yourself
- Nature break
Everyone needs to get outside and connect with nature as nature increases creativity and productivity. It is recommended to have some plants at your office or work area, looking out of the window, or walking in the sun to have some vitamin D. Going for a walk is considered the most effective way of taking a break.
- Social breaks
Connection is very important either in person, texting or on social media. Your brain is optimized to work with others. You need to make sure that you are connecting with others by chatting with your friends or colleagues.
There are some sort of breaks that attract peoples’ attention but they are not at all productive. It is recommended to prefer natural breaks. Get hydrated; eat lunch or snacks to fuel your brain’s need for glucose. If you are tired you can also take a nap in your break time that will improve your memory and boost alertness. Declutter your workstation in the break as clutter is distracting. When you figure out how you want to take a break it will be more relaxing and allow you to focus again on your work.
So in short, to maximize your productivity you have to
- Work in sprints
- Give it all you have got
- Eliminate all distractions
- Single task uninterruptedly
- Take recovery breaks
Scientific research proves that we function best when we adhere to natural rhythms. Pausing work seems a waste of time but pausing your work every once in a while makes you more productive.