Why are breaks at work the key to efficiency? In this day and age, when most of us are focused on achieving goals, taking breaks may seem unnecessary or even counterproductive. However, scientific research and how our bodies work show us the opposite.
Less is sometimes more: for those of us who tend to skip breaks (I used to be one of them, not anymore!), there is an important paradox: breaks actually increase our productivity. When we take a break, usually after no more than an hour and a half of work, our brains “reboot”, which gives us more energy and allows us to be more efficient.
Breaks methods: There are various techniques for taking effective breaks, one of the most famous being the Pomodoro method. This method uses intervals of work and rest to maximize concentration. However, even a simple short break can work wonders.
From arousal to calm: During work, our nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system, is activated. The sympathetic is responsible for our “fight or flight” response, which keeps us alert and focused. Breaks should serve to transition into the parasympathetic, which is the resting and regenerative state of our nervous system.
A warning for the digital age: Many of us tend to reach for our phones during breaks. However, this is not an ideal choice. When we fix our vision on a single point, as we often do when working or looking at our phones, the sympathetic nervous system is reactivated. For real recovery, we should “spread out” our vision – look out the window, perceive in a panoramic way. By doing so, we give rest not only to our eyes, but to the whole nervous system. So does a short mindfulness exercise, a walk outside or a momentary stretch on the couch during a home office.
#10 / To be truly effective at work, don’t forget to take regular breaks and enjoy them properly so that they are real breaks and not just more stimulation. Your body and mind will thank you and you’ll get more work done too.
How are you doing with breaks?
PS. I bought a little kitchen egg for about 100 Kč that counts down the time and sounds the break (better than a mobile phone as you avoid distractions). The result is more energy and more tasks off the to-do list. I’m not getting any younger either, and I’m (almost) as good as before, now with breaks…