How many times have you skipped lunch or a workout or a fun event, thinking that if you just “push through”, you’ll get that much more completed? I think we’re all guilty of that, but in truth, what you really need is a break.
Taking short, regular breaks allows your mind to refresh and get the rest it needs to feel reenergized to refocus when returning to a task. Essentially, a short break can act like a vacation for your brain.
When you spend too much time doing the same task or working on the same problem, your mind becomes “numb.” You start to lose focus and miss important details, contributing to slower speed, decreased accuracy, and, if your job entails physical work, increased risk of accidents.
Giving your mind a break to think about nothing or something other than work gives you a chance to return with a new and refreshed perspective.
How to Build Short Breaks Into Your Busy Day
- Find Your Frequency. Everyone is a bit different, but many people feel better taking a break every 45 minutes or so, for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Experiment with different frequencies and lengths to find out how they can help you be most productive.
- Get it Scheduled. Many of us get caught up in what we are doing and either forget to take a break or feel guilty for taking one. As a result, even when we need to get away from our work for a few minutes, we don’t. Schedule in breaks so you can ensure you take them at optimal intervals.
- Change Focus. When taking a break, it can be tempting to try to think about other things you need to do or details about the task you were working on. Instead, focus on something positive, inspirational, or funny. Keep your break light and enjoyable.
- Get Active. Studies have shown that active breaks have greater impact on productivity and focus than restful breaks. A little activity will increase heart rate, which in turn will increase oxygen flow to your brain and throughout your body. Try taking a walk, stretching, using a bathroom on a different floor, or talking to a colleague or friend (in-person, if possible).
- Unwind. If you’re having a stressful day and a resting break is what you need, try meditating, reading a book, listening to music, or calling someone close to you.
Taking a short break during a busy day may seem like a luxury, but it may be the only thing that keeps you focused and, ultimately, successful.
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Adapted from 52 Small Changes for the Mind by Brett Blumenthal. Used with permission from Chronicle Books and author Brett Blumenthal.