work breaks

Give me a break: How to manage work breaks for better productivity

When you take work breaks the right way, you can improve your focus, productivity and overall wellbeing.
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When you have too much on your plate, the thought of work breaks can seem like a foolish idea. But if you continue to work for hours on end, your brain will tire out and stop focussing the way it is supposed to. Subsequently, you will start making errors and wrong decisions that you normally wouldn’t. And if you go on like this on a regular basis, it will eventually lead to physical and mental burnout.

This is why you need to take work breaks at regular intervals. A break is a brief cessation of physical exertion, work or activity. Think of it as a mental downtime—a time when you’re not engaged in anything specific. You allow your mind to rest, which gives your brain the time to re-energise. When you return to work, your focus, creativity, and brainpower are replenished, meaning you’ll be able to accomplish more than you would have without taking a break.

If you find yourself struggling to stay focused and keeping up with your deadlines, maybe it’s time to look at the way you take your breaks from work or the lack thereof. What you do during the break is just as important as taking a break. If you use your work breaks the right way, you can increase your focus, productivity and wellbeing.

Here are some excellent ways to make the most of your brief downtime at work.

Schedule time for breaks in your daily plan

While planning your daily schedule, it is important to set aside time for breaks. Scheduling 10-15 minutes breaks throughout your day can actually help you get more done in less time. Taking breaks will not only help you stay focused and creative but will also prevent burnout. In the book The 4-Hour Workweek, author Tim Ferriss states, “Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.” So, the next time you’re creating your daily plan, do not forget to include the time for a few breaks as well.

Eat nutritious food

When the break time hits, it is common to see people pouring themselves another cup of coffee while ignoring nutritious food. Most people consume as much caffeine as possible before the end of their break for an energy boost. However, this won’t prevent fatigue before the next scheduled break. It will most likely cause a brief energy surge followed by an even bigger crash of fatigue. To make the most of your break, keep some healthy snacks such as fruits, nuts, green juices or protein bars handy to boost your brain function. Such foods will help you refuel your body and mind, making you feel rejuvenated after a break.

Get outdoors                                     

Sitting at your desk all day can be one of the reasons for fatigue and loss of productivity. According to a study, encounters with nature can help alleviate mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring your brain, which ultimately contributes to improved work performance and satisfaction. So, the next time you take a break, go out and get some fresh air. For instance, you can eat your lunch at a nearby park or a green space. Spending time outdoors during your work breaks will help alleviate stress and improve cognition.

Get some exercise

Another productive way to take a break from work is to engage in some form of physical activity. Exercise can have a positive impact on how you work and your health in general. A study discovered that more than 200 employees who had access to and used a company gym were more productive during the day. They were also more productive on the days they exercised during regular work hours. Even if you don’t have access to a gym, taking a brief walk during your break, using the stairs instead of the lift or walking and talking can all make a difference. Doing so will help sharpen your focus and increase your effectiveness at work. You can handle stress better and gain the energy to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

Put your phone down

When you are on a break from work, pull yourself away from screen time. Don’t check your social media or your emails and let your mind be still for a moment. If you don’t remove yourself from such distractions during your breaks, you will feel overstressed and disoriented, which will hamper your productivity. Taking a moment to recharge without any distractions gives you the time to declutter your mind and increase your focus on your work.

Let your mind relax

Another effective way to utilise your break from work is to simply sit and not do anything during that period. Several studies have found that simply letting your mind drift by daydreaming or zoning out has similar benefits of meditation. You can listen to some soothing music or just focus on your breathing. This will give you the time to focus on your thoughts and enhance your creativity while helping you relax.

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