We’ve written quite a bit about the impact breaks have on our work. Be it 10 minutes or 10 days, stepping away from work can increase our motivation, improve our health, sharpen problem-solving skills, and enhance our sense of self. But, all this can happen only if we maximize our breaks and experience them well.
So, we are sharing here some tips on how to make the most of your everyday breaks.
Tip 1: Any break is better than no break. Let this be the thumb rule. Especially for those of us who have packed schedules and gobble lunch at our desks. Taking a break – be it a loud one, a mindless one, or a quiet one – is beneficial.
A study proves it, by comparing five different kinds of breaks. 87 participants were asked to focus on a task that required sustained attention for 45 minutes. In the middle, they were given an option to take a 5-minute break (play on their phone, sit in silence, listen to a song, watch a video), or not take a break at all. Compared to the group that took no break, performance was better in every single one of the break conditions. Makes sense – our resources can last only so long.
Tip 2: Let it be different from your work. Stopping work on your computer to talk to a colleague about an upcoming project, or making notes about a meeting, is not a break. Do something that’s completely unrelated to work.
Why? To prevent what psychologists call ‘habituation’. We could become so accustomed to something, that our brain doesn’t react to it, and instead, builds automatic responses like it is unaware of the stimulus. That’s why people who live next to freeways or train stations barely notice the sounds. So, if you want your mind to register your break, do something different – walk, stretch, sing, meditate, etc. Even moving from laptop screen to phone screen for social media, is ineffective. We are used to screens!
Tip 3: But don’t deviate from your work momentum. Your mid-day break may not be the right time to ask your colleague how they are dealing with their parent’s health complication. That needs time, presence, and you’ll need a mini-break after that conversation to get back to focused work.
Use your breaks to switch off your mind (take a walk, listen to music, have lunch with friends) or do less-demanding tasks (load the laundry, schedule appointments, read fiction). It prevents habituation but helps the mind rejuvenate and get back on track quickly.
In all this advice for breaks, don’t take one just because you ‘should’. If you are able to complete your tasks without fatigue or distraction, keep on with it. Know your work rhythms and choose well.