Taking Breaks Actually Increases Productivity

Take Regular Breaks

Though a paradox, taking breaks actually maximizes productivity. Researchers at Florida State University substantiated this theory. They realized that high-performance individuals who work in intervals of about 90-minutes are significantly more productive than those that push themselves to work 90-plus minutes without breaks.

The theory behind this work strategy dates back to the 1950s when scientists discovered that humans have a distinct sleeping pattern that alternates every 90-minutes between light and deep sleep. Later, research revealed that the same 90-minute cycle influences us while we’re awake. During the day, we shift in and out of alertness. Rather than listening to our bodies, which naturally want a break every 90-minutes, we tend to ignore it for the sake of production. However, this ideology is actually counter-productive.

Tony Schwartz, the chief executive officer of The Energy Project, explains how he himself successfully incorporated alternating intervals of work and breaks into his own career. For his first three books, he worked 10 hours per day and produced one book every year. Whereas for his two latest books, he wrote uninterrupted for 90 minutes after which he would take a break, and instead of 10 hours a day, he would only write for four and a half hours every day. Using this technique, Schwartz was able to write a book within 6 months.

Another popular time management method is the Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo. Essentially, the technique involves working intensely for 25 minutes follow by a short break. Each 25-minute interval is called a pomodoro, named after the tomato-shaped timer Cirillo used. After four pomodoros, which translates to 100 minutes of work and 15 minutes of break time, you take 15-20 minute break.

Have an Actual Lunch Break

More than one-third of employees, for example, eat lunch at their desks on a regular basis. However, as previously mentioned, breaks are important for productivity. The lunch break is the most important because it’s in the middle of the day. It provides a much needed respite after a busy, productive morning, and it also renews energy and focus so that you can power your way through the afternoon. Therefore, everyone should take advantage of their full lunch break. Leaving your desk or office for lunch is also highly recommended; the change of scenery will enhance your focus upon your return.

Get Moving

One study, conducted by researchers at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institute and published in Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, indicated that exercising during the work day may actually help improve productivity. The study involved three focus groups. Researchers asked the first group to devote 2.5 hours of work time every week to physical activity. As for the second group, the researchers gave the same decrease in work hours but without obligatory exercise. Then, the third group maintained their normal work schedule of 40 hours a week. Ultimately, the three groups either maintained or increased productivity.

Even more so, if you’ve just had lunch, it’s a good idea to do a quick activity to avoid falling into a food coma. Jo Lichten, author of Reboot: How to Power Up Your Energy, Focus, and Productivity, says that incorporating a mid-day exercise, especially after lunch, “helps to sensitize the cells in your body to the effects of insulin, that hormone that helps keep our blood glucose within normal limits.” Consider taking a brisk, 5-minute walk before coming to your desk for a big mental boost.

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