How many times do you sit down to get work done and find yourself “working” and yet getting little completed?
Do you set aside big chunks of time to work on creative projects, only to use up the time on busywork or distractions like Facebook and Youtube? Do you have that one task that always seems to get pushed off to the next day? Do you end your workday feeling drained rather than satisfied with what you’ve accomplished?
This is a sign that you aren’t taking enough breaks—or aren’t taking them effectively. We prize this idea of being busy and working hard and see taking a break or getting distracted as a problem.
In reality, this is a tool our bodies and minds are trying desperately to get us to use.
Most of us are aware that taking breaks from physical activity is necessary to recuperate and prevent injuries. Taking breaks in our mental work is equally helpful, and can be a great boost to our creativity as well.
1. Taking a break once an hour increases our work productivity.
Recent studies show that those who give in to some kind of diversion or distraction once an hour perform better than those who just keep at it without a break. After awhile, our brains numb out a bit to the constant stimulation, and we become unable to continuously treat the task as important. Taking a break allows us to come back to the job at hand with renewed energy and sense of purpose.
2. We need creative re-fueling.
No matter how much you love your work, we cannot keep creating when we are on empty. Something as simple as a ten minute conversation with a friend, or watching an inspiring video can give us a much needed boost, or point us in a new direction if we’ve been stuck. It is difficult to see things from a new perspective or find new insights when we come at it the same way all the time. Talking a step away—literally or figuratively—might be just what we need to recharge.
3. Physical movement keeps us from being mentally stagnant.
We are not designed to sit around all day. As difficult as it is being sedentary is on our bodies, it’s not helpful for our creativity and productivity either. Getting up for a few minutes and getting our blood flowing and some more oxygen to the brain is a necessary piece of the work day.
4. Consider bringing back the afternoon tea ritual.
The health benefits of tea stem from more than just the antioxidants in it. Taking the time away from your work, as mentioned earlier, is the first step in the right direction. Add the extra hydration and a small amount of caffeine and you’ve created a wonderful tool to jump start your afternoon. If you don’t enjoy tea, and don’t have sleep issues, a small cup of coffee in the afternoon can help as well.
5. Playing hard helps us with working hard.
Video games get a bad rap as a time waster. While clearly, playing for excessive amounts of time isn’t helpful, recent research shows that we have a lot to gain from time spent gaming. Our problem solving skills, teamwork abilities and innovative creativity can all be increased exponentially through playing games. Designer Jane McGonigal has done extensive research and lectures internationally on how all of this playtime can help improve our reality:
So stop beating up on yourself and fighting the urge to take a break; take the time you need and your work will be better for it in the long run.