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Breaks help us reevaluate our goals

When you work on a task continuously, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the weeds. In contrast, following a brief intermission, picking up where you left off forces you to take a few seconds to think globally about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve. 

@maddoxe44

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Breaks keep us from getting bored

The human brain just wasn’t built for the extended focus we ask of it these days.

The fix for this unfocused condition is simple—all we need is a brief interruption (aka a break) to get back on track.

Our brains have two modes:

  • focused mode, which we use when we’re doing things like learning something new, writing or working) and 
  • diffuse mode, which is our more relaxed, daydreamy mode when we’re not thinking so hard.

The mind solves its stickiest problems while daydreaming—something you may have experienced while driving or taking a shower.

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is indispensable to the brain. It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

The Pomodoro technique

Work in small bursts to help you get rid of distractions and focus more intently.

Just set a timer for 25 minutes, and when it goes off, take a short break for 5 minutes. Stretch your legs, grab a drink, or just sit back and relax. After you’ve done four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break of 30 minutes or so.

90-minute work blocks

Working in 90-minute intervals for maximizing productivity means working with our bodies’ natural rhythms.

When studies were conducted on elite performers like violinists, athletes, actors and chess players, the results showed that the best performers practised in focused sessions of no more than 90 minutes.

Most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time, then take a break for 17 minutes before getting back to it. 

They make the most of those 52 minutes by working with intense purpose, but then rest up to be ready for the next burst. In other words, they work with purpose.

Blocking out two planned, 15-minute intermissions in your day—one in the mid-morning and the other in the mid-afternoon. 

Around 3 p.m. is the least productive time of day, so definitely don’t skip that break.

Productivity-boosting activities for breaks
  • Take a walk. 
  • Daydream. It leads to creativity.
  • Eat to replenish your brain.
  • Read a (non-work) book.
  • Get a coffee. 
  • Doodle. It can stimulate new ideas and help us stay focused.

  • Listen to music.

  • Nap.

  • Exercise.

  • Talk to friends or co-workers.

  • Go outside and see some nature.

  • Exercise your eyes with the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a break for at least 20 seconds and look at objects that are 20 feet away from you.

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RELATED IDEAS

Skipping Breakfast and Hydration

Skipping breakfast is not ideal when starting a new day. It is important to take care of your body, provide it enough food to create energy in order for you to focus on the things that you have going on for the rest of the day.

The most recommended breakfast is a balanced breakfast containing both protein and carbs. Alongside this, it is also important to drink enough water to hydrate the body and the brain. Even mild dehydration can impair one's mood, memory, and concentration.

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IDEAS

We all have tools in our pockets to help us.

  • For example, consider using your phone's built-in alarm for taking breaks, or giving yourself a reminder to eat lunch, or taking a screen break to reduce eyestrain.
  • If you find it challenging to work, consider a productivity method like the Pomodoro technique, where you work deeply for about 25 minutes, then take a short break. Repeat four of the cycles, then take a 30-minute break before starting again. There are many Pomodoro apps to help you.
  • Don't forget to use the same technology to turn off notifications and distractions while you're working.
Keep a "to-don't" list

Remove any items from your to-do list that you're not realistically going to do and put them on a "to-don't" list. 

That way, you aren't wasting any time on the things that don't really matter. This will help you prioritize the more urgent list items and get through everything faster.