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You're Taking Breaks The Wrong Way, Here's How To Fix That

We Need Breaks

recent Apple ad celebrated entrepreneurs working so hard, they’re not able to see their children.

This style of working is unsustainable. We physically can’t work at 100% capacity, 100% of the time. We need breaks. 

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You're Taking Breaks The Wrong Way, Here's How To Fix That

You're Taking Breaks The Wrong Way, Here's How To Fix That

https://www.fastcompany.com/40475204/youre-taking-breaks-the-wrong-way-heres-how-to-fix-that

fastcompany.com

8

Key Ideas

We Need Breaks

recent Apple ad celebrated entrepreneurs working so hard, they’re not able to see their children.

This style of working is unsustainable. We physically can’t work at 100% capacity, 100% of the time. We need breaks. 

Take A Break Every 52 Minutes

After analyzing 5.5 million daily records of how office workers are using their computer (based on what the user self-identified as “productive” work), they found that the top 10% of productive workers all worked an average of 52 minutes before taking a 17 minute break.

Distract Yourself To Recharge Your Focus

Intense focus actually makes us less focused in the long run. Instead of thinking about the problem without stop, we need to create distractions that take our attention away from the task at hand so we can come back at it with a fresh mind.

Take In The Great Outdoors

Studies show that just spending time in nature can help alleviate mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring the mind. Additionally, increased exposure to sunlight and fresh air helps increase productivity and can even improve your sleep. 

Simply being around natural elements can have the same effect.

Give Your Mind The Right Fuel

Your brain works best with a consistent level of glucose in your blood–25 grams.

To keep your brain working at peak performance, opt for a snack on your break that includes a higher level of protein, such as a small serving of chicken, beef, or fish, nuts or nut butter, or a protein supplement.

Exercise Your Eyes

Our eyes take the burden of much of our tech-fueled lives.Your eyes can begin to feel strain in as little as two hours.

Use a simple exercise that will help reduce your eye fatigue: 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes look away from your computer screen and focus on an item at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. 

Exercise

Hit the gym (or at least go for a walk).

Researchers discovered that just 10 minutes of exercise is enough to boost memory and attention performance throughout the day.

Let Your Mind Wander

Daydreaming is a fantastic way for us to access our unconscious and allow ideas that have been silently incubating to bubble up into our conscious. 

Meaning that while you think you’re doing nothing, you’re actually mining the depths of your mind for more creative solutions to the problems you’re facing.

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Microbreaks

They refer to any brief activity that helps to break up the monotony of physically or mentally draining tasks. 

They can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes a...

The power of microbreaks

They can improve workers’ ability to concentrate, change the way they see their jobs, and even help them avoid the typical injuries that people get when they’re tied to their desks all day.

There’s no consensus on how long the ideal microbreak should last or how often you should have them; it’s up to you to experiment with what works best.

Why stretching matters

Tiny breaks are thought to help us to cope with long periods at our desks by taking the strain off certain body structures – such as the neck – that we’re using all day.

If you’re getting into microbreaks to give your body – rather than your brain – a rest, it’s best to do something physical like standing up or changing position.  

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Pulse And Pause

Research shows that humans naturally move from full focus and energy to physiological fatigue every 90 minutes.

Many different methods have been developed around the idea of work...

Work To A Deadline

In addition to the science behind the productivity benefits of “pulse and pause”, many users of the technique feel the deadline approach provides added value.

Ian Cleary, founder of Razorsocial (an award-winning marketing technology blog): “When you have a deadline, you are more productive.”

Think Healthy

Regular exercise improves our metabolism and increases energy levels. But many feel that including exercise within the workday is asking for too much—and that’s why using a longer break for simple exercise is so effective. Simple exercise could include a 20-minute power walk or a bike ride of similar length.

Schedule Flow Time

A good general rule of thumb is blocking out one-to-two-hour chunks of time in your calendar for uninterrupted work.

You have to stay committed to getting into the rhythm. It’s critical to ig...

Timeboxing

Timeboxing is allocating a pre-determined amount of time to finish a given activity. It encourages you to find more efficient ways to finish tasks.

Know When To Disconnect

Recognize when you need to take a break and continue later on when you can be more effective. Signs that you need to take a break are:

  • Struggling to focus continually.
  • If you’re making a lot of little mistakes.
  • When you’re feeling agitated or stressed.
  • If your eyes are hurting.
  • When you feel tired.

Regardless of how you’re feeling, you should take a quick break every 90 minutes or two hours.

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Your workspace matters
Your workspace matters
When you spend hours at your desk every day, even the smallest features of your workspace – such as the position of your monitor or the height of your chair– can greatly affect your productivity and e...
Lighting
  • The best kind of light you can have in your office is natural light. It helps our bodies maintain our internal "clocks" or circadian rhythms which affects our sleep and energy. 
  • Poor lighting, whether it's dim lighting or harsh lighting from overhead fluorescent lights, can cause eye strain, stress, and fatigue.
  • Don't sit with your back to a window unless you can shade it.
  • Don't sit facing a window because that will make reading a monitor difficult. 
  • If you use a task lamp at your desk, position it so the bottom of the lampshade is at about the height of your chin when it's on.
Plants
  • Indoor plants prevent fatigue during attention-demanding work. 
  • Even just having a window view of live greenery can be restorative and keep us focused.
  • A peace lily plant requires little sunlight to survive and you only have to water it when the soil is dried out and is also great for cleaning the air.
  • Cacti and aloe plants are other low-maintenance plants to consider.

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Describing mental fatigue
Describing mental fatigue

It is the feeling that your brain just won't function properly. People will describe it as brain fog. You can't concentrate, and simple tasks take too long. You find th...

Causes of mental fatigue

Contributing factors to mental fatigue are poor nutrition, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, or cognitive overload. Cognitive overload can take the following forms:

  • When you focus on a single task for an extended period of time.
  • When you spread your attention across too many things.
  • Worrying about tasks. It is as mentally taxing as doing the task.
Give your brain high-quality fuel

Your brain is fuelled with the same food as your muscles. What you eat has an enormous impact on your cognitive functioning.

  • Cut down on refined sugars as it decreases alertness. Aim for sustained energy levels throughout the day.
  • Plan your meals in advance. If you wait until you're hungry, you're already low on energy and willpower and will reach for a quick energy boost in the form of sugar.
  • Don't skip breakfast. Without it, you may likely crash in the middle of the morning. Eat more eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal to sustain your energy levels until lunch.
  • Snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon to give your body consistent fuel.
  • Stay hydrated with water. Mild hydration can negatively impact cognitive performance.
  • Listen to your body to figure out what makes you feel best. The same nutrition advice won't work for everyone.

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Maintain Optimal Stress Levels

The optimal stress level for people to reach peak productivity is when they’re under some stress but not overloaded. 

If stress levels are entering the...

Quit Overthinking and Move On

When you stop fully concentrating on one thing and take a break from the problematic task, your subconscious mind is still working away in the background finding a solution.

Higher levels of stress often correlate with overthinking a particular subject, so if you want to make concrete logical connections without even trying – simply move on and it’ll likely come to you.

Better Regulate Your Emotions

Human beings are naturally emotional and must stay self-critical in order to feel a full range of emotions to be healthy and productive.

To stay emotionally well, it has been found that pre-emptively taking breaks before they are needed can be an effective method to strike the perfect balance at work.

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The necessary amount of sleep
The necessary amount of sleep

Most adults function best after 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

When we get less than 7 hours, we’re impaired (to degrees that vary from person to person).  When sleep persistently fa...

Polyphasic sleeping

It's based on the idea that by partitioning your sleep into segments, you can get away with less of it.

Though it is possible to train oneself to sleep in spurts instead of a single nightly block, it does not seem possible to train oneself to need less sleep per 24-hour cycle.

Replacing sleep with caffeine

Caffeine works primarily by blocking the action of a chemical called adenosine, which slows down our neural activity, allowing us to relax, rest, and sleep.

By interfering with it, caffeine cuts the brake lines of the brain’s alertness system. Eventually, if we don’t allow our body to relax, the buzz turns to anxiety.

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The Basics of Productivity
The Basics of Productivity

Three overarching principles apply to all productivity tips.

  • Start with small increments. You can't expect to instantly change years of working habits overnight....
For the Multitasker

When you're trying to do many things at once, you're often getting very little done.

  • We have limited cognitive bandwidth. Your brain may trick you into thinking it has more capacity, but your ability to work efficiently depends on how well you can focus on one task at a time.
  • When you move back and forth between tasks, your brain's neural networks must backtrack to see where they left off and then reconfigure. The extra activity increase errors.
  • Real innovative thinking emerges when we allow our brains to continue in a logical path of associated thoughts and ideas. Multitasking leads to less creativity.
How to Monotask

As best as you can, set up a work environment that encourages doing one task at a time. Even doing one task for five minutes can be beneficial:

  • Actively resist the urge to check social media while you are busy with a task. You may have to install anti-distraction apps that will block access for specific periods.
  • Work on just one screen: Put away your cellphone and turn off other screens.
  • If you start losing focus, get up and walk around to help you refocus.
  • Set a timer for five or ten minutes and commit to focusing for that amount of time. Allow a short break, and get back to your task for another five or ten minutes.

The more we work on focusing on one task at a time, the easier it becomes to focus.

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When Planning Fatigue Settles In
When Planning Fatigue Settles In

Planning Fatigue appears because having to plan everything we have to do goes against how the unconscious brain has evolved.

Our minds have evolved to simplify our existence by automati...

Unconscious Actions Make Life Easier

Unconscious actions serve an evolutionary purpose. And they make our lives easier in many ways.

*When you're reading something for example, your mind is also filtering a huge amount of sensory information, scanning the environment for relevant stimuli (food starting to burn on the stove or someone screaming), and even processing internal stimuli like thoughts and emotions related to previous meetings and discussions. All of these processes occur simultaneously, some more automatically and with less conscious awareness than others. If we were to give all of them the same amount of focus and attention, they would overwhelm us.

Automaticity

William James described in the the late 19th century how mental processes that are abundantly practiced and rehearsed escape our awareness and begin operating autonomously and without conscious intentionality.

This post-conscious automaticity that James studies ensures that with practice, we can master new skills to a degree that we can eventually execute them with efficiency without having to overthink their every aspect.

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Recharging your energy
Just as you need to refuel your car and recharge the batteries in your cell phone, it’s important to give yourself the chance to recoup your energy levels throughout the workday.
Fully switch off

We're usually tempted to spend breaks doing things that are convenient but aren’t truly restful (internet shopping, browsing the latest news, etc.) 

But brief work breaks are only genuinely rejuvenating when they give you the chance to fully switch off. Any kind of activity that involves willpower or concentration, even if it’s not in a work context, is only going to add to your fatigue levels.

Take short breaks early and often

The timing of our breaks makes a difference.

Although it may be tempting to wait until we’re flagging later in the day before allowing ourselves a short break, we actually respond better to breaks in the morning - it seems we need to have some fuel in the tank to benefit from a re-fill.

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