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5 Science-Backed Ways Taking A Break Boosts Our Productivity

A break can serve as creative fuel

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. 

Talking a step away -- literally or figuratively -- might be just what we need to recharge.

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5 Science-Backed Ways Taking A Break Boosts Our Productivity

5 Science-Backed Ways Taking A Break Boosts Our Productivity

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/5-science-backed-ways-taking-a-break-boosts-our-productivity_b_8548292

huffpost.com

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Key Ideas

Taking a break once an hour

... increases 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. 

Taking a break allows us to come back to the job at hand with renewed energy and sense of purpose.

A break can serve as creative fuel

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. 

Talking a step away -- literally or figuratively -- might be just what we need to recharge.

Physical movement

We are not designed to sit around all day. 

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.

Take a tea break

An afternoon tea break gives us more than a caffeine boost.

The process of making and drinking a cup of tea makes us slow down and gives us time for a much needed pause.

Exercise

Playing hard helps us with working hard.
If you know you typically have an afternoon energy slump, consider a lunchtime workout.
Studies have shown that a moderate level of cardio activity can boost creativity and productivity for two hours afterwards. 

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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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Myth #5: You Should Never Work At Home
Myth #5: You Should Never Work At Home

Some people working from home have a higher efficiency on time spent working and performance per minute. The employees surveyed also reported they were happier working at home. 

Myth #4: Pushing To Get Things Done

Willpower is a limited resource, one that we deplete through hard, focused work. We need to take regular breaks to restore our flagging willpower and keep our productivity in the long run.

Take a break and do something different for a few minutes every half-hour or so to give your brain a break and replenish your mental resources. 

Myth #3: The Internet Is A Distraction

The Internet distracts but we use it for researching items and retaining information. If you build up your searching skills and ignore distractions, like social networks, it becomes just a tool.

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Personal Productivity Curves

A lot of the internal things that affect our productivity are out of our control. Our energy, focus, and motivation follow their own path or “productivity curve” throughout the day. 

Energy curves

We’re naturally more energetic and motivated at specific times of the day. Researchers call this our Circadian Rhythm. Every person’s rhythm is slightly different, but the majority follow a similar pattern.

  • Waking up. Our energy levels start to naturally rise.
  • Around 10 am. We’ve hit our peak concentration levels that start to decline and dip between 1-3 pm.
  • Afternoon.  Our energy levels rise again until falling off again sometime between 9–11 pm.
90 Minute Cycles

We work best in natural cycles of 90-120 minute sessions before needing a break. When we need a break, our bodies send us signals, such as becoming hungry, sleepy, fidgeting, or losing focus.

If you ignore these signs and think you can just work through them, your body uses your reserve stores of energy to keep up. It means releasing stress hormones to give an extra kick of energy.

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Outside the comfort of daily routines

We all have increased metal stress since we are rethinking all of our routines during the current pandemic.
All of us have an increased mental load due to the uncertainty, sometimes around thing...

Sleep more

Sleep has a positive impact on your mental, physical, and emotional health.
If you don't sleep well during the night, give yourself permission to take a nap during the day. Naps of 10-20 minutes can boost alertness without creating the post-sleep brain fog of longer naps.

Mini breaks throughout the day 

Plan and schedule breaks into your daily schedule.
Let your brain know that within a relatively short amount of time, you will have a clear break to check social media, walk around, respond to texts, or do whatever nonwork habit you want.

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The philosophy of working "smart"

... is to maximize your productivity when you are working so that you can get more stuff done in shorter periods of time.

By working smarter, you'll find yourself with more time in th...

Find the to-do list app that work for you

The best one for you depends entirely on your working style and personal preferences.

You can use a physical notebook around everywhere you go, but it's easier to use a to-do list app or tool that syncs across all your devices. That way, you can access your to-do items whenever and wherever you need to, whether you're at your desk, in a meeting, or on a business trip.

Prepare in advance

Write out your to-do list the day before:

  • You'll free your time to dive right into your to-do list in the morning - one of the most productive times of day.
  • It can help you spot obstacles ahead of time and prepare accordingly.
  • Knowing what you have going on well in advance could help you relax and sleep better the night before.

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Introduce some greenery

One study found that workers in spaces with plants showed a 15 % higher productivity compared to those in plain...

Show appreciation

Creating motivation and making your team feel appreciated is a critical part of long-term productivity.

Encourage your team to keep gratitude journals - writing down a couple of sentences about what you are currently grateful for a couple of times a week. This practice improves productivity by increasing happiness.

Create some privacy

If people can't focus on their work, they are less effective in areas like collaboration and learning, and they are less likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

Workplaces with a balance between individual focus and collaboration are more innovative, creative and encouraging.

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Guilt is an informative emotion
Guilt is an informative emotion

It’s often a sign we’re not acting in accordance with our values.

The guilt of not working stems from two places: 

  • From the fact that we value working har...
Counter guilt around break time

Reflect on how you need to recharge—and, more than that, how doing good work depends on it:

  • How much you value resting your mind so you can do better, more creative work later.
  • How your focus will benefit from this attention break.
  • How many great ideas come while your mind is wandering (when you’re not working or focused).
  • How often your mind considers and plans for the future while you’re stepping back.
Clean up your workspaces

End the workday by taking a minute to tidy your desk, save everything you’re working on, and close of all your tabs and windows. Make sure your work app notifications are automatically snoozed outs...

Review your "to-done’s"

Boost your mood and motivation by taking the time to review your completed tasks at the end of each day.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to stay motivated and build momentum at work is to celebrate your progress.

The procrastination “doom loop”

Confront the things you’ve been putting off. If you keep putting things off, you'll feel guilty and that makes you want to avoid them even more. You will get stuck in the “doom loop” of anxiety and avoidance.
Break this loop by identifying the tasks that you’ve been avoiding, break them down into smaller tasks and schedule the next step for the following day.

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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 ge...

Breaks and brain connections

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.

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. 

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Get a good night’s rest

The first key to productivity: getting enough sleep. 7-8 hours of sleep a night will improve into your work, from sharper decision making and problem-solving, to better coping with chan...

Drink some coffee at work

Caffeine has a range of positive impacts beyond keeping you awake: from increased alertness and reaction time to improved learning, memory, and even mood. 

And coffee isn’t just effective on a chemical level: scheduling coffee breaks so that the entire team took it at the same time increased productivity.

Take regular break

Taking breaks during the workday is important for workers to replace workplace “resources” - energy, motivation, and concentration

These resources are limited and they need “charging” by doing activities that require less effort or use different resources than normal work or are just something the worker enjoys.

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