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A Science-Backed Guide to Taking Truly Restful Breaks

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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A Science-Backed Guide to Taking Truly Restful Breaks

A Science-Backed Guide to Taking Truly Restful Breaks

https://99u.adobe.com/articles/54325/a-science-backed-guide-to-taking-truly-restful-breaks

99u.adobe.com

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Key Ideas

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.

Get out of the office

One problem with staying in the office is that even if you take a decent lunch break and chat with colleagues, there’s still that pressure to maintain a good impression.

If you can get outside, even if it’s just a five-minute walk around the block, you can also benefit from a rejuvenating dose of nature.

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Taking good breaks

This is important for your daily productivity. Good breaks can leave us feeling refreshed and energized. It can reduce mental fatigue, boost brain function and keep us on-task for extended periods....

The brain and goal management

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is mainly responsible for goal management. It orchestrates attention, working memory and other cognitive resources to help us get what we want.

For a challenging task, briefly taking our minds off the goal can renew and strengthen motivation. Doing activities that rely on different brain regions is best to restore focus.

Going Natural

Exposure to nature restores the mind. One study showed better working memory scores for people after a walk in a natural environment, but not in an urban setting.

If you are unable to go into nature, find plants, fresh air or a fish tank. Sit down, take a deep breath, and notice the details of nature. Research shows that even looking at some pictures of nature can work.

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We Need Breaks
recent Apple ad celebrated entrepreneurs working so hard, they’re not able to see t...
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.

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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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The Relationship Between Goals And Burning Out
The Relationship Between Goals And Burning Out

Effective goal-setting underlies the fundamental aspect of your motivation and keeps stressful situations at bay.

If you don’t set goals in positive, attainable ways, you may fall i...

Reorganizing Your Goal Hierarchy

As losing resources is more likely to cause burnout than gaining resources is to mitigate it, dealing with the negative aspects is more beneficial than using positive “band-aid” fixes. You want to drive down uncertainty and inefficiency to ensure that you aren’t doing unnecessary tasks and minimize your emotional exhaustion. To do that:

  1. Create a chart and place your major goal at its top, followed by layers of very specific subgoals needed to attain the major goal.
  2. Find and fix the inefficiencies in your goal hierarchy.
  3. Determine the attainability of each goal.
Burnout Symptoms And Signs Of Exhaustion
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired concentration/ forgetfulness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Increased illness
  • Physical symptoms
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Depression
  • Interpersonal problems.

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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.

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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Taking a break once an hour

... increases 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.

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.

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Reach out and stay connected

You may feel too exhausted to talk, ashamed at your situation, or guilty for neglecting certain relationships. But this is just the depression talking

Staying connected to ot...

How to reach out for support
  • Look for support from people who make you feel safe and cared for. They just need to be a good listener.
  • Make face-time a priority. Talking to someone face to face about how you feel can play a big role in relieving depression.
  • Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. 
  • Find ways to support others. 
  • Caring for a pet can get you outside of yourself and give you a sense of being needed.
  • Join a support group for depression. 
Do things that make you feel good

Do things that relax and energize you. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning how to better manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, and scheduling fun activities into your day.

Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as you make time for fun activities.

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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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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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