Taking good breaks

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 wrong sort of breaks might make us more vulnerable to boredom and make us want to take breaks more often. It can leave us depleted and drained. 

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Time Management

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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.

Have a moment with 'nothing to do'. Letting our minds wander without focusing on a specific goal, allows the brain's default mode network to take over and give some prefrontal cortex functions a rest.

Practice mind wandering by keeping your phone in your pocket. Sit alone for 10 minutes, take a breath and let your mind wander. It can also be practiced while you wait at a train station, or in an elevator lobby.

Do 20-20-20- eye breaks to alleviate eye strain and fatigue. Every 20 minutes, stare at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.

Doing this requires blood to flow to brain areas that are not related to sustained attention. It may be the reason why eye exercises are restorative.

Laughter increases heart rate, respiration, and gets our blood pumping. Short term effects show some improvements on memory tests.

Spontaneous laughter and forced giggles all have the same perks. Listen to a comedy podcast or read the comics section in the newspaper during a break.

Short bursts of exercise are helpful for cognition. Just 10 minute of physical activity can increase attention and memory performance.

Find a private space, do some pushups or planks, or take a brisk walk around the block.

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RELATED IDEAS

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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IDEAS

Attention = Focusing + Ignoring

Paying attention involves two separate distinct brain functions: 

  1. “enhancement” - our ability to focus on things that matter) 
  2. “suppression” - our ability to ignore the things that don’t. 
Altering the brain

In 2005, studies began to point out that meditation can change the structure of your brain by thickening the cortex. The cortex controls your attention and emotions.

You can reap the benefits if you practice meditation for half an hour a day over eight weeks.

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