Whilst it may seem counter-productive to keep taking regular breaks during your work/study day, it's one of the most important things you can do to boost your productivity levels!
Many of us fall into the trap of thinking that working/studying for as long as possible and to work as hard as you possibly can is better for your productivity levels and your performance; however, the truth is this sort of approach often leads to a significant decline in your performance and productivity levels.
This "work as hard as you possibly can" attitude can even lead to health problems such as higher levels of stress, anxiety and insomnia.
To prevent you from making the mistake of working relentlessly, this article will explain the importance of taking regular breaks and will demonstrate how you can ensure your breaks are effective as possible.
The Benefits of Taking Regular Breaks
Benefit #1: Processing Information
It's common belief that taking a break allows our brains to switch off from our work and to rest, but this couldn't be further from the truth.
When we take a break, our brains start to go into a relaxed state; in this relaxed state, we start to process the information that we were absorbing whilst working.
This is why we often make incredible breakthroughs in our work when we're doing other activities such as walking or showering. It's because our brain is still processing that information in the background.
Furthermore, there's a growing amount of evidence that supports that regular breaks and idle time for our brains helps to form memories and strengthen connections.
Benefit #2: Lengthen Our Attention Span
The next benefit of taking a break is it not only allows us to work for longer but it also allows us to work to a higher standard for longer.
A study conducted by the University of Illinois confirmed what we all suspected, that the longer we work for, the worse our work becomes.
Therefore, by taking regular breaks, you're allowing your brain to rest and reset. Then when you're ready to start working again, your brain is fresh and is able to concentrate fully.
The longer you work for without taking a mental break, the more likely it is that your stress levels rise and that you'll start to feel mentally fatigued. Thus by not taking a break, you're actually ensuring that you're going to feel exhausted.
Benefit #3: Sparks Creativity
The last benefit of taking regular breaks is it has a significant impact on your ability to be creative. This could be crucial to those working or studying in a creative field.
The longer you work for, the less creativity you display in your work. This is because our brains will always adapt to preserve mental effort.
Therefore, once we start working for extended periods of time, our brains start looking for patterns and shortcuts to preserve mental energy - this may sound good but unfortunately it dampens our creativity as we're not applying as much mental effort into our work as before.
How to Take Effective Breaks
It's not only essential that you know the benefits of taking regular breaks, you also need to know how to take effective breaks.
If you do start to take ineffective breaks, you are not going to receive any of the benefits mentioned above. Instead you're still going to suffer from the problems caused by not taking regular breaks. Things such as:
- Higher Stress Levels
- Poorer Performance
- Decline in ability to memorise
To reap the benefits of taking regular breaks, ensure that your breaks include the following:
Tip #1: Find the Right Duration
This tip might take some trial and error because it's going to be different for everybody. But you want to find the sweet spot of letting your brain rest and to reset whilst not making it overly long to ensure you don't waste too much time.
For the majority of us, the sweet spot is going to be anywhere between 15 minutes and 25 minutes. A stopwatch or an alarm can be helpful to ensure you're not taking a break for too long or too short.
Tip #2: Move Around
Our next top tip for taking an effective break is to start moving around. The first reason why you should consider moving about is to avoid any aches or strains that often occur from sitting in the same position.
Furthermore, by moving about, you're allowing your brain to absorb different stimuli. Therefore, you're truly allowing yourself to switch off from your work and to clear your head. This way when you get back to work, you can come back feeling fresh.
Lastly, if your job is fairly stressful, as little as 20 minutes of exercise can have a significant impact on your stress and anxiety levels. Just going for a walk could be one of the best things you could do for your mental health during a stressful work day.
Tip #3: Fuel your Brain
Our last tip for taking an effective break is to ensure that you're fuelling your brain; you're not going to be able to work productively when you return from your break if you're not constantly fuelling your brain.
Remember, our brains run on glucose therefore any source of glucose can serve as a cognitive boost. Healthy snacks which include different fruits and vegetables are usually a great choice for ensuring that you're performing to the best of your ability; however, if you're feeling particularly exhausted, try treating yourself to something yummy once in a while.
I hope that this guide inspires you to start giving more thought to your work breaks. This means not only scheduling a sufficient amount of short breaks throughout the day but making sure that you're making sure those breaks are being used effectively. By doing this, you're ensuring that your productivity levels are going to rise whilst also taking care of your mental health!