I’ve been glued to the screen for hours, working on that super important document, but for the past hour or so, I feel like I am not making any progress. I’m dead tired and my brain ain’t doing its thing anymore. I need to take a break.
I’m sure you’ve been in this situation before, you felt like the more you’ve been working, the less productive you are. Exhaustion sets in and progress stalls. In these situations, we tend to think that if we push further, we’ll get more done, but it’s quite the contrary.
Your brain has a limited supply of concentration, willpower and energy. If you’ve been working for 90 minutes or more, these mental resources become depleted, and the only way to recharge is to take a break.
Taking breaks can seem unproductive, since we’re not actually working during that time. But when exhaustion sets in, productivity declines drastically, efficiency drops, and we start making mistakes. Breaks act to replenish your mental RAM, make you more efficient and produce more quality work.
“Humans are just like smartphones or ipods; we have to be recharged, or we run out of juice” Joe Robinson
There’s a great analogy that sums it up perfectly. When you drive your car, you do not wait for it to run out of gas. You fill up the tank before it gets to empty. That’s what you need to do with your energy levels. When you get low, take a quick break and fill your tank.
When do you know that you need a break?
There are a few cues that indicate that you need to take a break :
- Your energy levels and/or your motivation drops
- You have a lack of focus and mental clarity
- You feel stuck, at an impass
- You feel negative emotions like frustration or despair
As a rule of thumb, your energy levels fluctuate within 90-120 minutes of continuous work. Experts recommend that you take a break more often, once every 50 minutes or so. The optimal productivity, according to these experts, is achieved by working 52 minutes and taking a 17-minute break. I recommend to work for two pomodoros (25 minutes each) followed by a 10-minute break.
What do you gain by taking a break?
Taking regular breaks brings the following benefits :
- It reduces your levels of stress
- It reduces overwhelm
- It improves our moods
- It improves our performance
- It makes us happier
- It allows us to be more creative while solving complicated problems
Author Dan Sullivan explains that “you can create a solution in a shorter period of time if you are rested and rejuvenated.” If you feel stuck on a problem, take a break for a short while, and come back to it later. The solution might present itself more easily.
What constitutes a good break?
Now that you are aware of the main benefits of taking regular breaks, you might be thinking “great! I’ll hop on social media for a few minutes and come back refreshed!” Think again. Social media, according to recent studies, induces symptoms of mild depression and will not render you more efficient and productive. Here are a few things you can do during your breaks to gain the most from it :
- Meditate for 5 minutes
- Take a long hot bath
- Practice Progressive muscle relaxation
- Try a technology fast/curfew
- Practice a creative hobby
- Go out for a brisk walk
- Meet with friends or coworkers for a quick chat
Anything that makes you feel rested can constitute a good break. Social media shouldn’t be one of them.
Try to take a break today
Taking regular breaks will help you achieve more, with better results. Try to implement a few breaks today. Set a Pomodoro timer, be aware of your energy levels, and remember that breaks will make you more productive, not less.
Do you tend to outwork yourself to exhaustion? Will you try taking a break today? Let me know in the comments below.