Many people assume that the more time they spend working, the more productive they will be. We worry that if we don’t stay on task all the time, we won’t be effective. This assumption is wrong.
When it comes to productivity, it is not the number of hours we devote, but the level of energy we bring to each hour we spend on a task. If we have high energy, it will take fewer hours to complete a task.
Building regular breaks into your work routine will reenergize you and therefore make you much more effective. It will also improve your focus, creativity, and concentration.
Researchers recommend taking a 5-10 minute break every 90 minutes. Here are several activities you can do in 5-10 minutes for a quick energy boost.
Stretch. Stretches have the added benefit of countering the harmful effects of sitting at a computer all day. Here’s my favorite five-minute full-body stretch.
Go for a walk: Go outside and walk around the block. Visit a local park. The fresh air and change of scenery will give you a mental boost.
Have a healthy snack: Brains burn glucose, a form of sugar. When we work hard, we use up our glucose, and a healthy snack provides the fuel we need to focus and concentrate. Keep a supply of fruit, yogurt, nuts, or sliced vegetables at work to avoid eating too much sugar from the vending machine.
Make a cup of tea. The time it takes to boil water and steep a tea bag is the perfect amount of time for a break. If you don’t have a kitchen at work, consider buying a tea kettle for your workspace. Stand up, fill the pot with water, choose the type of tea you want, and spend a few quiet moments while the tea steeps. The added benefit is that you now have a nice cup of tea as you restart your work.
Work on a jigsaw puzzle. I’m a fan of having puzzles, coloring books, and other creative outlets at work. Spending 5-10 minutes being creative provides a quick energy boost. Warning – set your stopwatch to avoid losing track of time.
Clean your work area. Cleaning and organizing clear the mind and will also give you a sense of accomplishment. Be careful not to substitute cleaning and organizing for actual work.
Listen to music. Stream two of your favorite songs. Close your eyes and lose yourself in the moment. Focus only on the music, letting your mind go where the music takes you. When you’re finished, you’ll be amazed by how much energy this gives you.
Talk to coworkers. Say hi to a colleague, ask about her weekend, hobbies, or family. Don’t talk about work. You may be tempted to chat for than 5-10 minutes, so watch the time.
Tend plants. Plants add life and vibrancy to a workspace. Check the soil to see if they need water, prune the stems, and polish the leaves.
Meditate. There are hundreds of apps now that provide 5-10 minute guided meditations. Go someplace quiet and spend a few minutes resting your brain. Praying offers the same benefits as meditation so if you’re religious, build in a prayer break.
What do you do on your breaks from work? Tell me in my blog comments.