Why Taking Breaks Can Help You Be More Productive

Feeling passionate about your job doesn’t mean you can’t experience stress and burnout.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Have you ever reached the end of a workday and realized you never took a break? We’ve all been there — often it just means we’re enjoying the work we’re doing. But while feeling energized by our work is great, it’s also important to remember that just because we’re passionate about our jobs doesn’t mean we’re immune from burnout. In fact, it could mean we’re actually more susceptible. One key ingredient in avoiding burnout? Making sure to give ourselves real breaks (and not, for instance, just endlessly scrolling social media). The  science is clear about the power of breaks to help boost performance and combat burnout. And as Arianna Huffington put it, “When we take breaks to reset and recharge, we are able to connect more authentically, work more productively, and perform at our best.”

Here are three ways to help you take true breaks, boost your productivity, and help you avoid burnout:

Get some fresh air

If you have an opportunity to step outside for some fresh air during the workday, take it! According to a study published in Scientific Reports, when we take breaks from our schedules to enjoy a view of nature, we’re less stressed and more productive when we get back to work. If stepping outside isn’t possible for you at work, that’s OK: you can still take advantage of the benefits of looking at nature. Set your screensaver to a beautiful photo from your last trip (or dream destination), print a favorite nature photo and keep it handy at your work space, or create your own little view of greenery with a few small indoor plants.

Take a real lunch break

So many of us power through a hastily eaten lunch at our desks, but lunchtime is a valuable time to recharge and reset. A survey of office workers in the U.K. found that nearly 70 percent report lower productivity when they aren’t able to step away from their desks for a meal. And a study published in Organizational Dynamics found that employees who kept working through their lunch breaks reported more negative moods later in the day. Try blocking off 30 minutes or an hour on your calendar for a real lunch break, and make sure to sit down and eat away from your work space.

Carve out a few minutes to daydream

We’ve always been told we should find ways to focus better and avoid letting our thoughts wander, but research tells us that taking a moment to pause and simply let our minds wander can spark creativity and help us reset. Try carving out a few minutes for a “daydreaming break” during the day. The break can be something you intentionally schedule on your calendar in between meetings or tasks, or a five-minute window you block out when you’re working on a project. You might find it helpful to take out a pencil and doodle, or you may want to just sit in silence for a moment. But once you let yourself daydream, you’ll be surprised how much more focused and productive you’ll be when you get back to your work.

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