Why I Take Breaks And You Should Too

I previously spoke about managing your time in which I said to take breaks. A few people raised their eyebrow when reading that. When you have a million things on your to-do list with more being added throughout the day, the last thing you think you have time for is a break. However, there are actually reasons why taking a break on days like this are good for you. A study from University of Illinois shows that prolonged attention on a single task actually reduces performance. Professor Alejandro Lleras, who led the new study, said “Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” Several studies including this one suggest that by taking small breaks you can increase your productivity and focus.

Another article concludes that by taking a 30 second to 5 minute break, referred to as “Microbreaks”, can improve mental acuity by an average of 13%. The study also states that taking regular 2 minute breaks can increase productivity by an average of 11.15%. It turns out that taking breaks are essential for high productivity and energy.

So, when should you take a break? There are many different practices and techniques. Here are a few that you can try.

Breaks every 90 minutes

Tony Schwartz concluded that taking a break every 90 minutes is sufficient to keeping fresh and energized.  This is based on the ultradiun rhythm. This rhythm is a recurrent cycle which is present in both our sleeping and waking lives. This cycle usually has 90 minutes of high activety and 20 minutes of low activety. Therefore, the study suggests to take a 20 minute break after 90 minutes of concentrated work.

pomodoro technique breaks
Photo by lucamascaro

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique from Francesco Cirillo. This method breaks down your time into chunks of 25 minutes of work that are separated by short breaks. This system is designed to help people learn to work with time and not against it. It is great to help avoid the “running on fumes” experiece that you would feel over worked. An easy timer for tracking this can be found at tomato-timer.com

17 minute breaks every 52 minutes

The Draugiem Group used a time-tracking app to study the habits of their most productive employees. They found that the most productive employees took, on average, a 17 minute break every 52 minutes. In fact, they found that the most productive don’t even work eight-hour days. They believe that the secret to highest productivity is working smarter with frequent breaks.

So, what should you do during your short break? Anything that is not what you are focused on. I use my quick breaks for checking in with social media, refilling my drink, and, most importantly, doing some stretches. However, your break could include everything from taking a walk to reading a chapter in a book.

Comment below on how often you take breaks and what you do with your breaks!

6 Tips For Managing Your Time Better

Running a business is time consuming. Add taking care of the children, spending time with your spouse, shopping, house work, and all the other tasks you do during the week and you may start feeling like you don’t have enough time to do it all. We all have that feeling from time to time. What can we do to get more done?  The first step is to manage your time to be the most productive. The following techniques will help you get the most out of your time.

Use a Calendar

Having and using a calendar is fundamental to managing your time. Taking the time to schedule in when you are meeting with clients, when you are having dinner with the in-laws, time you are working on your mailing list, and all other aspects of your week will greatly assist you in visualizing the amount of time you have. This will make it easier to schedule in time for doing other tasks that you want to get to that you do not feel you have the time for. I use Google Calendar for scheduling everything. Be sure to also enter in your deadlines as well as setting up reminders.

Turn off Distractions

What distracts you while you work? Does Facebook notifying you about a comment distract you from work and causes you to open Facebook? If so, turn off the notifications while you plan on working. How about email, instant messaging, or text messages? Mute your phone while working to help cut these out. One notification may not take up too much time but when you have 20 or 30 notifications throughout the afternoon, you could easily lose most of the day.

Do the Most Important Thing First

Distractions and complications tend to multiply as the day goes on. Not to mention, you also lose your motivation and energy throughout the day as well. You should always start your day with the most important task to ensure that it gets done and gets done right. More importantly, you will have accomplished something important every day since you did at least this one thing.

Batch Similar Tasks Together

Switching between different tasks and thoughts can hinder your productivity. Try grouping different tasks together when you are scheduling your time. For example, I try to schedule all my calls together in a time slot. This way, I am really focused on calls during that time. Same thing with writing or emails.

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Track Your Time

Take a week and track the time for everything you do. Tracking every single task during the week will help you see where your time is going and where you can make improvements. You may notice that you are spending much more time on particular tasks than what you should be spending time on. I use Tracking Time to keep track of my time.

Take A Break

I know what you are thinking. Frank, how is taking a break going to give me more time? Well, many people have realized that taking a break actually improves your productivity. Why? In a different post, I talked about how taking breaks allows your brain to relax. This helps you stay focused, alert, and motivated. I usually have two breaks a day. One mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. These are perfect times to get up, check in with the family, and refill my drink. After the break, I am usually ready to get things done.

Now that you have a few techniques to help you get more done, be sure to remember to still take some time for you. Take an longer lunch or leave early every now and then. Getting fresh air away from work helps you keep your mind fresh and ready to tackle the challenges of work. Have any good techniques for managing time? Be sure to comment below!