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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.
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.