No matter how hard we try and find time to relax, there is a good chance our calendar is full of things to do. It’s rare that we can find time to take a break, but doing so is a great way to refresh and recharge. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, a break can help your entire body, both physically and mentally. So how often should you take breaks from work? The science doesn’t agree on the specific timing, but there are some generally agreed-upon limits. Let’s take a look at various break options below.
When You Need to Take a Break
The most important thing to know is when you need a break. You are likely making hundreds of decisions every day, and it’s important that you are alert every time you do. If you are reaching the point of exhaustion, there is a good chance you could make poor decisions which could lead to unintended consequences. Looking for the signs is critical. When you start to feel dizzy, sleepy, hungry, your eyes start to blur or your concentration starts to wane, these are signs you need to put the proverbial pencil down and walk away.
Take a Break Every 90 Minutes
According to Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, you should take your breaks between 75 to 90 minutes. Pozen believes that timespan is the ideal amount where the mind can concentrate and get work done. He doubles down on this timeframe by adding that a break every 90 minutes or so will help with learning and focusing.
He suggests taking a break of about 15 minutes and allowing you body to rest. There is an understanding that not every work schedule will allow for a break every 90-minutes – and that is fine. In that case, you should take your break whenever possible. Was a meeting canceled? Do not jump to the next project. Instead, take the free time and get up and move around.
Take a Break Every 52 Minutes
Unsurprisingly, how frequently you should take a break differs depending on the study. DeskTime, a company that tracks productivity, makes the argument that you should be taking a 17-minute break every 52 minutes. To come to that conclusion, the company evaluated the top 10 percent of the most productive employees for companies it supports and used those as a baseline.
What they found is that during that 52-minute session of work, employees were dedicated to accomplishing all of their tasks and getting things done. They further found that during those 17-minute breaks, employees were able to give their bodies the time to rest and relax. The most important discovery of the DeskTime study? It found that with the 52:17 rule, employees were more productive without the need to put in any extra hours.
Taking a Break Every 25 Minutes
Better known as the Pomodoro technique, this break method has plenty of fans. A mainstream favorite is to take a five-minute break every 25 minutes. After you have successfully completed four intervals of this schedule, you take another 30-minute break. What makes this technique so successful is the short bursts of work force you to focus on just one thing at a time. That prevents overload and stress, and you are more likely to stay focused throughout the day.
The five-minute breaks provide just enough time for you to stretch, grab a quick drink, snack or use the restroom. The longer break is good for eating, exercise, taking a walk, running an errand, etc. You can easily time yourself using a clock on your computer or a watch or using one of the many cross-platform apps available.
Making Each Break Feel Effective
No matter how long of a break you take, the most important thing is to make it worthwhile. Try and stay away from screens. While a break is a good time to eat, try and make it a healthy meal. There are plenty of expert articles out there that support the idea that some snacks, meals and even coffee during a break can be more harmful than helpful. Instead, meditate, stretch, do something else unrelated to work online. Take time during a break to call a friend or family member and distract yourself from the stresses of the day. Whatever you do, the biggest factor is to not think about work.
When it comes to taking breaks, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how frequently you should take a break from work. Instead, it will likely be something that you need to experiment with and find what works best for you. The good news is that there are plenty of methods out there to help find something that fits your workflow. What’s your favorite break technique?