While some might think taking breaks hurts productivity, they can actually help boost your productivity. In fact, a break helps refresh your mind and body, which is something you need throughout a busy day. But, if you want to make your breaks even more beneficial, create break lists and watch your productivity, both professionally and personally, soar.
More Breaks Please
It’s great to sit down for hours at a time to focus on work, right? Wrong! Our brains aren’t built to stay productive for that long. After around an hour, your brain needs a break. In fact, one study found that for optimal productivity, it’s best to work for no more than 52 minutes before taking a break, which should last approximately 17 minutes.
While your brain doesn’t just shut off after the 52 minutes, it’s not quite as efficient. You might take longer to perform tasks or just feel generally sluggish. You have to step away to give your brain time to reset for another productive burst.
Exactly how often you should take breaks and how long those breaks should be vary based on the expert you talk to. Fifty-two minutes and 17 minutes is just what one study found, while some recommend taking a 15-minute break every 75 to 90 minutes.
Of course, the popular Pomodoro technique takes a different approach of taking a five-minute break every 25 minutes and a 15-minute break after every two hours. If you want to use this approach, Tomato Timers works well and even has a to-do list feature. You can also Google “timer” and use Google to set a custom timer.
What Are Break Lists
Breaks are an important part of your workday. Whether you’re in an office or trying to work from home, you need to take frequent breaks. However, this doesn’t mean sit back and do nothing or start scrounging for snacks. Instead, do something on your break list.
A break list is a list of restorative tasks designed to keep you productive, even in your downtime. The idea is to take on tasks that are completely different than what you normally do. This gives your brain a chance to both rest and change direction to prevent fatigue and boredom.
You don’t have to do anything overly strenuous, either physically or mentally. However, if you suddenly take a break but don’t know what to do with it, you’ll end up frustrated. This is why you should create a list of restorative tasks at the start of the day or week.
Teachers have been using break lists for years. One teacher refers to them as “brain breaks.” By taking regular breaks, students were able to better retain information, feel more excited about learning, and perform better in the classroom.
You get the same types of benefits, including:
- Less boredom, especially with repetitive tasks
- Improved focus during work sessions
- Improved memory
- More enjoyable work day
- Increased productivity thanks to a less-fatigued brain
Another major benefit is you have something to look forward to. Do you remember your parents rewarding you when you cleaned your room? Break lists work the same way. You have a reward waiting for you during your break. This means you’re much more likely to complete your work tasks in a timely fashion to get to your break.
Picking Restorative Tasks
Scrolling endlessly through Facebook isn’t exactly a restorative task. It is something you can do during a break, but it won’t exactly refresh your brain. In fact, you’ll probably just feel worse.
Instead, pick restorative tasks designed to make you feel better and happier. Obviously, the tasks will vary based on your specific needs and interests, but some general ideas include:
- Go for a walk
- Tidy up an area in your home (even better if you enjoy cleaning)
- Read a book or interesting blog (avoid negative posts or even news)
- Play an instrument
- Play a game
- Enjoy a hobby
- Call a friend
- Simple personal to-dos
Even though those tasks may not seem like they would make you more productive professionally or personally, consider the benefits. From a professional standpoint, you’re resetting your brain and improving your mood. Both help give you a productivity boost for your next work session and keep you more alert.
From a personal standpoint, you’re reducing stress, taking some time just for yourself during the day, and maybe even checking off a few chores. If you rarely get time for a hobby, spending five to 15 minutes during a break is a great way to help better balance your work and personal life.
Now, it’s time to create your own break list. What are you including on yours?