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Get More Done by Taking Breaks

Taking a break from your work activities can refresh your brain and make you more productive.

When life gets busy (and when doesn’t it?) we often feel that we have to put our head down and plow full steam ahead to get as much done as possible. While it may seem counterintuitive, taking a break can actually help you accomplish more, and make life more enjoyable at the same time. Giving your mind (and body) a chance to rest can help refocus your attention and boost your energy as well as help relieve stress and sharpen your cognitive ability.

In their book, The Power of Full Engagement, energy management gurus Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz describe the physiological changes our bodies go through when we’ve reached a low point in our energy cycle. While techniques such as drinking coffee or eating a candy bar may successfully produce a short-term energy boost, they’re not a great substitute for our body’s natural cycle of engagement and recovery.

I’ve experienced this productivity recovery phenomenon first-hand. Back in my
paper-writing days during college and grad school, I’d intentionally walk away from my current writing assignment for 15 minutes or so and be amazed at the renewed focus and energy I’d discover upon my return to the task. I’d also marvel at the ease with which I’d catch errors that I previously hadn’t noticed. A fresh set of eyes and a clear mind made all the difference.

Taking breaks has also been shown to be highly beneficial for people with AD/HD.
My own experience when working with clients with AD/HD has shown that when they take a short break of ten or so minutes, it breaks up the monotony (serving
their desire for a change of pace) and boosts their energy. “Green” breaks during which they look outside (or even go outside) to look at the green grass or trees have also proven to be highly beneficial. A study by researchers at the University of Essex (England) found that just 5 minutes a day of exposure to nature is all you need to improve your mood and self-esteem.

To get yourself in the habit of taking breaks, determine what your concentration threshold is and set a timer to remind yourself to walk away from your current project for a while. The length of the break is less important than the act of simply
changing your focus for a moment – something as simple as taking a bathroom break can do wonders for your productivity. Maybe drinking eight glasses of water a day (or whatever the experts now say is the proper amount) can have a side benefit of boosting your productivity by making you take a bio break every few hours.

So how will you build breaks into your day to minimize the mental field trips your mind takes as you work through your day?

 

Sue Becker, owner of From Piles to Smiles®, is an organzing and productivity expert. She helps people organize their home, manage their mountains of paperwork, and free them from their jam-packed schedules. She can be reached at 630-724-1111 or www.PilesToSmiles.com



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Sue Kirchner November 06, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Great article, Sue. I agree wholeheartedly. I work from home and my trick is to walk the dog a few times a day to clear my head and get the oxygen flowing again.
Sue Becker November 07, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Sounds like a great approach, Sue!
Pete Przyszlak November 10, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Going outside regularly to escape from the metal box with no windows and bad air in which I have to work has been something I have done regularly at my day job for a long time and has never affected my ability to get things done without issue.The trouble is now the management have adopted a "Lean manufacturing" policy and imposed "Flexi-time" on us which is actually far less flexible than it ever was, as a consequence, our time is now accounted for by the minute and every time we go out we have to swipe a security card, with such close scrutiny to our movements now I have been pulled up for the many "extra" breaks I have been taking and now the strict and almost regimented control of breaks which is completely outside of a natural work flow has left me uninterested in hitting production levels and disinterested in the job. It's a shame that higher management cannot see this and as they use blanket rules on what is a such a diverse asset as a human workforce in an attempt to increase productivity, I think it will have the opposite effect and inevitably backfire.
Sue Becker November 11, 2012 at 04:35 AM
I'm sorry you're in such a challenging work environment, Peter. It sure sounds like everyone there could use a break!

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