Many people ask about the importance of taking breaks at work, and it’s mainly because the prominent management belief is because breaks affect productivity. The common idea is that self-control and laser focus are the key to high levels of productivity. Employees are often treated as either machines or work-obsessed individuals whose only function is to be productive. However, that is false, and it’s not just wrong but also counteractive.
The truth is, to be more productive, we need to take more breaks. It’s not about forcing yourself to continue working despite having lost focus or feeling fatigued. It’s all about managing when you experience bursts of energy and inspiration.
But to have this burst of energy and flash of inspiration, you must take breaks. This is all because of something called the “ultradian cycle.” It shows us that, much like our body’s circadian rhythm, our brain works on waves.
During peaks of the ultradian cycle, we experience enhanced mental faculties, and it is often when we’re at our most creative and most productive. This usually comes in waves of 45 minutes of intense focus followed by 15 to 20 minutes of rest.
How Do You Take a Break Properly?
However, that 15 to 20 minutes of rest is just as critical as the actual ultradian cycle. Since it’s when our minds rest and recover, we must allow them to recover fully. This is why we need to take breaks “properly.” But how do you take breaks properly? Let’s look at that below.
Here’s a surprising way to take a break: socialize. Talk to your coworkers, chat up your friends, or video call your family. Whenever we socialize, our neural processes fire rapidly. This explains the sudden flashes of inspiration when talking to friends or family. Through talking and socializing, our brain can reignite its neurons, so you’re more productive when you return to work.
Take a Nap
People might find it pleasantly surprising that taking a nap also helps in increasing focus and mental acuity after your break. Power naps, or 20 to 60 minutes of deep sleep, help improve your alertness and motor skills. It essentially “refreshes” the brain, which can get quite fried up after hours of nonstop working. So the next time you feel sleepy during break time, don’t deny yourself that nap.
Drink Water or Coffee
Coffee lovers are most likely rejoicing after hearing this tip. Since coffee is considered a stimulant, it stimulates your body’s central nervous system and produces dopamine. This is the chemical primarily responsible for focus and mental alertness. Of course, it’s also ideal for drinking water during your break time.
Many people often severely underestimate their state of hydration and often only drink when they’re “thirsty.” That thirsty being that they’re already very dehydrated. It’s important to keep your liquids high, as it maintains your mental clarity and will help you think better, thus resulting in better productivity levels.
Do something you enjoy. Read a comic book or play video games. Look at your favorite signed memorabilia bought online or tinker with office toys. It’s essential to bring your mind to a “state of play” that makes your break time an actual “break” from work. The dopamine boost and the personal satisfaction of having done something you like will help you increase your productivity once you’ve returned to your work.
This is probably a weird tip, but to truly maximize your break, zone out. Don’t do anything; just rest. You don’t even have to nap; just let your mind wander and be lazy for this moment. The more we “let go,” the more we can see current things objectively. We get ideas and inspirations, so when you eventually get back to work, you have something to do. However, don’t force this, as it should be natural. Natural in the sense that you’re letting your mind rest by letting it wander, but it’ll most likely circle back to what you need.
Stand up, walk around, and let your blood get flowing. Movement is a boon to our mental faculties. It also allows you to stretch out your limbs, which, when left unstretched, can cause you severe pain and perhaps even affect your productivity. That is the exact opposite of what we want. Walk around your office or do some basic stretches; any movement is beneficial.
While old managers and bosses often think that breaks affect productivity negatively, it promotes healthy business practices. Always remember to take your break and to enjoy it as much as you can.