We know you’ve seen it. You’ve probably done it, and we admit that we’re guilty too. Lunchtime rolls around, so you eat your salad at your desk while catching up on email. You take an afternoon coffee break, but spend the whole time on your phone, scrolling through Facebook or texting your friends. In our busy, plugged-in world, it’s easy to feel like we should always be doing something on our devices.
Turns out, all of that on-the-fly “productivity” is actually making us less productive. And what we actually need? Real, unplugged breaks. A University of Illinois study shows that our brains start to fatigue when we spend an extended amount of time focusing on a single task, but that our mental energy supply can be quickly replenished by diversions. Depending on the nature of your tasks, experts recommend taking a short break every 30 to 90 minutes. For example, take a quick stretch break after a 30 minute flurry of emails, but work on a big report in focused 90-minute chunks. No matter what, be sure to schedule breaks into your day!
So, why doesn’t switching from your spreadsheets to your Newsfeed count as an effective break? This kind of “plugged in” break, which many of us are apt to take, is not very effective at helping to replenish our mental energy. It is akin to changing the channel, but staying on the couch in front of the TV. While a tech-centered diversion will give you a little bit of a boost, it is far more effective to step away from our screens.
Leave your phone and computer on your desk, and start taking better breaks! Here are some ideas:
- Take 10 minutes to get moving and walk around the block, for some fresh air and a heart-healthy burst of exercise.
- Strengthen your office relationships by making a coffee run with your coworker. Studies show that strong social ties at work make you happier and more productive at the office!
- Bring back the lunch break. Leave your desk in favor of the break room or a nearby café, and take time to actually enjoy your meal. Distracted eating leads to overeating, so this move is good for your waistline!
- Center yourself with a brief meditation break. Moving through a few simple yoga poses or simply taking time for a series of restorative, deep breaths can help you to clear your head and refocus.
Your body, mind, and to-do list will all thank you!