In the previous article “Undisputed Benefits of Taking a Smoko Break” we looked at the benefits of taking regular, short and frequent breaks, and the importance of detachment from something we are focused on. This article bring you some useful strategies and habits you can form to improve your performance and productivity in the workplace.
Don’t tell your boss, but taking a power nap has a major impact on your alertness and cognitive function. It can alleviate sleep deficits; improve creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual, object and statistical learning, logical reasoning, reaction times and symbol recognition; and improve our mood, fatigue and feeling of sleepiness. They should last between 10 to 30minutes long. If you nap any longer you risk developing ‘sleep inertia’, which is the unpleasant groggy feeling that can take some time to shake off.
Quite often we get caught up in ‘the grind’ or the finer details of what we are doing. Having a break allows you to step back and taking a birds-eye-view of the task or work you are focused on. It allows to you see the big picture and stay mindful of your objectives.
Enjoyment is the number one retention tool in the world. Completing a fun activity by yourself or with your friends and colleagues produces positive emotions. These emotions reverse negative effects of work tasks and increase blood flow to the areas in the brain that we use to focus.
Daydreaming allows us to release and switch on our creative modes. Our brains have a focused mode (learning, writing, working) and a diffuse mode (relaxed, day-dreaming). Our brain activity increases when our mind wanders. We sometimes solve some of our toughest puzzles or problems while daydreaming.
“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets…It is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”
Productivity-Boosting Activities for your Break
Lets take a look at some more activities that you can use to boost your productivity:
- Take a walk – 20min walk can increase blood-flow to the brain, which can boost creative thought, enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits, combat age-related declines in brain function, and improve memory and cognitive performance
- Daydreaming – leads to creativity. Creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, mould it to our liking and to have a positive effect on our environment
- Eat – replenish the brain with productivity nourishing foods
- Read – a non-work book. Reading fiction books can lead to better understanding other people, emphasize with them and see the world from their perspective
- Coffee – morning and afternoon break time is the perfect time for coffee
- Aesthetically pleasing photos – photos that spark positive emotions like babies, baby animals and funny cartoons
- Listen to music – can significantly improve our motor and reasoning skills
- Nap it out – 10-30min naps can improve cognitive function, decreases sleepiness and fatigue, improves reaction time.
- Exercise – makes you happier, increase energy and helps gain focus. Less than 10minutes is all you need.
- Have a chat – with co-workers or friends
- Meditate – your brain’s beta waves can be dramatically reduced during meditation. It lowers stress levels, improves overall health and enhances creativity
- Make it fun – plan a future trip or vacation. The anticipation of a trip can make people happier that the actual trip itself
- See the nature – Spending time in nature is good for your immune system, improve focus and relieve stress
- 20min Eye Exercise Rule – 20-20-20 rule – Every 20min, take at least a 20sec break, looking at objects 20 feet away.
- Goofing Around online – the distractive nature of checking text messages and surfing social media can assist with refreshing the brain
“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”
Professor K. ANDERS ERICSSON
Here are a few methods that can help you implement a successful break strategy in your day.
- Pomodoro Method – alternate 25mins on, 5mins off. After 4 cycles take a 30min break. Helps you get rid of distractions and focus more intently. Finite beginning and end of small chunks increases urgency in finishing tasks quickly and making decisions faster
- 90minute work blocks – works with our body’s natural rhythm (ultradian rhythm) of 90minutes of activity and 20minutes of rest. We do this during sleep and during the day. When Professor K. Anders Ericsson studied elite performers like violinists, athletes, actors and chess players, he found that the best performers practiced in focused sessions of no more than 90 minutes.
- 52-17 method – split between the Pomodoro Method and 90min Blocks. Research suggests that it could be the most productive schedule. Working with purpose.
- 2x 15min breaks per day – a good starting point for those who have less flexibility in their work day or mentally cant get their heads around taking breaks.
“The reason the most productive 10% of our users are able to get the most done during the comparatively short periods of working time is that their working times are treated as sprints. They make the most of those 52 minutes by working with intense purpose, but then rest up to be ready for the next burst. In other words, they work with purpose.”
What are strategy are you going to choose?
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