Our world today often leads us to think that rest is for the weak and the more time we put in, the more we’ll get done. But if you’ve noticed lately, attitudes are shifting and a growing body of research recognizes the faults in this theory and the need to take a break in various forms – a vacation, time off, a 10 minute reset – is needed to maintain our well-being. After people applauded the CEO of Olark’s response to a mental health day out-of-office email reply that went viral, we were all reminded that breaks are an important part of being, and staying, productive.
Studies have shown that the average U.S. employee is overworked, overwhelmed and overwrought, largely in part to a lack of vacations. The American Psychological Association released a study that concluded that taking a break from work can reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with stress and anxiety, leading to increased productivity, creativity, and focus when they return to work. Better health has also been shown to be a positive side effect of taking regular vacations, from less illness to better sleep quality. Along with vacations, research shows that regular breaks throughout the workday are another great method to give your brain the downtime it needs. Small breaks are proven to increase endorphins and refresh your thought process, ultimately recharging the brain and body to sustain concentration and energy levels throughout the day – making you more productive overall.
I’ve recently tested this theory, and have personally experienced the benefits of incorporating more breaks into my work days. Even when I think it’s impossible and that I am too busy. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to help keep me on a regular workday break schedule:
- Schedule them in advance: We often think that we are too busy and that our co-workers will need us while we are away. But think about it…when was the last time your absence of 10 minutes was the make or break for a big deal closing, or the difference between a win and a loss? Unless you’re a brain surgeon, a difference of 10 minutes or so is normally an OK thing. Scheduling your work breaks will make it less likely for you to skip them. I’ve started to set an alarm on my phone for every hour to remind myself to get up and move around.
- Get moving: Some people use their lunch breaks for a quick workout. While not everyone’s schedule allows a fitness class or a run, spreading short movements and exercises throughout the workday can be just as beneficial. Whether it’s stretching periodically in your cubicle or walking to a coworker’s desk rather than sending that email, small actions can go a long way toward improving your mental performance.
- Meditate: I’ve started to incorporate mediation into my work days as a way to refocus and revisit my goals. Just three minutes can increase creativity, reduce stress, and refocus. Try using an app, like Headspace or Calm, to get started.
- Don’t eat at your desk: The desk lunch has become commonplace in most office environments, and it’s not always such a good thing. Ever tried eating a salad and typing at the same time? Not only is eating while distracted horrible for digestion, but you are missing a great “day break” opportunity. You don’t have to spend your lunch break just for eating lunch either. Run an errand, meet a friend or pick up lunch to enjoy in the office (away from your computer) when you get back.
- Take a break from your mindset about breaks: It’s time to change your view. Breaks provide myriad benefits, such as nourishing your body, taking care of your mental and physical health, and recharging yourself to be more productive. Think of ways you can spend your breaks to better yourself while you are away from you work. Grab a midday healthy snack, take a walk while you listen to a podcast, or give a friend or family member a call. Since I just moved and started working in a new office, I try to take breaks and connect with my friends and family who I don’t get to see on a daily basis.
Do you have any great tips on incorporating breaks throughout your workday? I would love to hear them! Please comment below to share your ideas with our readers!