We all work in a high-productivity, at all costs culture. It’s hard to justify taking a break. Some people even feel guilty, but the reality is we physically can’t work at 100% capacity, 100% of the time. We need breaks.
But did you know that breaks have an art? Here are seven science-backed studies that can help you maximise your downtime.
Take regular breaks every 25 minutes
Without concentration and focus, we have nothing. So, in order to protect your productivity cornerstones, researchers suggest taking breaks, every 25 minutes.
Why do increments of 25 minutes work? There’s a number of reasons:
- By knowing you have a break coming up, you’re more likely to stay focused and think well, it's only 25 minutes.
- Working for any longer can cause procrastination.
- Your body wasn’t designed to be sedentary, it will work against you if you sit down for too long.
Take in nature around you
Staying in an artificially lit, crowded office, all day might be a necessity for getting things done. But escaping from that space for just a few minutes a day can have huge benefits.
Studies show that just spending time in nature can help alleviate mental drain by relaxing and restoring the brain. Additionally, increased exposure to sunlight and fresh air helps increase productivity and can even improve your sleep. In one study, researchers found that workers with more exposure to natural light, during the day, slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. Imagine how good you would feel if you could fall asleep that little bit earlier?
If you can’t get outdoors during your break bring some plants into your office. This is the next best thing to being outside.
Exercise your eyes
Our eyes take the burden of our increasingly tech-heavy lives. Think about how many hours you spend, per day, on a digital device. Then acknowledge the fact that your eyes will feel strain in as little as two hours. It's safe to say your eyes are facing strain almost every day.
Luckily, there’s a simple exercise that will help reduce your eye fatigue: 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes look away from your computer screen and focus on an item at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Simple, right?
Exercise your body
Exercise is one of the easiest ways to boost energy and increase your productivity. Researchers from the University of São Paulo discovered that just 10 minutes of exercise is enough to boost memory and attention performance throughout the day.
If you don’t want to change into workout clothes or work out at all, just going for a simple walk has been shown to refresh memories and increase creativity. In a report from the American Psychology Association, researchers discovered that walking increased 81% of participants’ creativity.
Let your mind wander
A report published in Science magazine found that simply letting our minds wander by daydreaming, without any purpose, has similar benefits to meditation. When we stop focusing on anything, our brain’s Default Mode Network takes over. This means we rest our overworked prefrontal cortex–which is where all the complex processes like problem-solving, memory, reason, and logic take place.
Not only that but taking some time to let your mind drift can help you come up with more innovative ideas and uncover mental blocks when you do look over your work again.
NYU psychology professor Scott Barry Kaufman found that daydreaming is a fantastic way for us to access our unconscious. It allows ideas that have been silently incubating in our subconscious to reach our conscious. Meaning, that while you think you’re doing nothing, you’re actually mining the depths of your mind for more creative solutions to the problems you’re facing. It’s a win-win.
If this hasn't inspired you to take more breaks, read this helpful blog by Jory Mackay-Zapier for Fast Company, here.