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We recently discussed taking breaks at work: how long we work between breaks, if or how long we leave our workspaces on our breaks, what we do during them, and so on. While we’ve had many posts about productivity, including how to keep track of work to-dos, how to focus on work when other things are on your mind, and the best Spotify playlists to help you focus, we haven’t talked a lot about taking breaks throughout the day. Can you schedule when you take breaks at work? If so, do you tend to take a break at the same time every day? Do you schedule breaks on your calendar as appointments so that others know you are unavailable?
Even though breaks were allowed and even encouraged at most full- and part-time jobs I’ve held, I still wouldn’t stop to take my first “break” until 1 p.m. or later. Even then, it might’ve only been break time because I didn’t want to miss out on the last call for the office cafeteria salad bar at 2 p.m. I did, however, almost always take 45 minutes for lunch when I could. I would make it a point to take a long walk, read a book, or meet up with a friend.
We realize that for some of our readers’ high-demand jobs, it’s just not possible to take breaks, at least not frequently. For instance, as a trial attorney, on my docket days or days with back-to-back-to-back client meetings, or when I had trial prep, breaks weren’t always an option. I would often eat lunch at my desk, if I had time to eat at all, and I was lucky if I could get a few minutes to check my personal texts or emails.
Here are some tips we hope you find helpful when it comes trying to schedule breaks to increase your productivity at work:
Why you should schedule breaks at all
Taking a break will improve not only your physical health (as we all know, sitting for too long is bad for us), but your mental and emotional health, too. Even just walking for five minutes every hour can be beneficial. You’ll return to your work more relaxed, refreshed, and ready to keep working. You might even improve your creativity enough to solve a previously unsolvable problem, just by stepping away for a few minutes.
How frequently you should schedule breaks to increase your productivity
Experts say that 90 minutes is the absolute longest you should work before taking a break — even if the break is just for 5-10 minutes. Ideally, you should work an hour or less between breaks to be the most productive. The popular Pomodoro Technique advises you to work for 25 minutes (ideally focusing on one thing only), take a five minute break, and then go back to work. (After four 25-minute blocks, take a longer break.) But the timing can vary here — a study a few years ago found that taking 17-minute breaks every 52 minutes was the best strategy for being productive, while another study found that participants who were given two short breaks during a 50-minute task were able to stay more focused and perform better.
A few ways to encourage yourself to take breaks — besides setting timers/reminders on your phone — are setting your Fitbit to remind you to get up and move periodically; using a physical timer, website, or app to follow the Pomodoro Technique; or installing an app like StandUp! that prompts you to get up and move frequently.
How to get the most out of your breaks
To re-energize and reset your mind throughout the day, breaks can include:
- a short, brisk walk around the office or around the block
- a healthy snack
- exercise at your desk, including stretching or yoga
- walking over to a colleague to ask a question
- anything else to get away from your workstation!
How do you spend your breaks — going for a walk, getting or making coffee, or taking a few minutes to stretch or do a couple yoga poses in your workspace with the door closed? Do you have a job where you are required to take breaks at the same time every day?
Pictured: Deposit Photos / Swanlake1.
- 3 Ways to Get Maximum Stress Relief During Work Breaks [Huffington Post]
- Why You Shouldn’t Work More Than 90 Minutes Without Taking A Break [Lifehacker]
- Why Taking A Break At Work Makes You A Better Employee [Health]
- When, How, and How Often to Take A Break [Inc.]