Take a Break. Seriously.

We seem to be programmed to work even at our own expense. It may be just short of a miracle that you’re taking the time to read this blog. There are probably multiple tabs open on your computer and your to-do list is giving you guilt-creating looks.

Most of us are trained to work from dawn till dusk to get our “to-do” list done. The problem is… it’s never done! It reminds me of Snow White’s sweet little friends.

They dig, dig, dig, dig, dig the whole day through. Poor Dwarfs! Poor YOU!

Breaks make you happier, healthier, and more productive. There’s science behind this folks. Breaks help us focus. When employees “push through” they are less productive than others who take frequent breaks.

Your body has a battery. Unlike the battery in your cell phone which keeps going until it, your battery needs more frequent charging to keep going at its optimum potential. A study at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business shows there is a direct link between employee break and job satisfaction, lower emotional exhaustion, and greater instances of employees going above-and-beyond in the workplace. All of that adds up to happier workers and more productivity.

Our brains were not designed to focus on singular goals or topics for hours on end. We just aren’t made to work eight hours a day, though most of us work that much or more. University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras explains, “…Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” he said. “From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”

Frequency and longevity of breaks impact their effectiveness. The Baylor study also found the longer each continual work period, the less effective the next break period. Here are a couple of break structures that work for some people.

Pomodoro breakBreakStructure
There are other schools of thought behind the structure, so each of us just has to find what works on an individual basis.

What an employee chooses to do with each break period also impacts its effectiveness. It stands to reason that doing something you actually enjoy helps rejuvenate you. In other words, if you hate crossword puzzles, choose something else. Regardless of what you choose to do on your breaks, there is one rule: Step away from the screens. Continuing the same type of activity involving electronics, whether it’s a computer, tablet, or phone, does not count as rejuvenating break time. Step away.

A few ideas for non-electronic activities:

  • meditation
  • yoga
  • walk
  • have a conversation
  • get a coffee
  • doodle
  • eat a snack
  • listen to music
  • nap
  • journal
  • climb stairs
  • lie down and relax (for those who don’t realize this can be considered either yoga and/or meditation!)

That last one isn’t just because there is never a bad time for the Grey’s Anatomy 30-Second Dance Party clip… it’s because you do need to get up. Stand up. Move. Stretch. Shake it like a polaroid picture. Your body was meant to move and is not a robot.

Build your breaks into your day. They are real tools whether you work a 9-5, are in it part-time or are a stay at home mom. Self-care is the most important tool to make you the most effective you can be!

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