Maintaining a healthy equilibrium between work, life, family, friends, hobbies, chores and everything else that needs to be done is one of the biggest challenges that we face in the modern world. The glorification of productivity and working long hours has led us to increased rates of burnout, decreased sleep quality, and a lack of motivation.
Research has shown that 62% of professionals eat their lunch at their desk and the average office worker stares at a screen for more than 9 hours each day. However, recent studies have suggested the key to productivity is not about working longer hours- but instead, it is about working smarter. Productivity methods such as the 80/20, the Pomodoro technique or the 52:17 rule, are premised upon the idea that working in blocks of time and taking short breaks in between is the best way to work; with regular ten minute breaks being super effective at keeping you fresh.
Check out the top signs you need to step away from the desk and take a break, as well as the benefits of taking ten minutes and tons of ideas on how you can best use your breaks to maximize their potential.
Benefits of Taking a Break
The brain is a seriously impressive organ, constantly sending and receiving signals so we are able to go about our day. Neurological studies tell us that the brain works in bursts of activity for around an hour and it is simply not wired for extended focus. A break from work can help you to refocus and will boost your concentration levels. Moreover, taking a short break can also help us to evaluate the task at hand, as well as the best possible way of tackling it.
The brain has two different modes, focused mode and diffuse mode, and both are actually essential for the retention and process of information. Even when you are thinking about something else entirely, your brain continues to work on the task at hand. This is why we often get brainwaves when we are on auto-pilot, such as when we are in the shower or driving. As a result, when you are taking a break, it is best to completely disconnect from work.
Signs You Need a Break
There are so many signs that you need a break, and these will often depend on the individual. However, some common symptoms may include:
Eye strains and headaches: With so much time on our digital devices and staring at screens, eye strains and tension headaches can be a clear sign you need to rest.
Careless Mistakes: Decision fatigue is caused by our brains constantly working to make decisions, and this can result in careless errors.
Insomnia and restlessness: Not taking enough breaks can also impact your circadian rhythm, resulting in poor sleep patterns and insomnia.
Lack of Motivation: When we start to lose our passion and motivation, it can be a negative spiral. However, taking regular ten-minute breaks can help to keep you on track.
Things to do on your break
Get Outdoors: taking just a 5-minute walk outdoors can alleviate mental fatigue, improve productivity and boost cognitive thought and problem-solving abilities.
Exercise: Get your heart rate pumping and do some quick exercise. Evidence has suggested that by increasing the blood flow to the brain, quick bursts of exercise can improve concentration, focus, and creativity.
Reading: Reading for ten minutes a day will get you through around 15 books a year on average. Plus, research has shown that those who read fiction more frequently are more empathetic and have improved relationships with others.
Take a Nap: A 10-minute nap can improve cognitive function and decrease sleepiness.
Have a Chat: Hanging out with co-workers and chatting can also give your brain a boost. Plus, if you are struggling with a particular aspect of your task, one of your clever colleagues may just be able to help.
Eat some food: Having a quick snack will help to keep your energy levels up, but try to avoid sugary treats or junk food.
Meditate: Practice mindfulness and give your brain a proper ten-minute break. There are so many free apps and videos online- just check out ten minute guided meditations.