When it comes to our careers and work in general, thriving and growing within our job means we need to be as productive as possible. Getting results means getting things done but when we’re in this mindset we usually end up sacrificing breaks in order to create more time.
While this can bring about results in the short term, over time it can lead to burnout and feeling mentally drained. Our productivity will eventually take a nosedive simply because we haven’t taken time out to switch off and take a breather.
Tiredness and fatigue is a result of our bodies not getting enough time to restore energy plus adding skipped meals into the mix means running on empty with no sufficient nutrients and energy to be the productive person you want to be. It’s a vicious cycle that many of us jump into.
Why Don’t We Take Enough Breaks?
It’s a catch 22 that we skip our breaks in order to be more productive yet the more we do this the less productive we actually become. So why do we do it?
No time. Feeling like we have more work than time to complete it is common. Constant emails and meetings means when we step into the office in the morning time can fly into mid and late afternoon. Yet you feel you never get anything finished – there are even more emails and meetings piling up for the next day.
Afraid of what others think of you. Even if your boss isn’t that demanding, you don’t want to seem like you’re skiving at work by taking too many breaks. This is worse when you work in an open-plan office where people can see your every move. You can start to feel paranoid when you take your third 10 minute break of the day feeling that your colleagues or managers are judging you.
You don’t think breaks are necessary. Many people find breaks inconvenient and think sitting down and relaxing for 10 minutes is a waste of time. It can feel unenjoyable when you know you have so much work to be getting on with that many just don’t take that needed break.
You don’t know how to take a break. Many places of work encourage people to take breaks away from their desks but if this isn’t the case for you, sitting at your desk can lead to scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feeds. While this may feel like a break, it doesn’t relax your mind or really give your mind the mentally productive break it needs.
What Actually Happens If We Don’t Take Those Needed Breaks?
Performance decreases. Research has shown that working on a task for long periods of time without a break creates a decrease in performance overall. While taking regular breaks increases performance on the task at hand.
Procrastination increases. Getting into the flow while working is a great feeling but this doesn’t last forever. As humans, we get bored and this usually leads to procrastination. Our brains aren’t designed to focus for long periods which is why taking a break is more beneficial and gets us back on track when boredom sets in. It’s all about “deactivating and reactivating” our goals to stay focused.
Attention span is shortened. The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes. This can decrease even more if you continually never take breaks. In other words, we end up running on empty in terms of cognitive function which can be resolved by taking time out for our brain to reboot.
Fatigue and burnout. A burnout is usually the last thing to happen but it’s the collective routine of not pausing to take time out. Tiredness and fatigue is usually the precursors and indicates that our body is getting worn out. This can result in the task taking longer to complete or getting sick resulting in tasks not being completed at all.
Take Breaks to Increase Your Productivity and Wellbeing
Track and limit the time you spend on tasks. Do you know how much time you actually spend on daily tasks? Research suggests that only around 17 percent of people know the amount of time that goes by when they’re tackling a task. Be aware of how much time you spend so you can gauge a better understanding of a productive schedule and when to interject breaks.
Shift your mindset. Often our biggest hurdle is not accepting that breaks are for our benefit. Start to view taking breaks as a necessity rather than a hindrance.
Never skip meals. Scheduling lunchtime meetings or using your lunch hour as a way to keep up with mounting work is extremely detrimental to your productivity. Skipping meals or rushing them will only harm your health and long term productivity. Use this time to relax and think of things unrelated to work as this reboots the brain as you nourish it.
Throw away excuses. ‘I don’t have enough time’ may have crossed your mind numerous times but we have to bin the excuses. Help yourself by making a list of what you need to get done for the day to help declutter your mind but remember to include breaks in this list as they’re just as important. This will help speed up the process of getting things done.
Consider exercise. Sitting down away from your work or taking a nap are great ways to rejuvenate. But research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has found that incorporating exercise into your work day may help improve productivity. Try joining a gym near your work, go for a lunchtime run or a simple walk to get your brain energised and ready to tackle work again.
Just Take That Break!
Try not to convince yourself that working for long stretches is the optimum productivity strategy. It’s clear from research that our brain isn’t designed to concentrate for long periods and needs time to switch off in order to work at its best.
One study found the secret to the optimum routine for productivity: working for 52 minutes and breaking for 17 minutes. This created the best work flow for highest performance.
So ditch the excuses, don’t work through lunch, take time to eat and refuel, and even consider going for a workout. Whatever it is you do, make sure you carve out important time to reboot your brain and watch your productivity levels rise!
Featured photo credit: rawpixel.com via pexels.com
|||^||Fast Company: Why you need to stop thinking you are too busy to take breaks|
|||^||This Vs That Show: People are awful at estimating time|
|||^||JOEM: The Relationship of job Performance to Exercise Adherence in a Corporate Fitness Program|
|||^||The Atlantic: A Formula for Perfect Productivity: Work for 52 Minutes, Break for 17|