Why taking a break is good for productivity

Staying chained to your desk all day is a bad idea. Read why regular breaks are both good for your health and help you get more done.

Coffee breaks: cup of coffee

Hat tip to LWY for the photo.

The will to work is all well and good, but pushing through that extra hour, skipping lunch and hunching over your keyboard may actually be making you less productive in the long run. Short, regular breaks make for more happiness and a lot more done to-dos. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Basic health. The government health and safety guidelines say: ‘Breaking up long spells of DSE [display screen equipment] work helps prevent fatigue, eye strain, upper limb problems and backache.’
  • Increased attention span. Studies have shown that regular meditation can improve your ability to concentrate on a single task. Taking a moment to think about nothing, may mean you can spend a few more moments focused on finishing that all-important task.
  • Guilt-free distractions. A recent survey found that nearly 60 percent of work distractions are technology-based, like email, social media and IM. Rather than switching windows and clicking and tapping at every chirrup and bing, set aside planned breaks for ‘distraction tasks’ and disconnect and stay focused the rest of the time.
  • Making monolithic tasks manageable. Breaks don’t have to mean you are not working. Sometimes switching tasks can be just as helpful, like the ‘top of the hour’ technique: exactly at the top of the hour, not a single minute past, focus on the most important thing on your to-do list for 15 minutes without doing a single other thing (no internet, no e-mail, no getting up to stretch your legs – if a helicopter lands in the garden you can’t look up). Then the next top of the hour do important thing number two for 15 mins, then important thing number three on the third hour, then on the fourth hour go back to important thing number one. You’ll be surprised how quickly you start ticking things off without having to chain yourself to your desk.
  • Time to think makes for better decisions. Sir Mervyn King, outgoing governor of the Bank of England, recently said in an interview that he tries to keep his mornings as free as possible for reading, thinking and reflecting because, ‘people who are so busy that they’re rushing from one meeting to another and never get time to sit and think will fail in their objectives because they won’t be able to sort out in their own mind what it is they’re really trying to achieve.’

So for the sake of your health, sanity and the quality and success of your work, just remember, it’s OK to take the occasional break.

2 comments on “Why taking a break is good for productivity

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