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. Taking regular breaks make for more happiness and a lot more done to-dos. Here are a few reasons why:
1. 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.’ Staring at your computer screen for too long is bad for your eyes and your mind. Even just looking away into the distance for a few minutes will help to reduce the strain.
2. 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.
3. 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’. That way you can disconnect and stay focused during ‘work time’.
4. Making monolithic tasks manageable.
Taking regular breaks don’t have to mean you’re 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 minutes, 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.
5. Time to think makes for better decisions.
Sir Mervyn King, outgoing governor of the Bank of England, 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, taking regular breaks is OK. In fact, it should be encouraged. So go on, put your feet up for five – it’ll do you good.
Hat tip to LWY for the photo.
[Note, this post was originally published 5th June 2013]