How to take effective breaks to boost your productivity

How to take effective breaks to boost your productivity

Besides staying healthy in the middle of the pandemic, many remote workers also face the challenge of having to stay productive. They are starting to feel burned out, which significantly increases stress levels and makes it more difficult to perform their daily tasks.

There are several ways to deal with burnout, such as sticking to a fixed work schedule and following a to-do list. However, there is another way that may seem counterintuitive but is actually quite effective: taking breaks.

Here are some tips to taking breaks to boost productivity:

1. Take breaks frequently

It’s not healthy to sit for an extended period, as it can increase the risk of chronic health problems, so take breaks regularly.

But how long should your break be? A study by DeskTime found that it's ideal to take a 17-minute break after being productive for 52 minutes straight. Meanwhile, the Pomodoro technique suggests taking a 5-minute break every 25 minutes, and a 15-minute break after four 25-minute working sessions.

Despite the differences, both techniques are known to be effective. Also, looking forward to a break not only improves your health, but it also helps you stay more focused and work with purpose.

2. Distract yourself

You may tend to overly focus while working. While this may not seem like a bad thing, this makes it difficult to switch off when it’s time to take a break. Excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in the brain, draining your energy and making you feel less focused. As a result, you make poor decisions and become less collaborative.

Instead of thinking constantly about a problem, distract yourself from it so you can come back to the task at hand with a fresh mind. If you’re writing a long report, stop for a bit and watch a funny video clip or listen to a song. These allow the mind to refocus and absorb new ideas.

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3. Eat the right foods

Hunger is one of the most common reasons why people take a break from work. It’s difficult to ignore the sound of a growling stomach, as it indicates that the body needs more fuel to function properly. But be careful of what you eat, as consuming the wrong food can drain your mental energy.

For you to keep working optimally, your brain needs a consistent level of glucose, a type of blood sugar and a major source of energy for the body's cells. Low glucose levels can lead to fatigue, difficulty in concentration, anxiety, and other symptoms that may negatively impact your productivity. Some foods that are rich in glucose include granola bars, yogurt, and apples.

A study also found that eating protein-rich foods not only gives you a quick hit of glucose, but it also enhances the body’s cognitive abilities. So, opt for foods like beef, chicken, fish, peanut butter, oats, broccoli, or eggs. Keep your portions small to avoid sugar crashes.

4. Exercise your eyes

Remote workers spend eight or more hours a day looking at a computer screen, and more than five hours in front of their phones. This exposes them to blue light, which can cause eye strain in as little as two hours.

Take visual breaks to reduce eye fatigue by following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from the computer screen and look at an item at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows your mind to take a visual break and focus on something other than your computer screen.

5. Do nothing

Believe it or not, doing nothing on your break can help replenish your energy. Letting your mind wander by daydreaming or zoning out has similar benefits to meditation. When you stop paying attention to something, the brain’s default mode network takes over, allowing your prefrontal cortex — where processes like problem-solving, memory, reason, and logic happen — to rest.

Doing nothing during your break can also help you come up with more ideas at work. According to New York University professor Scott Barry Kaufman, daydreaming allows you to access your unconscious and find more creative solutions to your problems, helping you become more productive and efficient at work.

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