There are two types of people in the world.
The ones who think breaks are a waste of time and would rather always be working.
The ones who would rather always be taking a break! The only breaks they hate are the commercial breaks when watching their favorite show or a match on TV!
Traditionally speaking breaks have been subconsciously associated with slacking and being lazy. No wonder we all used to love break time and wished it would go on forever. When a teacher didn’t turn up for class, it was like having a break all day!
Even today, most of us would rather be taking a break than be working. People thank God it’s Friday when Friday comes along because now they can party and chill and do whatever they want for a couple of days!
This is why the first group thinks breaks are a waste of time, because they have been given a bad name by the second group.
But breaks and rest are extremely powerful tools to boost productivity once you stop treating them as a distraction from training but treat them as a part of training!
You need to use them strategically to achieve your goal faster rather than use it as an excuse to slack off.
So how do you do it? Well the best way is to alternate it between periods of hyper focused work. Also, the kind of break you take will also determine how long it is before you are refreshed and ready.
The first thing you need to do is to quit multitasking. If you are doing ten things at once, you will get less done and also stress yourself out more. You need to ensure that when you work, that’s all you do.
There is something called Pomodoro Technique where you work for a specific amount of time in a hyper focused way. At that time you don’t entertain non essential phone calls/emails. Shut down all phone notifications except the ones urgent for work. During this time you don’t check social media and don’t engage in idle chit chatter of any sort. Obviously it takes a lot of discipline to do this and some people might think you are being rude but you just need to be clear about what you want to see more – Your Success or your Facebook Newsfeed?
Now, although the original technique called for 25 mins of hyper focused work followed by 5 minutes of break, I have found different strategies work with different people. Some can work longer and need shorter breaks and some need larger.
But as a rule of thumb, it’s good to have a large block of time that you set aside totally for work where you entertain no distractions. After that time elapses, if you have the energy to keep going on with the same intensity, don’t stop and keep working because you don’t want to lose momentum. Taking longer breaks when you have momentum going, greatly slows down the amount of work you could have accomplished and it takes quite a while to refocus when you get back to work. So if you have the momentum going, don’t stop!
However, even during this time, it is a good idea to take microbreaks of a minute to look away from the screen or stretch your legs. They have some of the same restorative effects of longer breaks, without slowing down your momentum. Make sure it’s not longer than that.
Inevitably, however you will reach a stage where you will find you just can’t work with the same intensity anymore, it 60 minutes or 2 hours, but it is going to happen. it’s time to take a break. So how long of a break do you need? Well, it depends. Generally, the longer and the more focused your work was, the longer the break you need. If it is too short, your work will suffer, if it is too long, again your work will suffer because you just wasted time.
Ideally, the breaks you need are the ones that are “just right” to maximize the amount of work you get done when you are actually working. How do you know, what is just right? Well your body will tell you. Your body will tell you and you will know instinctively that you have had enough time off and now you can get back to work. The problem is that most people go way beyond this time because they engage in idle chit chatter or get caught up in sweet talking with their girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse on the phone or scrolling through their news-feed that time just flies by.
It’s like in the Gym when taking breaks is important between sets to let the muscle recover, without breaks you just can’t work out long enough. But if your breaks are too long, then you are not training your muscles optimally and they will most likely get cold leading to the workout being less effective. Unfortunately this is what most people do in the gym, they work out a little and then they socialize! This is the same as what a lot of people do at their jobs, they work for a while and they socialize! Until the boss sees them!
Very few people have the discipline to only take breaks that are just enough to facilitate muscle recovery and then they get back at it. As a result they might workout for a less time but it is much more effective and these are the people achieve their fitness goals super fast!
Similarly at work, the people who will get ahead the fastest are the ones who take breaks strategically to maximize their productivity instead of those who take breaks to run away from work. You are your best auditor. When your mind tells you have taken a break that is “just long enough” to maximize productivity, you are ready. Don’t waste a single moment and get back to work!
Now, the thing you do during the break also determines how long you need. Here are things you should avoid and things you should do.
Things to avoid or minimize
Scrolling through your newsfeed or social media – This is especially true if you work on the computer. Your eyes need rest, don’t keep battering them.
Idle chit chatter with colleagues or taking non essential calls should be avoided during short breaks as there is a big chance that you will get so engrossed in them that your break will become too long, just like Gym socializers. You can do it during longer breaks as long as you audit yourself and get back when its time.
Things to do
It’s a good idea to sit quietly, drink a glass of water and take a few deep breaths during your short break. Stretching is also a good idea.
For longer breaks, getting away from the work desk and taking a short walk is one of the best ways to de-stress.
Finally if you are really sleep deprived, you can take a 20 minute power nap during longer breaks. These short naps can give you a lot of energy in comparison to the time they require. I’ll go deeper into that subject in another article!
I hope this article has been useful to you. Implement breaks strategically and see them as a part of your training instead of seeing them as a time to slack. You will be amazed to see how productive you become!
About the Author
The author of this article, Anubhav Srivastava is a trainer, author and director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields, who teach the viewers how they too can make all of their dreams come true. The movie itself has been seen on Youtube by almost 1.5 Million people. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Rediff.com, Leicester Mercury and many others.
As a speaker, he has trained participants from various reputed companies and organizations such as KPMG, Star Union Dai-Ichi Insurance, Center of Development of Telematics, Telexcell, National Thermal Power Corporation, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Telecom Consultants of India Limited, Exide Life Insurance, iVentures Capital, Mother Dairy, members of IIT Madras, IIM Indore, IIT BHU, All India Management Association, National Cadet Corps, Institute of Chartered Accountants and professors from Punjab Agricultural University.
Email Anubhav Srivastava for coaching, consulting or motivational speaking queries at firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook Profile: http://facebook.com/anubhav981
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