If you’ve ever found yourself staring numbly at your computer or down at your desk, papers spread everywhere like you’re the victim at a crime scene, it might be time to take a break. Nonsense, you say? Hardly! A study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign states that “even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.” But before you get so excited that you Netflix and Cheeto your business away, consider this: there really may be an IDEAL number of breaks for you to take each day. When you’re your own boss, you’ve got to tell yourself what to do, and that includes when to work and when to play. Consider these tips for deciding how many breaks you should take each day and get super productive, the relaxed way.
Consider How Often and For How Long You Should Take a Break
How often should you push away from the screen? It depends on your endurance. Although the US Army Research Institute found that a natural rhythm for productivity involves taking a break every 90 minutes, other studies suggest that coming up for air every 50-52 minutes is a more ideal length of time. Once you do stop working, you’ll want to take between 15-20 minutes to breath, snack, stretch your legs, or take a bathroom break. Don’t just keep staring at your computer, even if you think you’re relaxing by scrolling through YouTube or lollygagging on Pinterest. In order to really disconnect from your job, you need to move your body and go somewhere else for a few moments.
Think About Where Breaks Will Fit into Your Day
First, go take the “What’s My Chronotype” quiz. Figure out whether you’re really a morning person, a night owl, or something entirely different. Instead of imposing arbitrary guidelines on when you should start and stop work, consider what your body naturally wants to do so you won’t have to fight yourself. Then, when you plan your week, make sure that you’re placing them within the context of a daily schedule that fits your personal needs. This will make taking breaks really feel like a break, since you won’t have been grumpily avoiding work for the last hour because you’re too exhausted to function.
Decide on the Length of Your Ideal Work Day
There’s a lot of competition in American culture to be busy, busy, busy – but someone who’s bought into the glorification of busy isn’t necessarily getting more done than another person with a shorter work day. To have a successful work day, first decide how long you really want that work day to be, and don’t push yourself beyond what you can handle. There’s no absolute right or wrong, but reconsider whether or not eight hours is really the best thing for you to personally commit to. It’s possible that you’ll choose more or less time than other people you know – and that’s ok.
Do the Math and Stick to Your Plan
Once you’re decided when you’re going to wake up (and when you’re going to bed), how long your work day will be, how long you want to work before taking a break, and how long each break will be, create a schedule for yourself with a little built-in flexibility – say 5 minutes during transition times so you can finish up that email or eat the last few bites of your sandwich without feeling like you’re robbing time from work or rest. Then stick to it! The research shows that your productivity will actually increase when you aren’t working non-stop. Just remind yourself of that the next time you’re enjoying a well-deserved break.