7 Ways to Use Your Breaks at Work More Effectively
By now, you probably know that it’s important to take breaks from work.
Work breaks can help you re-focus your efforts and improve your efficiency and productivity. Breaks help your mind avoid becoming too fatigued. It’s good for your mental health and your physical health to use your breaks in the best possible way.
However, not all breaks are created equal. What you do with your breaks, and how you take them, matters. Before you decide that you need to take a ton of breaks throughout the day, you need to know how to use them more effectively.
1. Figure Out How Many Breaks is Ideal for You
We’re all different and have different needs. In order to use your breaks more effectively, you need to have an idea of what works best for you.
Do a little experimentation to see what works for you.
I do pretty well with the Pomodoro technique. I go for 20 to 25 minutes, and then take a five-minute break. After doing four or five of those work-and-break sessions, I take a longer break.
This setup is great for me.
You might have different needs. You might be able to work for 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. Pay attention to how long your attention can be focused on one activity before you become fatigued.
The idea is to know yourself and understand when your attention starts wandering and you can no longer concentrate on your work. Once you get to that point, it’s time to take a short break.
You’ll use your breaks better when you have an idea of how many and how often is the right balance for you.
2. Find a Way to Be Active
Once of the best ways to use your breaks more effectively is to find a way to be somewhat active. Physical activity gets the blood flowing and can help you think clearer. Just changing your posture can help your
Just changing your posture can help your mood and clear your mind.
When you have a break, find a way to be at least a little bit active. You can stretch, stand up, or even do something else. My employer likes to use Desk Yogi for stretches and other wellness actions at work.
If you are taking a longer break, it can be effective to walk outside. Even just walking around the office (or in my case, the house) can be a way to get things moving. I find that just walking to the kitchen for another cup of tea can be a great way to spend part of a five or 10-minute break.
3. Enjoy a Healthy Snack
Another good way to use your breaks more effectively is to enjoy a healthy snack. Healthy living is good for you and for your business. This includes nutrition.
When you eat well, you can give your brain a boost. Plus, you’re more likely to remain focused.
Prepare healthy snacks in advance so that when you get a break at work, you can enjoy something balanced. I like eating Balanced Breaks, because I don’t actually like preparing my own meals. With these pre-packaged snacks, you get dried fruit, nuts, and cheese. It’s a good combination for me.
You might prefer another combination. Perhaps you like yogurt and granola. Maybe you just want a handful of cashews. However you decide to do it, eating a healthy snack can be a good way to break from work.
This goes for your lunch break as well. Just because your lunch break is longer, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore the idea of exercise and healthy eating. Bring a healthy lunch, and take a little time to do something active during lunch.
4. Do Something for Your Mind
I used to take breaks and then check Facebook. It wasn’t actually the best way to use my breaks. I’d either get sucked in, or I’d end up unable to properly focus afterward.
Now, when I’m ready to take a break, I try to find something to do for my mind. Some of the things you can easily do with a five to 10-minute break that can help you boost your brainpower include:
- Watch a short TED talk.
- Read an interesting article on an intellectual subject.
- Complete a language lesson using Duolingo (this is my go-to).
- Play brain games using an app like Luminosity.
- Work on a Rubik’s cube (my son loves doing this).
- Work on a puzzle.
- Enjoy some artwork.
Depending on where you are, you might be able to do any number of things that invigorate your mind, without focusing on work.
5. Do Something with Someone Else
Sometimes, when I need a longer break and can’t seem to get into the swing of things, I find that meeting a friend for coffee or lunch can help. Sometimes all I need is a five-minute conversation with a friend on Skype.
You can use your breaks more effectively by doing something with others. You might play a quick card game. Maybe you invite a coworker to go on a walk with you. Perhaps you have lunch with everyone outside (if the weather is nice).
Not only can doing something with others help you take your mind off your task for a little while, but it can also build the social ties you need to be more effective as a team member at work.
As you get to know your coworkers, and as you spend quality break time together, you can be more effective at work.
6. Get in a Little Relaxation
Sometimes what you really need to use your breaks more effectively is some true relaxation.
I learned how to give myself a hand massage a few years ago. If you have a longer break, you can schedule a massage with someone else. But if you just have five minutes, a hand massage can do the trick.
Some workplaces bring in massage therapists with chairs. A 15-minute chair massage can be a relaxing way to take a break.
Another way to get in the relaxation you might need is to read a book chapter. I like to keep my favorite books on Kindle. When I have 10 to 15 minutes for a break, I can read a chapter. It engages my mind while at the same time letting me relax.
When you have shorter breaks, consider using breathing exercises to help you relax. I like to use breathing as a good start to my day, and a few deep breaths at work can help me shake off the cobwebs and re-focus.
One of my favorite things to do is to breath and stretch at the same time. This combines movement with breathing and is a very effective way to spend a five-minute break.
7. Get Organized
Finally, you can use your breaks more effectively by getting organized.
Clean up your desk area. Get prepared for the next phase of a project.
I find that if I take a break from the nitty-gritty of a project and prepare for what’s next, I’m more effective in the long run. I find it especially helpful to clean up my messes and organize my work area.
When things are too cluttered, it’s hard to concentrate. It’s easy to get distracted. If I take 10 minutes to clean up a little bit, I am better able to focus once I get back to work.
I also find it helps me to set things up for my next project. So, organizing my research or pulling up notes from an interview can help me feel like I’m getting ready for the next step. Once I’ve done that, a little stretching and some deep breaths can help me clear my head and get ready to focus.
We all need to take breaks. The key is using them in a way that helps us feel energized so that we are ready to tackle the next item on the to-do list.