If you think that powering through your day is the only way you’ll get everything done, think again. Working nonstop is not the answer. Taking breaks — even short breaks — not only boosts productivity but can also energize your body and mind and improve your health and well-being.
Studies have shown that after about 50 minutes of giving your full concentration to a mental task, productivity begins to take a nosedive. When you start daydreaming, fidgeting or yawning, it’s time for a break. Here are five quick breaks guaranteed to clear your mind and get your head back into the game fast.
1. Be mindful
You may not be able to take a nap at work, but you can give your brain a rest. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly through your nose. Exhale slowly and completely. Repeat several times. Keeping your eyes closed, simply allow your mind to rest, acknowledging what comes to mind and then letting it go.
Whether you’re worried about meeting a deadline or a sick child at home, taking a mindfulness break can reduce stress while boosting creativity and productivity. This exercise also gives your eyes a rest, which can help prevent eye strain, headaches and vision problems created by staring at a computer screen all day.
2. Drink up
Being even slightly dehydrated makes it difficult to concentrate. That’s because your brain needs water to function at its optimal level. Often, what we perceive as hunger is actually thirst. So instead of heading for the vending machine for a candy bar, refill your water bottle.
To keep your brain sharp, you need to stay hydrated. But how much water is enough? Half your body weight in ounces per day is a good goal. And yes, coffee and tea count.
3. Get a move on
If your job requires you to sit for long periods of time, look for opportunities to stand, stretch, walk or engage in some other physical activity — even if it’s just for 60 seconds. Active breaks will get your blood flowing and improve your state of mind.
- Do a series of neck rolls and shoulder shrugs.
- Challenge yourself to see how many desk push-ups you can do.
- Instead of calling or emailing a colleague, get up and walk to his or her office.
- Take the stairs to that meeting on the seventh floor.
- Walk on your lunch break (leave a pair of walking shoes under your desk).
- Schedule walking meetings to discuss strategies for a new client or project.
- Make a habit of standing while taking conference calls — or better, invest in a standing desk.
- Swap your desk chair for a fitness ball a few hours each day to promote strength and balance.
- Take advantage of onsite gyms or chair massages if offered by your company.
4. Clear the clutter
It’s hard to be productive when you can’t find critical information that you need. Once a day, take a five-minute break to declutter your desk. Leave out only those things you use every day (plus whatever you’re working on) and put everything else away. File papers or put them in a to-file folder or box to file later. Transfer notes jotted on scraps of paper to your to-do list or calendar.
A study on workplace socializing found that workers with the most social interactions each day were the most productive. Make a point to expand your social network at work. Get to know your co-workers. You might find that you have more in common than you think. Even if you don’t, their perspectives may help you see things in a different light.
Instead of eating lunch at your desk, make plans to go out with colleagues. And don’t forget to take a quick break now and again to socialize — even if it’s just for some idle chit-chat at the water cooler.
Donna Smallin Kuper is a professional organizer and productivity expert who writes for Quill.com. Her passion is helping to unclutter minds and infuse mental wellness into company culture. Follow Donna on Twitter to learn more.