Do you ever find yourself three tasks deep into your endless to-do list thinking, 'ugh, this isn't my day', or 'I just don't have the energy'? The chances are you need a break! This feeling of lethargy is just your body's way of signalling this important message to you. The human body is clever like that, it protects you and communicates with you, but we often ignore these signals.
Benefits of taking regular breaks
Rather than thinking of breaks as a reward for completing tasks, treat them like another task on your to-do list. They are more important than the actual tasks, as according to Forbes, taking breaks as self-care can literally save your life.
Regular breaks have been proven to offer a huge number of benefits, including:
Better decision making
Improved health and better immunity
How often should you take a break?
If you're sold on the benefits, your next question might be how often and for how long?
One very well researched system is called the Pomodoro Technique. It advises working for 25 minutes followed by a 3 to 5-minute break, and then a 15 to 30-minute break every 90 minutes or so.
If that sounds too complicated, you could follow the advice of one study by the University of Illinois, which advocates taking a break once every hour. Simple!
A good rule of thumb is to listen to your body. If you feel like you're hitting the wall, walk away from the task and take 5.
What should you do during the break?
We hate to break it to you, but scrolling through social media isn't the best way to spend your breaks. How can you make sure your breaks are effective? Try the following:
Have a healthy snack: remember your brain is powered by glucose so choose a healthy snack that offers an energy boost such as a cereal bar, or apples and peanut butter
Drink coffee: A study conducted in 2010 concluded that employees who take regular coffee breaks are more efficient and productive during work
Go for a five minute walk: Standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday could lift your mood and combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention
Take a 30 minute power nap: You'll wake up feeling re-energised but make sure you set an alarm as naps around the 45 minute mark can leave you feeling worse...
Meditate: Lower anxiety and boost brain activity with 10 minutes of mindfulness
Stretch: Participating in a regular stretching not only helps increase your flexibility, but it can also calm your mind. While you stretch, focus on mindfulness and meditation exercises, which give your mind a mental break.
How to plan breaks in your undated planner
Planning breaks can seem tricky at first. For most people, breaks 'just happen'. They are adhoc and accidental. To get started with your new break routine, I would recommend two strategies. The first strategy is to set a 'break target' during the day by drawing the following tracker in your life planner:
Tick each time you take a break, even if its just a five minute microbreak. Once you hit the target, you're still free to take more breaks if required!
Once you are in the habit of taking breaks, you may prefer to retrospectivity record how many breaks you take. It could mean some days you take 2 breaks, others you take 5. Remember, the purpose of logging your breaks isn't to check you aren't taking too many breaks, but rather to celebrate that your are giving yourself time to reset, which in turn means you get more done in the long-run.
Take home message
Breaks aren't lazy or unproductive, they are the opposite! Science has proven it. If you want to get more done, to a higher standard and feel healthier in the process, incorporate regular breaks into your routine. Next time you 'hit the wall' during the day, don't force yourself to power through. Give yourself five minutes to reset and breathe, even if you just put the kettle on and have a cup of tea!
Get yourself an undated planner to help you track your breaks and daily productivity. Smooze has a range of sizes and layouts available including A4 and A5 planners, so you are bound to find one that works for you!