What do you do when you have been staring at the computer screen for hours and can’t seem to make any progress? Do you push forward thinking that you just need to work harder or do you step away and take a break? Even though you may feel guilty about doing it, taking a break is the right answer. In fact, you may be surprised to learn taking strategic mental breaks can actually increase your focus and productivity.
A 2011 research study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found “the brain is built to detect and respond to change” and “prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.” The human brain is not designed to operate at full speed all day. It needs time to rest and recharge. That’s why it is essential to give your brain periodic breaks throughout the day. Even a very short break will significantly improve your focus on a task for a longer period of time.
You can increase your productivity even more by making sure you are taking breaks that are strategic and intentional. Keep in mind the following three tips for taking a ‘good’ mental break.
- Schedule your breaks. If you don’t plan for a break, it may not happen. Enter break times on your calendar or phone, or set an alarm so you have automatic reminders throughout the day. Don’t feel guilty or talk yourself out of it. Remember taking breaks will actually help you work more efficiently and actually save you time in the long run.
- Avoid break traps. For maximum effectiveness, you need to disconnect from work during your break. Don’t spend time checking your email, searching the web, or even talking about work – all common break traps. Put down your phone and leave your computer to give yourself a true break. Don’t forget to grab a healthy lunch or snack to fuel your brain.
- Move around. The easiest way to ensure you are taking a good break is to get moving. Even a short walk around the office will help get the blood flowing to your brain and improve your mental focus. A study from the University of Sao Paulo found just 10 minutes of exercise is enough to increase memory and attention performance throughout the day.
When you feel stuck or unable to move forward, try taking a break to help improve your focus. Or even better, plan strategic breaks throughout your day for maximum productivity.