As humans, we are usually limited to two-digit life spans but need to accomplish a lot. You may feel like you have to do too much and shoulder too many responsibilities that need to be taken care of within a small time span. Breaks may appear as shedding away your responsibilities. However, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Strategic breaks during your work or study hours can give you that extra nudge and boost your productivity. Without breaks, you can’t keep a check on your stress level and it becomes a bit too much for your brain to keep up. Here’s why breaks are an absolute necessity during your work and study hours:
1. Process & Retain Information More Efficiently
Our brains function in two different ways - focused and diffused. In diffused mode, your brain is relaxed and is almost in a wandering or “daydream” state. In her book A Mind for Numbers, Professor Barbara Oakley explains how we can’t function in a focused mode for too long and need to take breaks to shift to diffused mode. While in diffused mode or the “daydream mode”, our brain works at a subconscious level and is able to solve problems more efficiently and helps us to form connections. Focused mode helps us to master the details, while diffused mode helps us to figure out how things work with each other.
With short breaks throughout the day, you can switch between both modes to maintain a harmony that combines execution with creativity. Think about reading a book or watching a movie. You don’t really ponder over the details in every scene or line. After you have finished reading the book or watching the movie you are able to draw connections and make sense of a brilliant piece of work.
2. Increased Productivity
In his book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz has researched the physiological fatigue that humans have to suffer through after working for prolonged durations. According to his research, it kicks in after 90 mins of work and can make us lose focus. Like a well-oiled machine, your brain needs to rest a bit to recharge itself and refocus on your work. Short and planned breaks throughout the day can help you to achieve that.
You can divide your workday into small targets that can be achieved within less than an hour or a bit more. As you complete your targets, you can take a small breather and relax to allow your brain to juice up and move on towards the next target. This helps you to boost your productivity since you aren’t distracted from work fatigue and get more work done at the end of the day. According to research conducted by DeskTime on a group of employees, the most productive workers take numerous breaks during the workday.
3. Better Health & Overall Well-Being
Sitting on your desk throughout the day is the easiest way to shift away from fitness. According to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, short 5-minute walks during your workday can be good for you in more ways than one. It doesn’t just reduce lethargy, but lifts moods and improves your overall health. Researchers in the study found out that brief walks every hour is more effective compared to long and intense workout sessions. Sitting at your desk for too long can also have an adverse effect on your blood circulation and expose you to risks like obesity, heart disease, and chronic joint pains.
Moreover, eating your lunch at the desk is more inefficient than you may think. You don’t pay attention to your food and chewing is reduced by drastic levels. This can lead to poor food choices at best and poor digestion at worst. A lunch break away from your desk without the stress of work can boost your afternoon productivity and even prevent the sugar crash in your body that inclines you towards an afternoon nap.
4. Emotional & Mental Health
A Swedish office tradition known as “Fika” involves you grabbing a few of your mates with a sugary snack and a cup of coffee. This may seem odd, but is, in fact, a well-accepted office culture in the Scandinavian country. Employees aren’t questioned by their superiors when they enjoy a “Fika” with their colleagues away from their desks. It helps employees to reboot and promotes good mental health. However, according to a study conducted by the National Charity Partnership, it was found that most employees utilize their allocated rest periods for work.
Half of the respondents admitted that they don’t leave the office during lunchtime. This doesn’t just leave a toll on your physical body but also affects your emotional health since you experience increased levels of anxiety, stress and become easily irritable. Employers understand this as well and last year on 15th May, over 60 companies participated in National Mental Health Break, a campaign launched by Shine, a startup that targets negative mental health problems.
When you study or work for too long without a break you may pull through that day, but it will have a bad effect on your physical and mental health that may lead to burnout. According to research conducted by Gallup, one in five employees feel burned out quite often while almost half of the participants in the study admitted to feeling burned out sometimes. A report from Harvard Business School estimates that companies lose $125 billion to $190 billion each year from healthcare spending for physical and psychological problems of burned-out employees.
Short and planned breaks are very important for both studying and working. It is an inexpensive way to keep health problems to a minimum and maintain high levels of productivity. Both individuals and organizations need to emphasize on the importance of breaks at the workplace and in their curriculum. The goal should be to achieve productivity instead of being bound to the old traditions of long work hours. You can take breaks and choose to work smarter, not longer.