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    Here’s how you can take more effective breaks

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    Breaks are an underrated component of productivity. Often, we think to get work done, we need to work six hours straight. But taking a break at least once every hour can help us regain focus and produce better quality work. Studies have suggested that the best method is to take a 17-minute break after 52 minutes of work. In this article, I explain how to take effective breaks so that you can get the most out of your working time.

    Plan your breaks

    Planning your breaks can be more effective than breaking whenever you feel like it. Ideally, you want to schedule your breaks like you’ve blocked out time for work. It’s different for everyone, but some may choose to plot it on their calendar or just set a timer. You don’t have to follow that “17 minutes break, 52 minutes work” framework religiously. Just do whatever works for you, whether it’s 15 minutes every hour or some other ratio. Just remember to take it. Planning your breaks provides something to look forward to. It’s like the interval training of work! When you’re on your high interval on a treadmill, you’re often motivated by your eventual low interval or rest. Knowing that you have a break coming up can also prevent distractions during your work period. You’ll ultimately save checking Facebook or Twitter for later.

    Disconnect from your work—all of it. 

    Ensure you’re not distracted by work during your breaks. A break doesn’t mean checking your emails or looking at the progress of another task. It means a complete disconnect from your work. If your downtime is half-baked, your work periods will be too. Although it may seem productive to take that call or meeting during downtime while you take a pleasant stroll, you should leave your work phone at home instead and then head outside. If you want to remain productive, then try to do something completely different. If you’re working from home, as most of us are now, an effective break could mean cleaning or folding laundry. You’re going to have to do it sooner or later! As long as you’re away from your desk and off of your screen and calls.

    Take it outside and get your blood pumping

    If weather permits, going outside for fresh air is a great way to take a break. Going for a walk or getting some exercise can help you forget about your tasks for a brief moment and let you recoup focus later. Exercise (even just strolling) can reduce fatigue and boost your energy. Suddenly, the zombie that you’ve become after the sixth hour of Zoom calls is revived and refreshed after visiting a nearby park or taking a quick jog. An alternative is to do some stretching. Whether it’s the simple quad stretch or a gentle , stretching can relieve the tensions in your body from sitting all day.

    Just do absolutely nothing

    Sometimes, the best type of break is where you do nothing. While you could meditate to clear your head, it’s not always necessary. Doing nothing can also encompass letting your thoughts run as you look out of a window. It’s not uncommon that we get our best ideas when we’re not doing anything and just letting our minds wander. Suddenly, the solution to the problems you were pondering jumps out from nowhere! Taking breaks is a must if you want to work as efficiently as possible. Although some may see it as eating at their work time, it can ultimately make you more efficient.

    Originally published April 26, 2021, updated August 25, 2023

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