Breaks Make You More Productive

BY Courtney Huckabay
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I read an interesting interview with the author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing recently, and took away some thought-​provoking ideas about how to be more productive at basically everything. They just might be counter-​intuitive to your current beliefs. But give Daniel H. Pink's research a chance.

How to be More Productive

Clay Skipper asked Daniel H. Pink: "The one takeaway above all else you wanted someone to take from the book, what would it be?" And Pink replied: "To take more and better breaks."

Wait, what? Breaks? Take breaks? And more breaks?

It's a simple concept. But not what we are used to at all, and definitely not the American way. But think about it. You've heard the headlines, ticker briefs about the research on working through lunch making you less productive. It rings true. Everyone says we're more productive, more creative, and happier, we do better work — and higher quality work — when we take breaks.

How to Take Good Breaks

"So what are the qualities of a good break?" Skipper asked. "This goes to the person who doesn't have time: Something is better than nothing. Even one or two minutes is fine," Pink replied.

  1. Take a break for at least one minute. "Fully detached beats semi-​detached; a break has to be a break," Pink clarified. "You don't want, 'Oh, I'm on a break. I'm going to go take a walk with a friend outside, but I'm going to spend the whole time answering text messages from my boss or looking at my Instagram feed'."
  2. "Moving is better than being stationary." Take a walk. Stand up and stretch. Climb some stairs. Strike a yoga pose and meditate. You need an excuse to get more steps in, anyway, don't you? It'll increase your energy and make you more productive.
  3. And getting out to enjoy nature is crucial.

I bet you did not see that last piece of advice coming, did you? Nature really does revive, regenerate and re-​energize you! So, get out there. Just pop your head outside a door or window to view an actual tree or glimpse a blade of grass. According to the research, nature can actually make a huge difference in helping you be more productive.

Pink recommends the following (rough) schedule for a typical work day in order to be more productive:

"In the morning, you should do your analytic work. The key word here is vigilance, batting away distractions. In the early afternoon, mid-​afternoon, that's when we should be doing our administrative work: answering routine emails or expense reports or whatever, the garbage that we have to do during the day." Save the late afternoon for "brainstorming for more creative kinds of things that require a degree of looseness. I would put the insight, creative kinds of tasks, in that [last] period."

Even if you are skeptical about this advice truly making you more productive, give a short break a try anyway. It might change your mind and your life. Today, try some niksen.