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.
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.
"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.
- 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'."
- "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?
- And getting out to enjoy nature is crucial.
"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 e‑mails 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're skeptical, give a short break a try. It might change your mind and your life. Today, try some niksen.