Often when people talk about productivity, and especially how to raise it, a lot of attention is given to how you can keep being productive throughout a long day. In this article, though, we are going to talk about not being productive throughout the day, but rather how to optimize the use of time through the judicious application of breaks.
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Real breaks, too, short bits of time in which exactly nothing is done, or at least nothing work related. It may be a bit taboo, but it’s important to realize that productivity is as much about rest as it is about work.
When you’re doing some form of manual labor you’ll find that you often need to take small breaks, a few minutes at most, to get through the hours. This is simply to rest your muscles and make sure you don’t end up exhausted. The brain really is not different. By taking regular rests you’re making sure it doesn’t get too tired and can keep going for longer. Just like a short break makes the bags of cement lighter for a construction worker, by taking a few minutes you can refocus quicker on the task at hand and do your job without a decrease in quality.
In both cases there are many studies saying different things about how long a break should be and how long the activity before it should be, but generally the best rule is to listen to your own brain and body and not rest until they’re getting tired. After you start feeling better, simply restart the task. It’s always best to make your own rules when it comes to these kind of things, after all.
Besides just simply staring into the middle distance during your breaks (although that is very healthy, too) you can also take a minute to have a snack, ideally a healthy one. Your brain and body need fuel as much as any engine does, so keeping your energy levels topped-up while eating snacks at regular intervals is a great way to keep yourself from getting too tired. You can also combine steps. There’s no rule telling you that you can’t zone out while eating a granola bar.
Though definitely not for everybody, naps are another great way to recharge those batteries in the middle of the day, though you need to sleep early enough that your sleep at night isn’t jeopardized. Some people find that they’re groggy and grumpy after a nap, while others feel refreshed and are raring to go after; it’s up to you to find out if naps are your thing or not and which duration works best. In Asia, for example, it’s normal that people take a nap in the office after lunch, though their extremely long work days may have something to do with it as well. As with anything, see what works best for you.
Last but not least, it’s important to take vacations. Nothing changes the way you see things quite the same as being away from it all for a week (or preferably two) does. You probably have noticed how co-workers can come back from holiday positively crackling with energy, so why don’t you do yourself a favor and do the same? You don’t need to go crazy either, back in the day people even rarely left the state to go on holiday, so why should you? Getting away from it all doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to Europe (though those are nice, too), just going a hundred miles from home should do it.