How Breaks Make You More Productive
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
“Sitting is the new smoking,” Leslie Vernick, a life coach, licensed counselor and client of mine, told me back in January as we discussed our work styles.
I did a double take. I mean, we all know how hazardous smoking is to our health. Since I spend long hours at my desk every day, sometimes only getting up a few times throughout the day, I’m definitely a sitting addict. Not to mention that I had developed a pain in my leg, which I suspected was from crossing my legs while I was at my desk. When I tensed up during the day, I tensed that specific muscle. The pain never left, even on my days off.
I took Leslie’s comment seriously and told everyone in the office that we needed stretching breaks every hour. We all agreed that would be good for us on many levels.I even researched standup desks but found most of them expensive and sort of Rube Goldberg in design. Somehow we never instituted the habit of taking stretch breaks but instead remained in our rut of sitting at our computers for long hours.
Then, this past Friday, Rachelle Gardner mentioned in a staff meeting that studies show if we work full-out for 90 minutes and then take a break, we will be much more effective. Inspired by her comment and reminded of my failure to institute stretch breaks, I put a kitchen timer on my desk and declared a break every 90 minutes for the rest of the day. (With everyone’s approval, of course.) I’m committed to continuing in that vein not only because I’m convinced we’ll be healthier for taking the break, but also because I think we’ll be more effective at our jobs.
In his book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz explains how we’re most productive when we have periods of high focus followed by rest.
“Instead we live in a gray zone, constantly juggling activities, but rarely fully engaging in any of them or fully disengaging from any of them. The consequence is that we settle for a pale version of the possible.” –Tony Schwartz
While I’d diagnose myself as working in the gray zone and grasp that taking breaks is a good direction to go physically, I confess to being a bit worried about what it will do for my work output. I know it’s supposed to enable me to concentrate more intensely and therefore be more productive, but I can feel the pull of not stopping at the end of 90 minutes even now as I just think about such a scenario. If I’m on a roll and the end of a task is in sight, I know me well enough to realize I’ll probably push through sans the break.
But new habits aren’t formed in a day. I want to be more of a non-sitter, improve my concentration, move out of the gray zone, and be more productive. How about you?
Do you enforce breaks for yourself? What do you do during your breaks? In what ways have they helped you to be productive?
If you’re like me and an inveterate push-through-to-the-end type of person, what excuses keep you from taking regular breaks? What do you need to do to break your old habits?
Studies show work breaks make you more productive. Click to tweet.
Taking a break every 90 minutes is proven to improve your productivity. Click to tweet.
If sitting is the new smoking, are you ready to change your work habits? Click to tweet.