It’s sounds counter intuitive but it’s true that taking breaks actually improves your productivity. The idea that you get the most done if you put your head down and blow and go and keep going regardless of how you feel is misguided. This is not new news. But it was wonderful to see it in Phyllis Korkki’s New York Times Workstation column for all the world to see. The requirement for breaks needs to get out of the research papers and into mainstream.
When do you take a break? It comes down to consciousness (again!). Here are some of the things that Korkki’s column touched on.
When you find yourself so tired you could just close your eyes, you should. That nap will (greatly) improve your productivity when you go back to work. Here’s another thing, get that nap or walk, or whatever real mental break you’re taking BEFORE you’re dead on your feet. This is a physics lesson. If you run yourself down to a stop, it is much harder to refuel and get back up. It takes longer and more effort.
Don’t surf the internet either, get away from your desk. Read a book in a different space, take a walk, go to the gym or close your eyes, but don’t do it at your desk.
All that said, if you’re on a roll and working and loving it, keep going. That blow and go work moment is often invigorating. It creates engery. That happens to me fairly often, I’ll find myself revved up and go sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. Go for it. If it’s your choice and you are not pushing yourself to exhaustion.
Break or Procrastination
How do you know if it’s a break and not procrastination? Don’t string those breaks together. One break after another is a sure sign that you’re procrastinating not refueling. Not the same thing.
Ever gotten into the shower and been overcome with a ‘great’ idea? That is a ‘break’ phenomenon. The story goes that Einstein may have conceived the theory of relativity while riding his bike. Who knows what your next stroke of genius might be if you treat yourself right and take that break. Go on, goof off on your way to riches.
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