It may seem counter-intuitive but research has found that the best way to improve your productivity is to stop working.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that breaks not only help to prevent burnout, but also increase feelings of job satisfaction and helpfulness at work. But they also found that there are right and wrong ways to take a break.
Waiting until that 3pm slump before you stop isn’t going to give you the results you’re looking for, according to Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu, associate professors of Management at Baylor University, and authors of the study. “Earlier in the day, we found that you are able to replenish your resources, which we measured as energy, concentration and motivation to get back to work,” says Hunter.
Even waiting until lunchtime isn’t as effective as your resources have already been drained and it becomes harder to replenish them later in the day. “It’s like staying hydrated. The more water you drink throughout the day, the better you’ll feel,” says Hunter. “The better strategy is to stay refreshed and renewed throughout the whole day.”
It’s also important that you do something that you enjoy when you take a break. For some that will mean getting some fresh air but if you hate walking, Hunter and Wu say that forcing yourself to go for a walk isn’t the best way to spend your break. So whether you’d enjoy calling your mum or catching up on Facebook, that’s what you should do during your break.
“Preferred activities give most beneficial results in terms of feeling refreshed and rejuvenated,” says Hunter.
While some experts claim that breaks work best when taken every hour, Hunter and Wu didn’t find this to be the case. They found that some people will thrive off taking one long break, while others will find their productivity soars when they take frequent small breaks. Finding that sweet spot may take some trial-and-error but Hunter warns not to wait until you’re completely exhausted before taking a break.
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