Too Busy For Breaks

By: Chelsy Swackhamer

Feeling too busy to take a break, is one of the best ways to know you should take a break. It’s easy to get caught up in a project or task, and feel like you don't have the time to do anything else. The real challenge is knowing when you should hit the pause button and step away from your work. 

Unforunately, sitting at your desk while eating lunch, and doing a less strenuous task such as answering emails isn’t considered a break. As obvious as that may sound, many of us struggle to fully step away from our work. Even for a couple of minutes.

But do you know why some employees are more productive then others? It's because they find time for breaks.  According to a study by Desk Time, the most productive employees work for 52 minutes and then rest for 17 minutes, also known as the Pomodoro Technique. 

The entire point of a break is to shut your brain down and allow time to refocus. 

The more relaxed and disengaged from work people feel during a break, the more likely they’ll be to benefit from the time off. Hengehen Dai – University of Penn.

A study by Staffordshire University found that roughly 30% of employees don’t always take their lunch breaks. However, the same study found that "one of the best ways to make sure that you take breaks is to take them with your work colleagues or to be encouraged to take them by your boss. If they are not physically near you, we may find it harder to act on these social prompts."

Make Time For Breaks

Remembering to take breaks during the working day can be a real problem. It’s challenging to stop in the middle of something important, just to “take a break” and shut off from work. Even our team here at Smart Break struggle with this at times. This is why we sometimes rely on each other to remind us to take breaks and to do things together. If you don’t have a support system like we do, here are some great ways you can start remembering to take breaks.

  • Set an alarm - This is easy. Just start with 1 break a day. Set an alarm for 2:30 and no matter what, you go and take a break. It doesn’t have to be long. 3 minutes is enough!
  • Add breaks to your calendar - All our schedules are different, so different times of the day work for different people. If you know you have a bunch of meetings coming up, you should schedule a time between then. If not, we always recommend taking a break when you’re most productive. Don’t wait until you get tired.
  • Find a “break” buddy. - This is our personal favourite. Being able to take breaks with somebody else can be one the best ways to hold yourself accountable. Next time you’re having coffee or lunch with somebody ask if they would want to start taking breaks with you. It could be as simple as having a 3 minute walking meeting around the office.

3 ways you can take breaks.

Once you have found ways to fit breaks into your routine, then there can be the question of,  "what should I do on my break?" The one thing that our team wants to push is that, breaks don't have to be long. Walking to refill your water bottle, can sometimes be a enough time for you to recover. However in our office we've found these 3 ways of taking breaks, the most beneficial. 

  1. Get Outdoors - Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to spend your break. Whether that is walking to lunch or just stepping outside for a short walk, it has been linked to improving your mood and boosting creativity.

    A study by Science Direct found that spending time outdoors can help improve mental health. Their research also suggests that being in nature can reduce stress. It doesn’t have to be a huge exertion, in just 10 minutes you can reap the many benefits of being outdoors.

  2. Exercise - Exercise has been linked to lowering depression, anxiety, and stress. Finding time during the day to move, go for walk, and simply stand up and stretch can go a long way.  Best Selling Author Gretchen Reynolds book The First 20 Minutes focuses on the importance of moving around and being active.

    The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits,You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk—all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.

  3. Grab A Coffee - Coffee breaks are a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and discuss things not relvolved around work. Although you might want to talk business while you’re on the break, you should try to avoid those conversations until afterward.

    There is actually an optimal time for when you should take a coffee break (between 9:30am-11:30am and 1:30pm to 5:30pm). It can be a good first step to schedule a break during these times to go and get your coffee. 

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