Do you realise that taking a break periodically can actually help increase your productivity by allowing you to recharge and refocus your energy? If you are focused on and
committed to a project, there is a good chance that taking frequent breaks will help increase the quantity and quality of
It is not uncommon for people who sit for long periods of time (at their desk) to suffer from
muscular fatigue or varicose veins or experience back pain, stiff necks and numbness in their
legs. When you sit, you are using your muscles to hold you in place. Typically,
you hold your head in one position to focus on your computer screen and you
hold your arms in a confined space defined by your keyboard and the mouse. All other
muscles, in particular those of your torso, work to keep you upright in your chair.
you are working intently, your muscles may stiffen. Sitting for long periods puts pressure on
your blood vessels and exacerbates the problem by limiting the blood supply to
your muscles. Fatigue will set in. If you spend most of your time working under
these conditions, your productivity will drop because you will tire faster. The
Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) recommends taking breaks and
moving around to combat the problem. Standing up, stretching and engaging your
muscles in different tasks will improve blood circulation and reduce fatigue.
Jumpstart Your Thought
Breaks can help you to jump start your thought process when you are at an
impasse. There are times when you cannot find the right 'link' to reach the next
step of your project. For example, you may not be able to see the relationship
between two parts of a formula or find the right words to express your thoughts
about a product that you are reviewing. Under these circumstances, taking a break certainly helps. One way to look
at the situation is this - since you know that you are not being productive,
you have nothing to lose by putting the project aside for ten minutes and
clearing your mind. When you return to the project, you will be a little more
relaxed and you may be able to see what you had missed earlier.
Scheduling breaks into your day gives you an opportunity to divide your projects into manageable segments. Many projects may seem daunting when you consider them
as a whole. However, if you tease out individual tasks, you can divide the project into smaller, more manageable parts. Look for logical divisions where you can pool your resources to
increase your efficiency. For example, you can research specific elements in
one session before taking a break and use other sessions for writing.
Similarly, you can devote one session to the task of creating a flow chart for
the menu system of a webpage and another session for coding and testing.
Minimize Non-Work Life
It is important to acknowledge the 'non-work related
commitments' that may intrude upon your thought process. You may intend to fully devote your time to work.
To do this, you must block out all other thoughts and distractions. The act of trying to block
out other thoughts requires energy. In effect, the effort you put into keeping out distractions is 'effort' that you are not putting into your projects. Often,
it is more efficient, then, to take a break and tend to your personal issues.
This is more true, in particular, in situations where a telephone call
or an email is all it takes to resolve the issue. If you know that you have done all that you could do on your
personal front, it would be a lot easier for you to concentrate and devote your full attention to work.
Including voluntary breaks into your schedule reduces the chance that you will
take involuntary breaks. Working continuously for long hours can tire out your body. Your mind will wander, your body will ache and your productivity
will suffer. Taking breaks does not mean that you lack discipline. On the
contrary, people who are able to incorporate breaks into their schedule
successfully are actually more productive than the rest. However, any one wanting to incorporate frequent breaks into their work schedule, must have the resolve to keep their breaks short. Increasing your
productivity should always be the focus of your breaks. If you find that you
are not accomplishing your goals, reassess the frequency and duration of your