The science of taking breaks (and how to do it right)

7th Dec 2016
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Long gone are those days where breaks were only associated with boring half hour lunch breaks that did little to help one’s work. Today, with the increasing pluralism and the ever-changing dynamism of work culture, especially in the context of startups, it has become ever so important to take smaller breaks around the day to maintain one’s calm and retain composure.

Image : shutterstock

Image : shutterstock

There has been this abiding myth among many working professionals that taking breaks is unconducive to one’s productivity. Not only is it wrong, it’s actually the contrary. Here are five science-backed ways how taking breaks increases one’s productivity.

Taking breaks once every hour boosts productivity

Studies that have been conducted recently shows that people who engage in some sort of distraction or diversion once every hour perform better than those who do not. It is said that after a while of continuous work, our brain numbs. Hence, taking a break restores a sense of renewed purpose and energy back to your work, thus helping you work efficiently.

A break acts as a creative fuel

It’s very easy to run out of innovative ideas very quickly, even if you love your job a lot and are generally creatively charged. Sometimes, watching a funny video or engaging in a small conversation with a loved one can help restore the much needed boost and in turn help the creative juices flow. It helps acquire a new perspective or insight into matters and work around a creative block.

Breaks help us retain focus

Contrary to popular belief, breaks actually help us keep our focus intact. The human brain was not designed for prolonged focus. Of course, it can process tonnes of data in seconds, but concentrating on difficult tasks all at once, and that too for a long time, is something that the human brain can never do. The way to fix this is taking breaks. University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras says, “Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused.” He added, “From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” (as stated in Illinois News Bureau)

Breaks help us revaluate goals

The Harvard Business Review examines another prime benefit of breaks: they allow us to take a step back and make sure we’re accomplishing the right things in the right way.

When you work on a task continuously, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the weeds. In contrast, following a brief intermission, picking up where you left off forces you to take a few seconds to think globally about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve. It’s a practice that encourages us to stay mindful of our objectives.

So, stop feeling guilty for taking occasional breaks because as proven, it has more pros than cons, that too, scientifically.

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