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By now, we are all hopefully getting used to working from home during the almost-worldwide quarantine. But if you find yourself struggling to keep up with your deadlines and stay focused, it might be a good idea to look at the way you take your breaks. Maybe you work for hours on end without taking the proper time to breathe? Or perhaps you put a thousand little breaks in between your tasks which eventually make it so you end up with no work done at all? These tips and tricks will help you to get the most out of your breaks, and stay focused and productive for the entire day.
Micro breaks can be very beneficial for your productivity throughout your working day. These breaks can last from a few seconds to about three minutes, depending on your activity during these breaks. It can be a little stretch, fetching a coffee, or some small talk with your quarantine buddy. Did you know that a micro break can improve your focus with an average of 13%? The key to making micro-breaks work is the idea of keeping it short and voluntarily. Don’t count down the hours to briefly stretch your legs for a few seconds. Micro-breaks come naturally, and come forth from a personal need, like a cup of coffee or some social interaction. An essential thing to keep in mind is to keep your micro-breaks in check. Having a micro-break every five minutes will definitely result in you not being able to come into a dedicated focus mode. When you notice your micro-breaks getting out of control, there is a good chance that your body is asking for a longer break. In that case, take that break, eat some lunch or go for a short walk.
The famous Pomodoro technique requires you to work for 25 minutes, after which you reward yourself with a 5-minute break. In this five minute break you can do whatever you want, as long as it has nothing to do with the task you were working on. Before starting, make sure you have created a list of tasks you’d like to finish that day, cleverly divided into blocks of 25 minutes. Use your alarm clock or one of the many Pomodoro apps, like Focus Keeper to keep track of your time. Once you manage to finish four blocks of 25 minutes, you can reward yourself with a 20 to 30-minute break.
The technique of intermittent resting requires you to work for 90 to 120 minutes, and have a 20 minute break after each of those sessions. These longer periods of work can be helpful to get into a “flow” that keeps you going. Other techniques, like Pomodoro, may prevent you from reaching this state, which is why it doesn’t work for everyone. Intermittent resting is a great solution to actually reach the state of flow and be productive for an extended period of time. Make sure that, during your 20-minute break, you’re completely averted from anything work-related.
Movement and fresh air
Moving your body and getting some fresh air are probably two of the most important things you can do during your break. Moving and stretching your muscles while taking a walk outside sends fresh oxygen to your whole body, including your brain, which will help you regain your focus once you dive back into your work. Besides, moving to a totally different environment than your workspace makes sure you won’t be tempted to quickly check your work mail or quickly try to finish that one task you have been working on for the entire morning.
A quick nap in the afternoon can boost your productivity immensely. Many studies have shown that a 40 minute nap in-between working can raise your performance by up to 35% and your overall alertness by up to 55% on average. And did you know that a 20-minute catnap in the afternoon leaves you more rested than sleeping an extra 20 minutes after you wake up in the morning?
Eat yourself smart
Eating is an essential part of your daily routine, and should definitely be a part of your breaks. But keep in mind that different kinds of food and meals might have different effects on your body, mind, and therefore productivity. Eating a three-course meal during your lunch break might not be the smartest idea, as it’ll probably make you tired while your body is processing all the nutrients. So, make sure to keep it light, but enough to provide your body and mind with enough nutritions. These are some foods and drinks that can help you regain your focus and stay on top of your productivity game until the end of your day:
- Peanut Butter
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Yogurt with muesli/granola
- Vegetables with hummus
- Whole grain sandwiches
- Proteins like eggs or chicken breast
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Ginger tea
- Coffee (just make sure to limit your caffeine intake, as too much coffee can also have side-effects)
If you’re short on time during your weekdays and don’t have the time to prepare yourself a nutritious meal, try out meal prepping. Take a few hours on Sunday to prepare lunches and dinner for next week, so you don’t get too distracted by cooking and preparing dishes in between working.