Want to be more productive? Take a break!

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Productivity gurus offer all sorts of surprising ways to help you work smarter and more efficiently – but this tip could be the most surprising yet! It seems that if you want to get more work done, you should take a break!

Do you find your attention and enthusiasm waning through your working day? It seems brain slumps are real – and all too common! Now, researchers suggest the best way to combat them is by taking a break.

Give your mind a break

Dr Mark, productivity expert and author of Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness &Productivity, makes the point that “we can’t expect to use sustained focus and attention for extended periods of our time”. Our brains need downtime from heavy lifting every now and then, just like any other part of our bodies would.

Studies have shown that even short breaks of 10 minutes can reduce mental fatigue and increase vigor. This is especially true for tasks that require creativity.

Breaks boost creativity too

Problem solving and innovation usually require us to let our minds wander to brainstorm ideas and possible solutions. This type of thinking is almost like daydreaming, according to Dr. Marta Sabariego, an assistant professor at Mount Holyoake College.

She told the New York Times that for creative thinking we need to give our thoughts room to roam, ideally by taking a break. “The default mode network can actually retrieve details from the nooks and crannies in your brain’s memories that the logical brain cannot retrieve, which is why some people say they have their best ideas in the shower.”

Which type of break works best?

Analysis has shown that the longer the break, the better the performance boost. However as little as 10 minutes is enough to make a difference.

A study for Microsoft found that workers who took a 20-minute walk in nature came back to their work with greater “divergent attention”. This meant they had more creative ideas than colleagues who had simply carried on working.

If you can’t get outside into nature, exercise is the next best thing. A 2013 study showed that just 15 minutes of physical activity resulted in lower feelings of stress and improved interaction with colleagues.

Taking time out to enjoy a healthy snack can also be beneficial. Although eating a large amount of food can make you feel sluggish and lethargic, a small, healthy but sugary snack can act as a boost. Fruit, such as an apple or handful of grapes or blueberries, is ideal.

What next?

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