FRIDAY 13 MARCH 2020
This blogstory is for you who finds it hard to take normal breaks during the day. Let me start by saying: ‘Don’t be to hard on yourself. The fact that you already admitted that you have to change your break-taking-routine is already a starter ..
Most people skip their breaks because of a wrong thinking-pattern. Thoughts like: taking a break is time-waisting, I’m probably laizy if I take to many breaks, My brain can handle it and so on. But skipping breaks can also occur when you are addicted to being busy all the time. Because when you take a break negative/ uncomfortable feelings occur, due to the fact that you're brain is not used to taking breaks.
These causes you deal with are facts you embraced, but the real truth is that our brain only has a concentration-span between 25 - 90 minutes. After at least 90 minutes you should take a break to prevent decision fatigue, lack of focus, productivity, memory losses, creativity loss, promotes stress, and anxiety.
All these executive functions that are summed up above take place in the prefrontal lobe. This is the area behind your forehead and doesn’t rest. When you take a break it uses the downtime to make important connections that shape your (social) identity, review and store (new) memories, (faster/ clearer) thinking abilities , focus-span, creativity, goal setting and more
After reading this you probably agree with the fact that taking breaks is crucial. It is possible that after reading this story, you have some questions about how often you should take a break, how long your break should be or what you should do during your break and what makes a break effective? Many studies have shown that the quality of your breaks are determined by multiple factors. Let's cover some of these factors.
Factor 1: After how many minutes you take a break
There are too many factors that have an impact on your concentration-span every single day. For example, the energy a work task/ activity demands from you, your mental state, your environment etc. So I advice you , if you are able to fully focus for 90 minutes during an activity/work task ,keep the momentum for as long as you can. If your thoughts start to wander after 45 minutes, take a short break (max 15 minutes) to give your brain a chance to relax. Sometimes the brain just needs more time to consolidate new information. So always pay attention when your brain starts to wander. Many studies also say that 90 minutes is the maximum amount of time you should spend on a work task or activity. I believe that this is also a great cue to know you need a break.
Factor 2: How long you take a break
After reviewing some studies and research that’s out there I would recommend the following guideline:
Every 25 minutes you take a break of 5 minutes
Every 52 minutes you take a break of 17 minutes
Every 60-90 minutes you take a break of 20 minutes
Every 2 to 4,5 hour you take a longer break from at least 30 minutes
Factor 3 : What to do to during a break
During your break it’s important to give your brain the chance to relax. The goal of taking a break is to shift your attention and stop concentrating at all. The more disengaged you are from the activity / work task, the more it will benefit your productivity when you start again. So even easy tasks that don’t require your full attention are a no go. Also get as far away from any screen for at least 2 minutes every 20 minutes.
Instead take a walk for at least 5 minutes . Walking has some great benefits. It boost your physical and emotional health. This reduces stress and boosts creativity. Another great thing to do during your breaktime is doing a cardio workout. But please don’t exhaust yourself. Studies have shown that a moderate level of cardio activity can boost creativity and productivity for up to two hours and reduces stress and anxiety. But there is a slight catch, though. If you don't workout ‘regularly you might be exhausted rather than refreshed from the work-out.
A nap is also a good alternative. Research has shown that people who take a 30 minute nap, stay more focused and alert during a day. And that a 10 or 20 minute nap can increase productivity and focus. Also a 45 minute nap does wonders. naps up to 45 minutes will also include REM-sleep. So you should see even more benefits from your nap. But be aware of sleep inertia. If you sleep more than 45 minutes but not long enough to go through a full sleep-cycle, it might take you a long time to be fully awake again. You will feel disorientated , experience deficits in spatial memory, a dampening of sensory acuity and mental processing and more. So you either choose for max 45 minutes or a loooong nap between 90 -120 minutes, which will give you enough time to go through a full sleep cycle. So you won’t have to deal with sleep inertia.
Another great thing is talking with your friends or co-worker about a completely different subject. Of course there are more things you can do during a break, but the once I mentioned above are just some suggestions.
Factor 4: What you eat and drink during a break
During your break you can feed your brain the foods it needs to function at it’s best. For example:
Whatever you do, the qualities of a good break remain the same.
Shifts your focus away from work
Gets your eyes off the screen
Gets you out of your chair (and moving just a little bit)
Give your brain a chance to truly relax
Let’s you enjoy great food, drinks and company
Now you know how to take effective breaks, but how can you make this part of your daily routine? I will tell you all about it in my brain break tracker guide.