If you are part of the numerous (and rising) number of professions that depend on cognitive thinking—basically most desk jobs—then REST is critical to improving your productivity. Breaks give your brain the down time it requires, allowing you to solve problems and make decisions more effectively!
Get More Done by Taking a 17-Minute Break
The coolest thing I learned when researching ways to work smarter, and not harder, was the 52-17 method. A study found that the most productive employees work diligently for 52 minutes, and then break for 17 minutes. This approach sounded brilliant, and definitely worth a try!
At first, breaking the workday into ‘sprint’ and ‘rest’ periods wasn’t that easy to do. I had to set timers and constantly remind myself that it was okay, and more efficient, not to work every minute. When I reached the ’52-ish’ minute mark, I forced myself to stretch, lay down, or go for a walk. Changing environments worked best for me, mainly because going outside or into another room distanced me from the temptation to go online or check emails.
It turns out that the 52-17-minute method really did work! On the days I practiced it, I had less ‘writer’s block,’ more energy and motivation, and wasn’t so stressed. Plus, the workday flew by. I also felt more fulfilled as I time to appreciate what I accomplished—in addition to having time to eat, rest and enjoy small breaks.
Reflecting on my experience in the corporate environment, I thought about how to realistically implement this approach (or something similar), realizing that meetings and timelines aren’t always as flexible as you would like. Here is what I came up with . . .
10 Ways to Find Time to Break/Rest During Busy Workdays:
Change meetings from 1 hour to 45 minutes or from 30 minutes to 25, and use the extra time to mentally rest, AWAY from your computer and work thoughts.
Set calendar alerts or automatic timers at strategic points during your day, when you think your brain might need a reset from intense ‘think sessions.’ And don’t postpone or dismiss them!
Keep things that you enjoy nearby (puzzles, journals, coloring books, music, walking shoes, yoga mat, etc.) that you can utilize during breaks. And look forward to those ‘reward times.’
Get up from your seat! Change your surroundings and do your best to move and be active (or power nap), spending time away from your screens.
Consider keeping an essential oil at your desk to encourage you to take deep breaths during breaks and anytime you’re stressed or need motivation.
Remind yourself that it is a workDAY. Set boundaries of your availability and the hours that you do and don’t work, and let others know. Block off your calendar if needed.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day. At the very least, you will have to get up from your desk to use the restroom.
Embrace an incomplete to-do list and remember that there will always be more to accomplish. My previous manager wisely taught me that “the reward for finishing your work is more work.”
Make a list of the benefits of taking breaks and put it in a visible spot. Your reasons might include superior deliverables, improved health, new habits, innovative ideas, or setting boundaries.
When you plan long meetings or events, make sure to give participants time to get up and stretch. Encourage them to unplug and not check their devices.
Finding What ‘Break’ Method Works for You
Knowing that everyone has different schedules and workstyle preferences, I plan on experimenting with different time intervals to see what is most realistic and successful (for me) to incorporate long-term. While the 52-17 is a great way to structure the workday, it is not the only one. I am excited to try organizing my day by tasks, instead of time, and am curious to see how it goes. I promise to update you with what I learn and would love to hear what works best for you below.
I hope that you begin (or continue) to take breaks throughout your workday to rest and recharge your mind, even if you start with just a few minutes at a time. Taking breaks can lead to better work outcomes and help prevent burnout. Let’s live healthier by treating our mind and bodies with care, while also being more successful at work 😊.