Schedule in work breaks to help unwind, relax and refresh at work

How to Build in Breaks to Your Work Schedule

Have you ever tried to be more productive by pushing yourself to the limit and putting in overtime? Have you ever felt like more time spent at your desk meant you were more productive than usual?

In the workplace today, being busy and hustling is often celebrated… But if you aren’t taking breaks, then you’re probably hurting and decreasing your own productivity rather than improving it…

This week on Episode 082 Productivity Paradox, we discuss the importance of taking breaks and how they can dramatically improve our cognitive functioning while boosting our productivity in the process.

Here, I want to talk about how to build in breaks to your work schedule to make sure you’re giving yourself the rest you need, when you need it, so that you can become happier and more productive at work.

Let’s jump in, shall we?



1. Take the Right Kind of Breaks –

Before we can benefit from taking breaks during our busy days spent at work, it’s important that we first understand what the “right” kind of breaks are and how to use them effectively…

Too often, when we need a break, the first thing we reach for is our phone to scroll through social media, maybe check email, or simply to play a couple of games. While this may seem totally normal to some, it’s important to understand that when it comes to screen time during moments when we should be giving ourselves time to decompress… instead, what we are actually doing when choose to spend our breaks on our phone is further exhausting our brains and robbing ourselves the opportunity to re-energize!

Great breaks reduce mental exhaustion, improve brain function, and provide a buffer between our work demands and fatigue. Best part? They actually help keep us on-task for longer periods, boosting our productivity and effectiveness at work in the process.

So, the next time you get ready to take a break from your desk, try leaving your phone tucked away… and pick up a book for pleasure, take a short walk outside, have snack or a cup of coffee, stretch, or simply close your eyes and rest. Your brain will thank you for it!


2. Know Your Limit –

Work is a marathon… yet so many of us often treat our workday as if it’s an all-day sprint. But guess what, just like a marathon runner… we can’t run full throttle all day long!

It’s important that we give ourselves the space to slow down to catch our breath from time to time so that when it’s time to race uphill, we have got the energy to do just that (and to do it well).

The key? Try to schedule in a break before you’ve reached the bottom of your mental barrel. You know that feeling when your head begins to feel fuzzy and you start drifting off and daydreaming? This is exactly what we mean here.

When you feel yourself drifting away from a task mentally, give yourself a moment to relax and allow your brain to recharge. Not only will you feel less fatigue at the end of the day, but you will also alleviate the stress placed on the brain that comes as a result of pushing yourself to keep working beyond your brain’s mental limit.


3. Keep it Short, but Sweet –

It’s important to keep in mind that long hours do not necessarily mean better work. Quite the contrary, actually! More often than not… short bursts of work, around 50 to 90 minutes, are far more effective and productive as they correspond with our brain’s natural Ultradian rhythm—a topic that we explored in more depth back on Episodes 059 and 065 of the podcast.

Keeping this same idea in mind… The ideal break time is usually around 15 to 20 minutes, and longer for meals. It is important to note here, of course, that even though we all operate on an Ultradian rhythm… it does vary from person to person. In this case, I recommend testing out different times within that 50 to 90-minute time-frame and see what works best for you personally.


4. Go Out for Lunch –

Now, I completely understand that the struggle to step away from your desk can be real when you’re in the middle of an important project… But just as it’s important to reduce screen time on our phones during those moments when we are allowing our brain to recharge, it’s just as important to step away from our desks when it comes time to settle down for lunch.

I encourage you to spend your meal breaks outside of the office. Give yourself the space to mentally recharge, and head out to lunch!

Not only will this allow you some valuable time to catch up with friends or co-workers away from the workplace, but it will also give you the separation from the intense focus that work often requires that your brain craves in order to function at its full capacity.


5. Stick to Your Schedule –

Once you have found the peak times of your own ultradian rhythm and have uncovered a great routine that works well for you in the workplace… It’s important that you stick to it!

Not only will this help you to streamline your day by coordinating with your brain’s natural rhythm, but it will become easier to allow yourself the grace to take a break exactly when you need it… allowing your brain to recharge, and for you to come back to your workspace with renewed energy and focus to get things done productively and effectively in one fell swoop.

What are some of your favorite breakaway activities during a busy day at work? I would love for you to share them in the comments below!

And, if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about the science behind breaks in the workplace (and why our brains require them), be sure to tune in to Episode 082 of Productivity Paradox!



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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton