Being too busy to take a break is a sure-fire sign that you need to slow down and press pause; here are the top four benefits of adding regular breaks into your working day
- Breaks Help You To Process And Retain Information
Our brains have two functioning modes: focused, and ‘diffused’. When operating in diffused mode, our brain is more relaxed and in a ‘daydream’ type state. Some studies have shown that we solve our most difficult problems when we’re in this diffused state – for example, how many times have you happened upon a great idea when you’re daydreaming in the shower? Next time you have a difficult problem to solve, try letting your brain wander and find its own solution, instead of forcing yourself to find the answer.
- You’ll Get A Better Sense Of The Bigger Picture
When you’re focused on the minutiae of a complex task, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the bigger, more strategic picture. Take a break, step back, and reassess your goals and priorities to make sure that you’re giving your attention to the right tasks and projects. Being able to see this broader view is particularly important for managers, who need to maintain their focus on strategic goals and not be distracted by process-driven task that could be delegated to other members of their team.
- You’ll Be More Creative
“Never taking a break from very careful thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative,” says Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor at the University of California, Davis. “It sort of exhausts your cognitive capacity and you’re not able to make the creative connections [that] you can [make] if your brain is more rested. If you’re skipping lunch to continue to push forward in a very intense cognitive capacity, then you’re probably not doing yourself any favors.” Giving your brain time to rest and recharge – just as an athlete would allow their body to rest after a race or training session – will energise you for the next task ahead.
- Breaks Can Help You Cultivate Healthier Habits
When you’re busy and stressed, healthy habits – such as eating nutritious meals, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep – can easily fall by the wayside. Taking a proper lunch break gives you time to incorporate these healthy habits into your normal working day, whether that’s making time to prepare and eat a meal that’s packed with fruit and vegetables (rather than grabbing a store-bought sandwich or ready meal), or running or walking outside. You could even try to squeeze in a 20-minute nap, which will clear space in your working memory for new information, and help you commit new knowledge to your long-term memory.
Taking regular breaks away from your computer or smartphone screen can also help to prevent computer vision syndrome, which commonly manifests as eye strain and headaches. Medical professionals recommend looking away from your screen every 20 minutes and looking at something around 20 feet away for 20 seconds.