Breaks are an important element of your work day. To understand the reason why taking breaks at work is important, think about a scenario where you have to slam on your brakes in a car. This usually happens when your focus has drifted slightly from the road and from driving. Slamming on your breaks is like hitting a reset button—once you get going again, you have a renewed commitment to be aware of what is going on in front of you. Taking breaks during your work day can help you reclaim your focus on your project with increased attention.
However, it’s far too easy to take a break and then get lost in the fun of it all. How do you take small breaks without losing focus? You have to train your brain. There are many time management techniques you can try to keep your mini-breaks structured.
For the worker with a very short attention span: work for 10 minutes, take a break for 2 minutes, change tasks and work for 10 minutes, etc. Repeat this process 5 times which will equal one hour’s worth of working. This process is a great stepping stone to train your brain to focus when you want it to.
It’s simple: 25 minutes of focus, 5 minutes free time. After 100 minutes, take a 15-20 minute break. The key to this method is to evaluate the number of times you wanted to change your focus during each 25 minute segment. With practice, you should be able to ignore your impulses and stay on track for 25 straight minutes.
However you choose to take your breaks, keep them consistent. If you have chosen to take 5 minute breaks, set a timer for each break you take.
Another strategy to help you train your brain is to define your break activity clearly. Before you go on break, tell yourself, “I’m going to read this blog post,” or “I’m going to tweet about this event.” That way, you know when your break is finished both by the timer reminding you and the task being completed.
By defining your break activity, you are also choosing activities you know you can complete in the break’s designated amount of time. Be realistic about how long an activity will take you. While your work can remain unfinished during a break, it’s not wise to carry break activities back into work time; it causes you to think about the break activity during your designated focus time. Know several activities that take 5, 10, and 15 minutes to complete so that you are prepared to take a relaxing break and you know you will be able to complete the activity before you return to work.
Finally, it helps to know what task you’ll come back to at the start of your break. Make a mental note of your stopping point and the next action you’ll want to complete so you can make the transition from your break back to your work as seamless as possible.