Ever sit down at the desk with the intent to spend 10 minutes updating something, only to find yourself still working some two hours later? Yeah, me too. The more we work without breaks, the less we actually get done. That’s science… frequent breaks make us more focused and productive.
I used to take a five minute break every hour. After starting my quest to get healthier, I increased it to 10 minutes. And after getting my life-changing Fitbit? I now take a 10 minute break from the desk after just 30 minutes of work. I use that time to walk around (getting in steps for the many challenges I’m in at Matchup.io), play with the dog (a big plus to having a home office) or simply relax – anything that takes place outside of the office itself.
I’m not alone in my thinking that these frequent breaks are key to my productivity. Last year a study by the Draugiem Group found that those most productive broke for 17 minutes for every 52 minutes of work. Not even an eight-hour work day, and they got more done than others. (You can read details about this study at Fast Company.)
I use a simple kitchen timer (the LUX Minute Minder) to track the time. I tried to use the timer on my iPhone, but that required me to look at the screen, and possibly any notifications that were awaiting my attention. A simple unit that beeps incessantly until I hit STOP works best.
Forcing yourself to take breaks frequently isn’t always easy. What happens if you’re in the middle of an important task or thought when the timer goes off? That’s where blocking comes in to play. I block in the most important and time-consuming tasks early in the day. If anything is going to take longer than 30 consecutive minutes, I break it into actionable segments. For example, if I’m working on a online store analysis, each element of a website is a segment, and those segments get placed into blocks of time. Surprisingly, this really doesn’t take a lot of planning time because I’ve a good idea how long many things are going to take.
And, yes, sometimes emergencies arise, or an important call comes in. I hold a lot of “walking meetings” on the phone, stopping to take notes as necessary.
Imagine sitting back down at the desk totally refreshed and ready to dive right back in. That’s what I’m able to do each and every day. Now that I’ve experienced this 30-10 method, I could never go back to my old ways. You could also try the recommended 52-17 (work 52 minutes, break for 17); I’ve just found that 30 minute work blocks work best for me.
What works for you?