Whether at work or at home, we’re all busy. From household obligations to work meetings and projects, there’s rarely time to breathe but it’s important to take a lunch break away from the desk or even an unplugged vacation.
We often think breaks take away from productivity but the opposite is true. It actually makes us more productive.
I don’t just mean stepping away from a project to check and respond to emails. That’s NOT a break. That’s just a different kind of work. You brain wants you to disengage for a period of time so that it can reset. Sometimes the time away is a few minutes. Other times it’s to take a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of real life.
When I go on vacation to relax, which admittedly is rare, I always return feeling refreshed and having a new sense of commitment to my life inside and outside work.
On a recent vacation I took time to enjoy the sun and outdoors. When I came home I realized there is sun here too – and lots of it – by taking a break from work I could enjoy the same feeling I had on vacation!
On another trip I realized that I was spending my weekends doing laundry and cleaning the house while my family was enjoying relaxing time by the pool. If I did one load of laundry each day, I’d have time to spend with my family on the weekend.
Both examples were aha moments for me that made me realize the benefits of taking steps to incorporate relaxation into my everyday life, even on work days. On those days when I keep trudging through until all hours of the night, I slowly become less productive. That defeats the purpose of staying up!
5 Ways to Take Breaks from Work
It might seem like a good idea to send one more email or finish one more to-do but the reality is that lifestyle over the long-term is unhealthy and less productive. Our bodies aren’t functioning efficiently and we’re less focused. Here’s what I do to be sure I take breaks from work:
- Schedule breaks. Try the 50/10 rule where you work 50 minutes and step away for 10 minutes. Go for a walk. Stretch. Play with the dog. Blast music and dance. Whatever you do, it can’t be work related!
- Eat healthy. Your brain and body need protein, carbohydrates, and fruits or vegetables at every meal. Snacks like almonds, celery or apple with peanut butter, or protein shakes are quick sources of nutrition that power you through your day. Take a break away from your desk to power your mind and body.
- I find when I am sitting at my desk my breathing becomes more shallow. I’ve even gotten lightheaded because of it. When I take breaks I stand up, breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth, sometimes while doing light stretching. That seems to reset my mind and body.
- Research is showing that our sedentary lifestyles are as harmful as smoking was for previous generations! Not only that but our bodies are craving Vitamin D which we can get from as little as 15 minutes of sunshine a day. I love how the sun feels on my face so a walk during the day is a perfect break for me. Find what works for you. Just 30 minutes of exercise on most days keeps our hearts healthy.
- Plan ahead. This might be the best and hardest thing I’ve done to create more time in my schedule. During the week I try to take care of household chores so I have a block of time to spend with friends and family on the weekend. At work I try to schedule lunch or breaks with colleagues so we can support each other’s efforts.
In those moments when I feel like focusing on work is the best option, I remember the importance of stopping, even for a few minutes, to recharge. It’s better for productivity and creativity both at work and at home. We can’t function at high levels without taking time off to reset our minds and bodies.