If you work long hours, feel exhausted all the time, and still don’t get enough work done, it’s easy to think that you must somehow find a way to work even harder.
But, most of the time, there’s a better solution: Instead of working more hours, make it your goal to achieve more in each hour that you work.
I know it’s counterintuitive, but a good way to achieve this is by working less. We humans are not machines. We’re not made for working all the time. We need to keep our energy levels high in order to be productive.
If we manage our energy wisely and refrain from overexerting ourselves, we can increase our productivity so much that we spend less time actually working, but still get more work done in total.
To achieve this, you must frequently recharge your batteries. You need to take breaks while you’re at work, and you need to do it right.
That’s why I would like to give you some guidelines for taking effective breaks:
1. Pause Regularly
When we are working on fascinating tasks or simply in a high-pressure environment, we often get sucked in and forget about time. We work for hours, and suddenly we realise that our eyes hurt, we feel dizzy and tired, and can’t concentrate anymore. Time for a break we decide.
What we don’t realise until later is this: It’s too late now! We’ve overexerted ourselves and won’t get back to full capacity that day no matter what we do. What a time waster!
To avoid this, schedule five- to ten-minute breaks every hour or at least every two hours (depending on the kind of work you are doing). Even if you feel like you could still continue working, don’t! The trick is to recharge your batteries before they are totally empty. That way, you’ll stay energetic throughout the day.
2. Pause Completely
The second mistake many people make when it comes to taking breaks is that they don’t really use them to relax. Quite often, breaks are simply employed as a means to get away from a task we don’t like and do something we like instead. But that’s not the point of a break! A productive break focuses on its core purpose: recharging our batteries.
Don’t use your breaks to catch the news, log onto Facebook, surf the web, listen to a talk, or watch a film. Instead, make it your hard rule to avoid any information input during your break time. When you pause from work, give your mind a complete rest.
3. Break Activities
So, what should you do during your time outs? I suggest that you try the following very simple activities, which will fill your energy tanks faster than anything else:
• Get up for some quick gymnastic exercises to improve your blood circulation.
• Step outside for a brief walk.
• Eat some fruits. Close your eyes while you are chewing, and concentrate on the refreshing taste in your mouth.
• Lean back, close your eyes, and do nothing. (much more effective, but also much harder than you might think. I explain this technique in more detail in chapter C.III.1 of Beat Stress, Boost Success)
All the time in the world won’t help you to get things done if you lack the energy to make good use of it. Breaks are essential for keeping your energy levels high. Pay attention to your breaks. You’ll be rewarded with a true productivity boost.
Go back to the Fighting Stress 101 series.