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Maximise Your Potential: The Shocking Productivity Benefits of Taking More Breaks!

Mar 08, 2024

Are you tired of feeling burnt out, exhausted, and unproductive?

Do you find yourself struggling to focus on tasks, feeling easily distracted and overwhelmed?

If so, it's time to start taking more breaks.

That's right, taking more breaks can actually be one of the most powerful productivity strategies you can implement. They helped transform my wife’s working life and once gave me a surprising shock when I came home early from work (more on that later).

Don’t just take my word for the benefits of breaks though. Learn from one of the most successful people of the last 50 years…

Richard Branson, the Billionaire founder of Virgin Group attributes his success to taking breaks. Branson has long been an advocate for work-life balance and has talked openly about how he takes regular breaks to recharge and refocus his energy.

In an interview with Forbes, Branson said, "I learned early on in my career that taking regular breaks to recharge my batteries was essential to my success. Whether it's spending time with my family, engaging in a favourite hobby, or simply taking a walk outside, I make sure to take breaks throughout the day and prioritise my well-being."

Branson also encourages his employees to take breaks and has implemented policies at Virgin that prioritise work-life balance, such as unlimited vacation time and flexible work arrangements.

By prioritising breaks and well-being, Branson has built hundreds of companies spanning multiple industries and decades. Not only that but, by leading by example and promoting the benefits of breaks to his team he has helped thousands of employees to develop successful and sustainable careers that emphasise work life balance too.

While Richard Branson success provides one high-profile example of the benefits of breaks, there is also a wealth of research supporting the benefits of breaks for increased focus, concentration and productivity.

One study published in the journal Cognition found that participants who took short breaks during a task were able to maintain a higher level of accuracy and speed compared to those who worked through without breaks. The study suggested that breaks may help prevent cognitive fatigue and allow individuals to sustain attention and performance over a longer period of time.

Another study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that taking short breaks during the workday can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction. The study suggested that breaks may help reduce work-related stress and prevent burnout, leading to higher levels of productivity and engagement.

Taken as a whole, the research shows that taking regular breaks can be beneficial to cognitive ability, productivity, and well-being. By prioritizing breaks and well-being, individuals may be able to sustain performance and engagement over a longer period of time and achieve greater success in their personal and professional lives.

So, follow what the research says and Richard Branson’s example to achieve the same in your life.

In a moment, I will share four simple practical tips for incorporating more breaks into your daily routine that will dramatically increase your productivity.

First, let's talk about why taking breaks is so crucial. When we work for long periods of time without taking breaks, our brains become fatigued and our ability to focus and concentrate decreases. This can lead to decreased productivity, increased errors and mistakes, and even burnout and exhaustion.

Taking breaks, on the other hand, allows our brains to rest and recharge. When we take short breaks throughout the day, we give our brains a chance to recover and refresh, which can help us stay more focused, productive, and energised over the long term.

Research indicates that as little as 5-minutes break from a task can be effective.

So how can you start taking more breaks and reaping the benefits of increased productivity and focus? Here are some practical tips and strategies to help you get started:

  1. Schedule breaks into your day: Instead of trying to work for hours on end without taking a break, schedule regular breaks into your day. Set a timer for every hour or two, and take a 10 to 15-minute break to stretch, go for a walk, or do something else that helps you recharge.
  2. Use the Pomodoro Technique: The Pomodoro Technique involves working in focused 25-minute intervals, followed by short breaks. This can be a great way to stay focused and productive while also taking regular breaks throughout the day. Search Pomodoro Technique timers online and you can get free timers that will help you work more efficiently.
  3. Take breaks that energize you: Not all breaks are created equal. To get the most benefit from your breaks, choose activities that energize you and help you recharge. This could be going for a walk, meditating, or even taking a power nap.
  4. Make sure it really is a break: Don’t fall into the trap my wife did! 

That final point really resonates with me, but it resonates with my wife, Sally even more.

Sally has always prided herself on her work-ethic and getting things done. She was, however, often frustrated with her productivity and felt that everything took longer than it should.

As a busy pensions lawyer and mother of two, she needs to be organised and efficient to get everything done.

Unfortunately, this generally meant working longer and longer hours. Often, she would go back to her study after putting the kids to bed and work late into the night and even into the early hours of the morning to finish projects and meet deadlines.

Working late at night like this wasn’t productive.

She knew her brain wasn’t operating at top speed and she couldn’t think clearly. She felt that any progress she made was a grind. Almost like she was moving in slow-motion. This pattern created a negative downward spiral where she felt more and more exhausted and overwhelmed. Her work the day after a late night suffered and her productivity slowed. Meaning the only solution was to work longer hours.

This was not sustainable.

One day, she decided to try something new: taking more breaks throughout the day (as her wise – and slightly smug, self-important husband had been suggesting for weeks).

At first, she said it felt strange to step away from her work every hour or so, but she quickly realised the benefits.

I was delighted until one afternoon I came home early from work to find her sat in the garden enjoying the sunshine and reading a book. But instead of a normal book, she was reading a legal brief.

I couldn't help but laugh as I watched Sally trying to balance her legal brief on her lap while sipping a cup of tea and keep her arms outstretched to soak up the sun maximally.

"What are you doing?" I asked, still chuckling.

Sally looked up, surprised. "Just taking a break," she said, smiling. "I figured I could combine work and relaxation."

This is an all too common mistake people make when trying to implement breaks to boost productivity.

A break needs to be a break! Not just a different way to keep working.

I remember shaking my head and feeling a weird mix admiration and despair for her dedication to work. Then I just started laughing and said, "You're a pensions lawyer, not a sunbather! Put the work down and enjoy your break."

Sally rolled her eyes, but she couldn't help but laugh. She knew I was right (but she didn’t admit it). The best way to take a break is to completely disconnect from work and enjoy the moment.

From that day on, Sally continued to take more breaks throughout the day, but she made sure to disconnect completely and enjoy the moment. And with that simple change, she found that she was not only more productive but also happier and more fulfilled in her personal life.

You can get the benefits too, so long as you ensure that when you are on a break it really is a break.

By incorporating more breaks into your daily routine, you can maximise your productivity and achieve your goals with greater ease and efficiency. So, don't wait - start taking more breaks today and unlock your full potential.


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