It’s five pm on Friday, but you’re staring at a stack of work that you really need to get finished.
You’ll be working over the weekend … again.
And you promise yourself that next week, you’re going to be more organized. You’re going to work harder. You’re going to focus.
Except, somehow, that never seems to work.
You’re wondering what the heck you’re doing wrong.
Well… You’re Not Taking Enough Breaks!
I’d guess that your typical day looks something like this: you’re sat at a desk for hours, stopping only to grab a sandwich (which you might well scoff down in front of your computer).
No-one can stay focused for hours on end, so you find yourself getting tired and demotivated as the day wears on. You end up on Facebook, or texting your friends, or watching a funny clip on YouTube.
At the end of the day, you feel frustrated and fed up.
You might start thinking all sorts of negative things: I’m so stupid, why did I waste time on Facebook?
And you’ll try to come up with solutions: I just need to be more self-disciplined.
But the truth is, no-one – however productive they are – works solidly for eight hours. Chances are, your work requires a fair amount of mental energy, and you need some down time to maintain your energy levels throughout the day.
So how do you do that?
You plan, and take, regular breaks.
How Taking More Breaks Works
I’m trying out a new system right now. It’s designed to solve a couple of problems:
- Problem #1: I sometimes get pulled off-task by emails, Facebook, Twitter, the news…
- Problem #2: I work from home (I’m a writer and writing coach) so I don’t have any sort of physical activity built into my day.
So, now, during the mornings – my peak writing hours – I work for 22 minutes at a time, then take a break and exercise on my elliptical trainer for 5 minutes. (I’m allowing 3 minutes for transition time.) That means I’m only working 44 minutes out of every hour. Surely I’m getting less done?
Actually, no. I’m able to concentrate much better – if I know that I’ve only got ten minutes before a break, I write faster! And because I’m getting up and moving during the day, my energy levels are higher too.
Try It Yourself
If you work in a traditional office environment, you might not be able to adopt a system like mine. But you can still take regular breaks – which will help you stay on task.
- Every hour, take a few minutes to have a quick walk around the building and grab a glass of water from the water cooler.
- Set an alarm on your computer to pop up every 45 minutes to tell you to take a five minute break from what you’re doing. Check Facebook, tidy your desk, grab a snack – whatever you like.
The crucial thing is that you get straight back to work when your break is over. Otherwise, you’ll just slip back into old habits of wasting time.
You might still be a bit skeptical about whether taking more breaks could work for you. All I can say is … try it! And let us know how you get on: the comments are open.