Have you ever had to meet a deadline, which required you to work so hard that you actually started to lose focus? If you’re constantly busy with work, do you ever feel like you’re getting burned out? Becoming overworked can turn into a major problem if it isn’t stopped. The quality of your output suffers, and your mental health can become drained. As you’ve probably already heard, one of the ways to stop overworking yourself is by taking periodic breaks. While this is a solution, there are good and bad ways that this can be done.
Why Taking Breaks Is Important
A study by University of Illinois psychology professor Dr. Alejandro Lleras showed that by taking periodic breaks, your ability to focus and pay attention is improved. In this study, 84 individuals were required to work on a repetitive task. A portion of the participants took no breaks while completing the 50-minute task. Others were asked to memorize a four-digit number before they started. In the test group that memorized the number, a segment was stopped by the appearance of the number twice during the task and told to take a break. When the number appeared for the other segment, they were told to ignore it.
The study showed that the quality of work for most individuals grew worse over time. However, there was no drop in performance for the segment that was asked to take a break when they were interrupted by the number. The results of this study indicate that taking periodic breaks from a task may be helpful in performance and maintaining attention.
1. Taking Better Breaks
What is the best way to take a break? Should you sit in front of your computer and respond to emails or engage in a conversation with another person? These two choices are going to put your brain into two types of modes. If you’re checking emails, you’re still in focus mode. Conversing with someone will put your brain into a diffuse mode, which is more relaxed and unfocused. To ensure that your brain is working at full capacity, it’s best if you put your brain into diffuse mode every once in a while. This is the time when your subconscious mind goes to work and creates great ideas.
2. Relax In Nature
One way to put your brain into a diffuse mode when you take a break is by spending time in nature. If you’re near an area that has some live plants and greenery, take a walk and get re-energized. Studies have been conducted that show this type of activity will help boost your cognitive performance. In other studies, even images that show nature have the ability to increase your focus and boost performance when you go back to work. In one of the studies, half of the participants were given a break and shown an image of a rooftop for 40 seconds. The other half were shown the same rooftop, however, it was covered with a flowery meadow. When the participants returned to their task, improvements in accuracy and concentration were seen with the group of individuals who were shown the flowery meadow image.
3. Take A Power Nap
In the last few years, major companies like Google are taking advantage of the benefits of napping. While this may seem like an awkward activity to participate in while at work, science has shown that naps are important. Research indicates that there is an improvement in creativity, energy levels, and cognitive function when you take a nap. While this may seem like it takes too much time, it actually increases your energy. It’s much better to take a nap and go back to work with the ability to perform your best than when you’re tired.
4. Optimize Sleeping Time
Both Einstein and Salvador Dali were strong advocates of power napping. They considered them an essential part of tapping into their creativity. The reason behind their positive feelings probably lies in how a body falls asleep. You’ll go through three stages when you’re asleep, which include alpha, theta, and delta. The delta wave stage is when you are in a deep, dreamless sleep. The alpha wave stage occurs during the first part of your nap when you are relaxed and aware of your surroundings. The theta wave stage starts after you’ve been sleeping about 10 minutes. This stage is associated with deeper sleep and subconscious activity. When you’re transitioning between stages, there is an overlapping of the two waves, which can produce different past memories, ideas, feelings, and abstract thoughts. By napping for 20 to 30 minutes, your body stays out of deep sleep territory but has enough time to rest and rejuvenate.
5. Drinking Coffee And Napping
While it may seem counterintuitive, you may want to try supercharging your nap by drinking some coffee before you lie down. Studies have shown that this combination takes advantage of the positive aspects of both activities. The reason why this works so well is due to two chemicals that cause sleepiness. When you’re awake, adenosine builds up in your body and makes you feel tired. When you drink coffee, caffeine will block the ability of adenosine to negatively affect your brain. Typically, this really starts to kick in after about 15 to 20 minutes. By taking a 20 to 30-minute power nap after drinking coffee, you should have an improvement in executive function, reaction time and cognitive ability when you wake up.
6. Knowing Your Sleeping Patterns
If you’re like most people, you probably feel like you need to take a nap between 1 pm and 4 pm. This is going to depend on your sleeping patterns and the circadian rhythm of your body. Humans really weren’t designed to stay awake for 16 hours and then sleep for eight hours. After about seven hours of being awake, the body needs to take a break. That’s why you may feel more tired in the early afternoon. If you time your power nap when it’s best for your body, you’ll boost your energy right when you need it the most.
Winston Churchill knew the secret to productivity. He treated his nap time like it was an important meeting. Even if you aren’t able to totally shut your eyes and sleep for a short amount of time, take a break that totally relaxes your mind so that you can be as productive as possible.