The Importance of Taking a Break
Not taking a break is bad for your brain and your productivity. You’ve probably learned this from an unpleasant experience. Maybe you were pushing yourself through many consecutive hours of work, and your brain began to push back. The ideas that were once flowing have now run dry, and tasks that were once easy to do are now becoming increasingly difficult to perform. At this point, you may become frustrated, feeling the need to force yourself to work harder. But that’s counterproductive. What you actually need to do is give your brain (and yourself) a break. In fact, you might need more rest than what you currently get.
Many studies reveal that you work best in increments of 45 minutes, with 15 minutes of rest in between. However, every person is different, so it is important to find out what works best for you. Not only does your brain need rest, but working for 8 hours straight is unhealthy. When you ‘push’ yourself to work hard, it causes your brain to release stress (cortisol), which can lower your immune system.
It might seem like taking a break will decrease the amount of work you’re getting done, but in reality, breaks can help you work better and faster, increasing the amount of work you’re doing in the long-term.
Team members have also been found to perform better on tasks when their focus has been interrupted a couple of times. This is because the brain registers continuous stimulation as unimportant. Eventually the brain erases the task from your awareness. This suggests that if you’re working on a big project, it is best to break up the tasks into smaller chunks, and take rests in between them.
Taking a break is also a good way to get your creativity flowing. If you find yourself stuck on ideas, take a break to work on an unrelated task. Working on the same task for a long period of time causes you to get too close to the issue to find new solutions. When this happens, take a break to do something else so you can return to the task with fresh eyes.
If you’re feeling guilty about stepping away from your work, remember – you’re only your work performance a favour.