Abundant Optimism

Helping people regain and keep an optimistic outlook in challenging circumstances and improve their creativity, mind, and skills.

Taking Breaks is a Valuable Skill

By Tamara Martfeld

I know many people would not consider taking breaks a skill. However, I also know may people who never take breaks or who have trouble taking a break even when there is ample time to do so. There are several studies out there which show that people are generally more productive when they take breaks. The short rest for the mind and body are beneficial.

When one works without a break the mind tends to act like it is in a rut. Creativity is diminished. The mind stops functioning well. By taking a five-minute break the mind wakes up and works better. At least one study resulted in the recommendation of taking at least a five-minute break each hour. Unfortunately, most of us work in environments where the managers are not so enlightened. This lack of enlightenment can be addressed, at least in the United States.

In most job in the United States it is required that one be allowed to use the restroom. Use the restroom at least once an hour whether or not you need it, and you have your break. You are giving your mind a short break from the work, your eyes a break from any computer usage, and the short walk will help get the blood flowing and stretch out the muscles a bit. According to the studies, you will also be more productive as a result of the break.

Although taking an actual break form the work is the best solution, if your boss does not allow the short breaks even for restroom use, try shifting to another project. Working on a different task will frequently have the same mental effect as taking a real break. Perhaps you can return phone calls or read e-mails. This will enable you to get some of the benefits of a break without taking a break and making the boss angry.

It is a little easier to take breaks from work around the home. Most people do not report to someone regarding yard work, laundry, etc. Simply set a timer for 5-15 minutes and rest. Ideally, when you are at home you can just sit and do nothing. I mentioned above that there are some who cannot take a break even when there is time to do so. These are the people who cannot sit and do nothing for five minutes even at home. The suggestion for these people is to set a timer for one minute and just sit doing nothing and thinking nothing – sort of a one-minute meditation. Once you can do this, set the timer for two minutes and continue this method until you can get up to 15 minutes. Just sitting like this helps relieve any stress being felt, and reducing stress has many benefits on the mind and body. Some state that relieving stress can help one live a longer and healthier life.

However you do it, build your skill for taking breaks. If you are a manager, help your team’s production and health by encouraging breaks and ensuring your staff takes their breaks. If you are one of the people who have already mastered this skill, congratulation!

Have a wonderful week-end and a safe Fourth of July!

PS: Friday starts the fiscal year for the State of California – another official New Year’s Day you can use to start over if you feel you have already failed in this year’s goals. ; )