It may seem counter-intuitive to busy entrepreneurs, but research shows the best way to improve your productivity is to stop working. While managers have long complained that employees take too many breaks and should be working harder and longer, studies are now showing that breaks hold the key to improved productivity.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, by Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu, associate professors of Management at Baylor University, breaks not only help to prevent burnout, but increase feelings of job satisfaction and helpfulness at work.
But there are right and wrong ways to take a break. Here’s how to get the most out of your break time.
Aim for a mid-morning break
Waiting for that 3pm slump to take your first break isn’t going to yield great results, according to Hunter and Wu. Their research found the best time of day to take a break was mid-morning. “Earlier in the day, we found that you are able to replenish your resources, which we measured as energy, concentration and motivation to get back to work,” says Hunter.
Waiting until lunchtime or mid-afternoon to take a break isn’t as effective as your resources have already been drained and it becomes harder to replenish them later in the day. “It’s like staying hydrated. The more water you drink throughout the day, the better you’ll feel,” says Hunter. “The better strategy is to stay refreshed and renewed throughout the whole day.”
Do something that you like
Sure, getting some fresh air is a great way to spend a break, for some, but if you hate walking, forcing yourself to get out for a walk isn’t the best way to spend your break, according to Hunter and Wu. Their study revealed the best way to enjoy a break is to do an activity that you prefer to do, whether that means calling your mom or catching up on Facebook.
“Preferred activities give most beneficial results in terms of feeling refreshed and rejuvenated,” says Hunter.
There’s no set number of breaks
Although some experts claim breaks work best when taken every hour, Hunter and Wu didn’t find this was necessarily the case. While some individuals thrive off taking one long break, others find their productivity soars when they take frequent small breaks. Finding that sweet spot may take some trial-and-error, but Hunter warns, it’s important not to wait until you’re completely exhausted before taking a break.