Small Breaks Are Crucial to Workday Success

by Chris Curley on June 22, 2012

Taking breaks during your work day is essential to maximizing your productivity, the New York Times reported June 17.

The brainpower you use for concentration is like a muscle, in the sense that it gets fatigued from overwork during the day, says John P. Trougakos, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management.

So, if you really want to be the best worker you can be, you need to take breaks to give your mental processes time to recover.

Research backs Trougakos up. Taking small breaks to surf the web recreationally during the day can lower your levels of mental exhaustion and increase your engagement with work, a study form the National University of Singapore found. Another found that mini breaks might improve your heart health while on the job.

Of course, if you take too many breaks for too long, you may end up procrastinating and becoming less productive. One productivity method, the Pomodoro Technique, builds short 5-minute breaks in between 25-minute chunks of work (and one longer break after every four work sessions) to help ease your mental congestion while staying on task. There are even several iPhone and Android apps for it.

Even if you’re the most type-A, driven person, remember that breaks are not only useful, but necessary, and that working late won’t make you a better or happier employee. So don’t feel guilty about taking a few minutes off.

“Long hours don’t mean good work,” notes James A. Levine, Ph.D., a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. “Highly efficient, productive work is more valuable.”

(Photo © Hipnshoot via Flickr)