You have a task that requires you to work for long hours. Your friend asks you to do them a favor, and your teacher or boss gives you a new assignment, all on the same day.
You start working non-stop because you can’t waste a second, putting a lot of pressure on yourself.
As a result, you find yourself on the verge of burning out, and you end up not being able to do any of the tasks well.
Does that sound familiar?
Working long hours with no breaks is counterproductive and can lead to burnout.
Here’s why taking breaks is important:
Breaks help us be more mindful
Have you ever been reading something, and for a moment, you felt like you’re reading over and over and comprehending nothing?
According to a study by Michigan University, our attention span drops after 25-30 minutes of work. What that means is, if you start working and you exceed that time, then you won’t be functioning at your optimal state. So to keep that attention span/ focus, you have to take a break every 30 minutes. This technique has a name — it’s called the Pomodoro Technique.
Using this technique, we’re not only regaining our focus but also increasing our mindfulness of the present moment.
How to use it:
- Choose one task only.
- Set a timer for 25-30 minutes. Cut out distractions (if thoughts come in; write them down on paper and get back to them later)
- Start working on the task at hand with intense focus
- After the 25-30 minutes, take 5-10 minutes break
- Repeat the process three more times
- And Tada, you’ve finished one Pomodoro session.
Note: For best results, do 4 Pomodoro at a time.
Breaks help us process information
You might think that our brain is building when we’re actually recalling information or focusing on the work at hand. But that’s not true. Our minds are like muscles. After rigid and focused training in the gym, we rest so that our muscles recover and come back stronger. The magic happens when we rest.
We have two stages of our minds: the focused and the relaxed. The focus is the one when we’re doing the work, and the relaxed is the one when letting the work gets processed into our brain.
Ever wondered why the most brilliant ideas come up when we’re in the shower? It’s because we’re in a relaxed state ( called the alpha state of mind).
Breaks prevent decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is caused by overthinking. We usually start overthinking when having a lot going on in our lives. And that vicious cycle causes us to feel exhausted most of the time.
A good way to tackle this problem is by planning breaks throughout the day. Breaks help you create a space for a clear mind. Ultimately, it’ll slowly minimize your overthinking habits that lead to decision fatigue (equals tiredness and unproductivity).
Breaks prevent eye strain
In the digital age, most people are using screens, either phones, laptops, TV… you name it. We stay for so many hours on the computer or phone screen, without realizing that it’s damaging to our eyes in the long term.
You can buy special glasses to prevent blue light from screens, but if you want a free option, just take a break.
Still, feeling guilty about taking breaks?
If you’re like me, whenever you take a break, you think you’re wasting your time and start feeling guilty about how you wasted time.
Do you feel guilty about working, studying, or doing anything “productive?” Most people don’t!
Then why feel guilty over taking a break which will energize you for the long run?
Every young leader needs to know that they can offer their best support only when they are in their best state. Taking breaks is one of the best ways to give more. So why not take them?