Take Five: How to Break the Workstation Chain


Do you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day? Trying to balance a personal and professional life can be challenging, especially when your days are filled with projects, deadlines, meetings and the unexpected. Even though it may seem like you can’t afford to take a break, research shows it can be beneficial for your well-being. As it turns out, we should all take five!

According to Alejandro Lleras, University of Illinois psychology professor, prolonged attention to one task actually hinders performance. “From a practical standpoint”, he says, “our research suggests that when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” [1] Studies suggest that taking short, frequent breaks throughout the day is a great way to recharge your body and mind. They can keep us from being unfocused, help us better retain information, help us reevaluate our priorities, and improve overall productivity and alertness. [2]  

One popular time management philosophy that a senior leader introduced to our office is the Pomodoro Technique. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and named after the tomato (“pomodoro” in Italian) shaped kitchen timers, the Pomodoro Technique breaks down tasks into timed intervals that are spaced out by short breaks. Using this method, after working for 25 minutes, you take a 5 minute break then return to your task. After 4 of these sprints, you take a longer break (roughly 15-30 minutes) then you repeat this cycle. There are a number of free Pomodoro timer phone apps as well as websites (such as http://www.marinaratimer.com) that you can use to monitor your time.

These breaks provide a good opportunity to break the workstation chain. Consider taking a walk around the building and spending time outside, grabbing a snack, cup of coffee or eating lunch, talking to a friend or co-worker, reading a book or blog (like TMS’s Talking Edu!), listening to music or simply resting your eyes for a few moments. Performing these or similar mobile activities throughout the day may make you more effective and productive in the long run.

 

[1] https://news.illinois.edu/blog/view/6367/205427

[2] http://news.health.com/2015/09/18/workday-breaks-help-employees-reboot-researchers-say/

 

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