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Why you should be taking regular breaks at work

Why you should be taking regular breaks at work

Fab Giovanetti

Here is a shocking statistic for you. Ideally, 30% of your workday should be taken up by breaks. Think of it as the time you can spend recharging yourself between meetings, calls, and answering emails. Reread this, then check your weekly calendar.

On average, most people only allocate 10% of their working day to breaks. We work longer and longer hours, at the detriment of our mental wellbeing. 

Working long hours is a ‘serious health hazard,’ and the situation worsens, a new report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned. A study of workers from 194 countries has found that working 55 hours or more in a week is linked to higher death rates from stress-linked conditions like strokes and heart disease.

In addition to using tools to help you organize your schedule, determine your fitness or encourage concentration-time, how can you fit work breaks into your day? Think about that space as a secret weapon that keeps us alert longer during the day, allowing our energy to be renewed.

We can use different techniques to take more work breaks. Blocking time can be an effective way to plan your day and help you set walking breaks, exercise breaks, and even better limits.

Pomodoro is another time blocking technique related to the idea of consciously getting buffering time by giving yourself a 5-minute break after each task you complete.

Since the Next Web reminded us of why high achievers love the Pomodoro technique, everyone on the internet has been singing the praises of the little Italian tomato. The Pomodoro Technique dictates that you work on a task for 25 minutes, take a break away from your desk, then sit back down and repeat. Depending on the school of thought you follow, you alternate shorter breaks with longer 20-minute breaks. 

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method to optimise your work session – and as such can support remote workers struggling to find a sustainable rhythm (one that also promotes actual mental wellbeing).

It can also be a great way to take the guesswork out and better evaluate your daily workload and when your energy dips. If you’re at your lowest after lunch, everyday priority routine tasks are best suited for this time.

Another simple tip is to spend some time in your inbox – I’ve tested an out of office day, and so far, it has proven to work wonders in setting boundaries and helping me regain concentration.

Plan short work breaks between tasks, especially at the end of your given day, to deal with an occasional emergency. Make an appointment by scheduling the buffer time on your calendar to save it on your schedule.

You can set your working hours and even find the best time to work on your most important project. Still, it can be difficult for some freelancers, employers, and especially business owners to create a firm boundary to end our workday.

There’s always “one last thing” you can do at the top of your to-do list. That tedious little task you somehow forgot, and it only takes “five minutes”. Spoiler alert never lasts more than five minutes. 

In Reclaim Your Time Off, I argue that we have no idea where our time is going these days.

Harvard Business Review says taking a break allows us to take a step back, replenishing our efforts and not running into a task or a project. It also sets better expectations and boundaries. 

“No, I am not constantly on my emails, religiously checking them 24/7.” “Yes, it will take me some time to get back to you and complete the task, since I have a turnaround of XYZ days at the moment.”

So many of my clients struggle with the idea of writing this to colleagues, clients, bosses, and managers. It’s ingrained in our brains, sadly.  You’ll start assessing your workload much more effectively instead of falling into the trap of underestimating how much you can get done in one day.

You’ll get better at setting priorities by deciding consciously for the urgent and important tasks. It is best to schedule the most important tasks right at the beginning and learn how to break down tasks into small bits.