Pauses are critical to optimal work performance. Here’s how to make the most of those 15 minutes.
I recently saw Daniel Pink speak about his new book “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” and I can’t stop thinking about it. He blew my mind. Pink made me rethink all my beliefs about my work ethic — stuff like working long hours is admirable or that I should be able to strong-arm my afternoon penchant for sleepiness.
The book’s basic premise is that there’s an optimal time during the day to do certain tasks; that humans, by and large, have a rhythm that peaks in the morning, goes into a trough in the afternoon and rebounds in the evening. That sounds about right. What’s more, you should map analytical work to the morning, administrative tasks to the afternoon and creative work to the evening.
And there’s more!
Breaks are critical to productive work performance. I think they shouldn’t be called “breaks” because that implies they are something that interrupts or is outside of work, when it should be considered part of your job.
Here are a few ideas to recharge during a 15-minute break, particularly during the afternoon when energy and focus are lagging.
Get up. Surfing the web to shop for new jeans or read your favorite industry blog isn’t restorative. It’s more important to get out of your office and get some fresh air, in a green space if the weather allows.
Use your tech. Set reminders on your devices to take a 15-minute power walk or to stand and stretch every hour.
Reach out. Call a friend or grab a colleague for a walk or coffee run.
Get creative. Journal, doodle, open your favorite adult coloring book, knit. Using a different part of your brain during your break can result in a fresh perspective.
Pump up the jams. Rock out to the music that motivates you most (it’s OK if it’s cheesy). Dance if it’s appropriate. Heck, knock yourself out with some air guitar.
Power nap. I’m not much of a napper, partly because when I do nap, I’m out for a couple of hours and then wake up groggy. Apparently, that’s not the way to effectively recharge on the job. Turn off the lights, close your eyes and let your mind wander or rest for a few minutes. If you can’t sleep, try meditating.
Get a power snack. Rather than reaching for your favorite chocolate chip cookie, opt for a handful of trail mix, hummus and carrots, nut butter, or a shot of wheat grass juice.
Increase your fluids. Take the opportunity to hydrate with a glass of water or get a caffeinated beverage, which will kick in shortly after you’re back at your desk.