While it may seem counter-intuitive in the moment, it’s important to remember to occasionally take a break when you have a lot on your plate. After all, a short respite can drastically boost performance. Conversely, pushing yourself without pause is often harmful to productivity, as it increases stress levels, hinders one’s ability to focus and often leads to sub-par work. Next time you find yourself thinking that you have too much to do to grab lunch or step out for a breath of fresh air, consider the following three benefits to breaks:
1. Refreshed Attention Span
Concentrating on a specific task takes a certain amount of energy and mental fortitude. Even if the work is generally engaging, it takes a toll. Over time, fatigue inevitably sets in, further hindering one’s ability to concentrate on the task at hand.
As your attention span falters, it comes more difficult to continue making forward progress without losing momentum. You may also become more distracted or susceptible to various interruptions you could otherwise stave off. As time goes on the impact compounds, and the lack of breaks can drastically impact your productivity.
By taking a break, you are creating an opportunity to reboot your attention span. Stepping away from the task at hand gives your brain a chance to assess and integrate new information that you have been processing, essentially giving yourself a reprieve from the task and giving your brain a chance to take a pause. Then, once your break is over, you will be more cognitively capable, allowing you to move forward more efficiently and with greater ease.
2. Reduce Your Stress Levels
Constantly pushing yourself to perform during every moment of the day inevitably impacts your stress levels. Working under these conditions inhibits your body’s chance to rejuvenate, putting you under even greater pressure. As your performance declines, and the pressure mounts, you may feel that it’s impossible to get your work done if you take a break. This mindset can trigger a whole range of negative emotions, such as frustration, annoyance and sadness, all of which further decrease your performance and productivity.
Taking breaks also gives you a chance to relax your body, which can help reduce feelings of stress. For example, posture and eyesight often suffer in office environments, as the majority of time is spent at a desk in front of a computer. Stepping away gives your eyes a chance to rest and can relieve physical tension in your back and shoulders.
3. Increased Creativity
When staring at a problem for minutes (or hours) on end, finding a solution can become harder. Often, epiphanies occur when you step away from the issue and stop focusing your attention on the challenge. By taking a break, you are creating an opportunity for that spark of creativity to come through.
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