Want To Get More Done? Take a Break!


We work longer hours, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are getting more done.  Brain science suggests that longer hours don’t necessarily mean greater output.

These same studies have shown that taking tiny breaks throughout the day yields huge results as far as productivity is concerned.  Since I am a musician, I refer to studies on deliberate practice as my means of finding evidence in this regard.

I take breaks every hour as I work. Usually I take a 30 second break every 8 minutes, and a 10 minute break every 50 minutes. Sometimes I walk around outside of my office, talk with a colleague, or get a drink of water.  However, these breaks aren’t mindless activities. It’s during these 10 minute breaks that our brains truly allow ideas to flow through them.

I’ve found that if I do tasks like cleaning up, walking, or sitting with my eyes closed, it gives my mind a chance to unwind and to start thinking outside of the box. It’s during these times that I can solve issues that I’ve been working on for the previous 50 minutes. Removing yourself from the situation tends to give your mind an opportunity to solve problems. Your brain gets a chance to “re-boot”, as it were.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review points out that top performers in fields ranging from music to science to sports tend to work in approximately 90-minute cycles and then take a break. We are designed to move between spending and renewing energy. This is called “pulsing”, and is the simplest and most immediate way to build breaks into your day.

Taking 20 minutes during your lunch break to take a stroll and daydream can yield fantastic results. Think about anything you want besides work; retiring, winning the lottery, writing a book, whatever. By engaging in these “daydream walks”, you are allowing new thoughts to flow into your brain and engaging your creativity in the process.

I’ve come up with some of my best ideas not while working, but while running, doing housework, driving, anywhere but sitting in front of the computer. The key is to collect your thoughts constantly. If you can capitalize on these break times, you’ll work through many problems in tiny bits of time that would have taken longer otherwise. You will probably come up with some unique ideas, too!

Here are a few “break-reminder” utilities that will help you take breaks during the day:


Scirocco Take a Break

Healthy Hints


Workrave (this one is my favorite)


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