How to take better breaks to boost your productivity

“68% of people ‘break’ by using social media or streaming video (Netflix, YouTube, etc.)”

Your break is to your productivity as your diet is to your gym routine. And just as all diets are not created equal, neither are all breaks. The reason? A simple psychological phenomena known as vigilance decrement.

Vigilance decrement is a “slowing in reaction times or an increase in error rates” due to “high cognitive resource demands” like hard work or sustained focus.

Simply put, the longer you work the more your focus deteriorates and the less productive you are.

This is why breaks are important. They’re supposed to alleviate your fatigue and recharge your focus so that you can continue to output high performance for maximum efficiency.

Everyone has the ability to do what I do and much beyond. Some of you will and some of you won’t [and if you don’t] it’s because you got in your own way. Warren Buffett

The 3 Rules of Better Breaks

1. It must energize rather than drain you after the break is over. This is different from energizing you during the break.

2. It must have a clearly predefined endpoint.

3. It must exclude external negativity and randomness as much as possible.

Popular Bad Breaks

Your Netflix-induced “good mood” is only temporary — thus breaking rule number one — and will only spur the Bad Break Vigilance Decrement Cycle.

And despite its ubiquity, social media is a Bad Break as well.

Examples of Better Breaks

Read for 15 to 30 Minutes.

An article, a book, a newsletter? It doesn’t matter. Fiction, non-fiction? Whatever! Just make sure that it follows rule number three and is injecting you with positivity (reading posts on Facebook doesn’t count.)

Exercise for 30 to 60 Minutes.

Any type of exercise will do. You can also take a short jog or do some pushups and situps.

Get Outside for 30 Minutes.

Go for a walk around the block. Wander aimlessly.

Einstein, Aristotle, and Beethoven are just a few who were known for this Better Break. Many of them attributed their greatest insights to their walking habit because of its ability to “unlock” their creativity

Do Nothing for 30 Minutes.

Meditate, daydream, get lost in reverie. Let your imagination run wild and clear your head of all stimuli. Einstein, for example, only discovered his theory of relativity when he used this Better Break and surrendered his analytical mind to daydreams.


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