How you choose to spend your breaks from work can either make or break your productivity. Work productivity decreases without proper breaks, both for meals and your brain, so today we’re emphasizing the elements of a perfect 15-minute break, which can also stretch to a revitalizing 30-minute break. Perhaps you’ve been taking breaks the wrong way. So, let’s set the stopwatch and see where this break takes us…
Stretch your Legs
Walking is not only healthy for your body, but for your mind. It helps give you peace to process what you’ve been working on while encouraging improved circulation. This is especially vital if you, like most office workers, are sitting in a chair at a desk all day. After reviewing data from over 650,000 adults to observe links between walking and lifespan, Dr. Steven Moore of the National Institute of Health found that “even a low level of physical activity — equivalent to about 10 minutes a day of walking — was associated with a gain of almost two years in life expectancy. High levels of activity — equivalent to about 45 minutes a day of walking — were associated with a gain of four years or more.” Maybe it isn’t the apple a day that keeps the doctor away, so much as the walk to the orchard to pick it. There are also creative cognitive benefits to a walk, as found by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford University, who state that “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”
The simple act of doodling may have earned you detention in your school days, but now research shows it engages an otherwise dormant part of the brain, thereby helping to focus our wandering minds in meetings or when we’re working through something. The Doodle Revolution author and creative consultant Sunni Brown explains that doodling “gets the neurons to fire and expands the mind.” In fact, a study by Jackie Andrade published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, found that doodling has the potential to improve the doodler’s ability to remember information by 29%. Why not embrace this on your break with a few minutes devoted to sketch mindlessly? Just consider ideas and see where they take you. While you’re at it, go all out and stare out the window. These basic things that are usually considered a waste of time may actually encourage brainstorming in your mind. Just be sure to let it remain spontaneous and unplanned to guard against your brain focusing on an anticipated outcome.
In addition to your intake of water throughout your day, snacks can make or break your productivity. Staying hydrated and nourished keeps your brain fueled for the tasks at hand, helping you avoid short-term pitfalls and long-term health concerns. In Christopher Wanjek’s book, Food At Work, the World Health Organization is quoted as stating, “Adequate nourishment can raise national productivity levels by 20%.” On your break, drink a smoothie, eat a high-protein snack, or have a glass of water and a piece of fruit. The ideal is to have a balanced amount of glucose in your system. The Teamwork.com HQ has a full kitchen and snack bar, so breaks can go beyond rushing out for a quick bite, to recharging and invigorating with a dash of team-building fun. If you have the opportunity to include a colleague in your snack or meal break, all the better because not only are you recharging yourself, but you are also building a stronger collaborative relationship through a shared experience.
Engage Your Brain Beyond Work
Several studies draw a strong link between lack of brain stimulation and reduced synaptic connections in the brain. By engaging the mind and challenging it with stimulation and new sensory experiences, the brain and its synapses are engaged. Open up that novel you’ve been reading, or a puzzle book, and escape for a few minutes. You’ll feel like you’ve visited a different world and return to work refreshed. Neurologist David Bennett of Chicago’s Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center believes that engaging your brain may have the added benefit of preventing cognitive decline. Disengaging from work for a few minutes doesn’t mean unplugging your brain entirely, so grab a book or set up a backgammon or chess date with a colleague to engage and keep your synapses firing.
This break is just an idea for you to use as a jumping off point for your own perfect 15-minute break. We’ve found it is an ideal amount of time since it often only takes us 30 minutes to eat lunch – and then what? This is the perfect counterpart to your lunch hour, but can also be used as a standalone break. Only have 10 minutes? Compress the activities by a few minutes each and drop two of them altogether to fit it into a normal afternoon break. The important thing is to focus on recharging your mind and refueling your body so you can keep up with the awesome work you do because your team is counting on you!