Why taking breaks will increase your productivity

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Often we listen people saying something like:

“Work more and you will get it”

“It’s just because you don’t work enough”

“Nowadays people are just afraid of working”

Well, sometimes it might be true, some of us are really lazy people and are never willing to do anything, but other times the problem is not the amount of time we spend working, but the way we do our work. I am the kind of person who gives a lot of importance to work and therefore I respect hard workers, but I have also realised that most of the times working more won’t necessary make you successful.

I am sure that these situations are really familiar to you: sometimes a friend of yours doesn’t study that much for an exam and takes a better grade than you or a colleague who doesn’t seem as focuses as you are gets the promotion you were looking forward. You might call these situations bad luck or fate or whatever. In my opinion they are the pale proof of two facts:

  1. What we get is not just the result of what we do now, but is somehow influenced by our background (i.e. if you have been studying hard for 5 years you know how to challenge a hard study session and therefore you will need less time to get ready for an exam compared to someone who is not as used to study as you are);
  1. By spending all of your time working you will not get more, probably you will get less. Our brain and body need rest, it’s just counterproductive to push over our limits;

Do you remember this famous proverb?

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

Keep reading and I will show you the reasons why by just working you will not only become “dull” but also you will drastically drop your productivity.

Working more doesn’t mean doing more

In Western countries we have this idea that every problem can be solved just by working more:

Want to earn more money? Work more.

Want to solve a problem? Work harder.

Want to buy something? Work more.

Want to show that you are better than others? Work more.

But this is not always true. In order to get more things done there are actually two strategies: the first one is to work more (if you manage to do it effectively), the second one is to increase the quality of your working time. Most of the people tend to pick the first choice, as it seems the easiest. The problem is that when you try to increase the hours you spend working your productivity will eventually drop: you think that you are doing a lot more, but that’s not true. There are many studies showing this fact, for example you might want to read this.

I have personally noticed this decrease in productivity, and for sure some of the causes of this phenomenon are the following:

  1. Fatigue. The more we work the more things get harder, the more we try to solve a problem the more it gets unsolvable. When we spend too much time doing our job our mental abilities will necessarily drop and as we lose our freshness we start to be less productive: things that we used to do in 15 minutes takes even half an hour, things that are usually challenging seems impossible and so on. When you are too tired there is no point to keep working on some important project. If you really want to keep doing something use your time for the less important task you have to do, but my suggestion is just to take a break and relax yourself;
  1. Narrow minded approach. If all we do is working and the only thing we think about is our work we will eventually become narrow minded: we will be unable to have a wider perspective and therefore to use our creativity to solve issues and problems. Reflect upon it: what do you do when you work really hard? You just keep doing repetitive actions or you manage to come up with new ways to get your work done? I bet you just put your mind in auto-pilot mode, we all do like this. The secret to get more results is to do the things you do every day in a better way: in order to come up with new ideas you need an open minded attitude and the willingness to try different things. Instead of working more hours I suggest you to try to understand how to work better, this you will get great results, trust me;
  1. The idea of having a lot of time. When you start working and you know that you have to do it for many hours your mind gets a message like this: “I have a lot of time, there is no need to get things done right now”. For sure it happened also to you to manage to get a lot of things done when you had a very short deadline and to just waste time when you thought you had a lot of. It’s all about the mental approach: the idea that you will be working for a lot of time just kills your productivity and as a consequence you will most likely save a lot of time just by setting more challenging deadlines.

Reasons why you should take a break

When I say that you should take breaks I don’t mean that you should continuously interrupt your work to check your social media profile, to read your favourite blog or to do some gossip with your colleagues. All this activities will just kill your productivity even more. If you want to get some results you need to fully focus on your job, there is no use in shifting away your attention every five minutes. The kind of breaks that turn out to be useful are different ones: for example after you have been working a couple of hours on some project you might love to stretch your legs with a little walk (even 2-3 minutes is ok) or to relax with a 5 minutes meditation. Other really useful breaks are evenings and weekends breaks: there are people who continue to work even after dinner or at the weekends. I can understand that in some special circumstances you might have to work some extra-time but this shouldn’t be a routine. All this kind of breaks really help you to keep your motivation high and to do your job at the best, let’s see why:

  1. Refreshment. We need a fresh mind to get through a very tough working day, if you don’t take the time to relax after your job time you will not be able to work effectively the following days. If you work more today you will probably have to work less tomorrow. Work the same amount of time every day and you will be fine;
  1. Wider perspective. By doing different things during our free time and weekends we broaden our perspective. As I already told if you just focus on your work you will lose creativity and end up doing always the same things. By having some interesting hobby or hanging out with other people you prevent yourself to get stuck in “work-only” attitude and therefore develop some creativity and problem solving skills;
  1. Life is not only work. If you just work you might start to think that your working results define your success and your overall happiness. Of course we spend a great part of our lives at work and we should do anything possible to enjoy this time, but at the same time we should never forget that there is much more out there. Try to devote your free time to understand yourself, to appreciate the simple things. And remember to smile more often, there is nothing better you can do.

Your opinion

What do you think about this post? Do you usually take breaks or you prefer to work all the time? Would you like to add anything to my suggestions? Please let me know in the following comments.

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6 thoughts on “Why taking breaks will increase your productivity

  1. I like taking breaks, especially when I do something that takes lots of concentration, I would stop, go and take a cup of warm coffee and a piece of chocolate, sip of it and look at the window! If I don’t take a break I will feel like throwing up! ;))

    Like

  2. I totally agree that you need to take a break from work work work – I leave my work at the office and spend my evenings and weekends doing things that are enjoyable and spending time with loved ones.

    Like

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