We’ve all been there. You put together a nice, neat to-do list with the best intentions of completing every item, but it doesn’t happen. Things come up, minds wander, distractions occur.
Chris Bailey is obsessed with productivity and he’s dedicated a large part of his professional life to it, including a solid year of study on the subject.
Bailey is the author of “The Productivity Project – Accomplishing More By Managing Your Time, Attention and Energy.” His website is packed with fascinating findings on productivity.
There’s tons of good stuff, but one of his simpler sections focuses on the value of taking breaks and using the Pomodoro technique to work more productively in short bursts. The Pomodoro technique is about working for 25 minutes on something and then taking a five minute break.
Here’s what Bailey found when he added more breaks to his workday:
- He was 22% more productive on days where he took frequent breaks
- He had more energy, and didn’t fatigue as quickly when he took frequent breaks
- He had the chance to reflect more and learn more
He found other benefits as well:
- Breaks let you step back from your work and life, to see it from an elevated 10,000 foot perspective.
- Breaks help you rev down your brain, and slow down. This helps you reflect and do better work. According to Carl Honoré, who wrote a book on slowing down, “conventional wisdom tells you that if you slow down you’re roadkill, [but] the opposite turns out to be true. By slowing down at the right moments people find that they do everything better: they eat better, they make love better, they exercise better, they work better, they live better.”
- Breaks give you better ideas. Every seven years Stefan Sagmeister shuts down his New York design studioto take a year-long sabbatical so he can experiment with new designs, and every sabbatical he comes back more inspired than ever. His years off have even made his firm more profitable, even if you account for the year off. Even though Sagmeister takes year-long breaks, I think his results speak strongly for how important breaks are in general.
- Breaks give you time to reflect, which adds meaning to what you do.
- Breaks are preventative. When I first started A Year of Productivity, I only took breaks after I felt tired, fatigued, or exhausted. I think when you’re fatigued or tired, it’s usually too late to salvage your productivity, but breaks prevent you from becoming fatigued and exhausted in the first place.
Breaks prevent you from becoming fatigued and tired, and they help you slow down, step back from your work, reflect, and come up with better ideas. If you want to get more done, taking more breaks is a no-brainer.
Have a great week.
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