There’s no denying the satisfaction that comes from crossing things off a to-do list as fast as you can without so much as an Instagram break — but the truth is that you’ll actually get more done if you hit pause throughout the day.
According to Keren Eldad, a personal and executive coach and host of the Coached podcast, shifting your focus away from work during business hours can help keep your stress at bay — which, in turn, improves performance. “When you don’t take breaks,” she says, “you run on a battery that is or will get depleted, which means you’ll make stupid mistakes, you’ll be snippy, you’ll be sloppy, and — at the very least — you won’t be half as creative as you would be when you’re rested and connected to the work, versus just ploughing through.”
Plus, leaving your desk can add some fun to your day — especially if you do something you like, such as reading a book, taking a walk, watching TV, or even resting under a tree to get some fresh air. Eldad — who often uses her breaks to meditate — advises doing whatever works for you, as long as your breaks are at least 20 minutes and you take them every two hours (when working an eight- or nine-hour day). “Recovering from the daily grind by taking mini breaks can restore energy and mental resources,” she says.
You’ll feel the benefit of breaks more when they’re planned out and take place at around the same time every day. “Structured rest and play are extraordinarily useful for our creativity and productivity,” Eldad says. “There is a wealth of research that has proven putting breaks on your calendar at consistent times translates to success.”
If you just can’t make time for that many breaks in a single day, it’s better to take one and make it count than to take none at all. And since you always need to eat lunch, the midday meal is an ideal time to step away from whatever you’re doing and recharge for an hour. “I used to eat lunch at my desk,” Eldad admits. “Then I moved to Switzerland and noticed zero percent of my colleagues did that. That’s when I realized: They were doing things right. They seemed more productive than my former American colleagues — and they were happier and more eager to get back to work after lunch.”
Eldad likes to point out that we’re human beings, not human “doings,” As she puts it: “You can’t serve anyone properly, nor do your best, unless you’re serving yourself first,” Eldad says. “Treat yourself well and take breaks, and you’ll see your productivity — and joy — soar.”