Our sense of self-awareness allows us to understand—in real-time—the way we feel and enables us to make adjustments in our behaviour. Conscious leaders know to nuture and practice this sense. However, there is one thing we see over and over again with the executives and managers that we meet. Not many know when it’s time to take a break.
The Art and Science of Taking a Break
Everyone has their own energy patterns. There are times during the day when productivity and motivation is through the roof and there are times during the day when the seconds seem to tick like hours and progress comes to a standstill. It’s important to understand these patterns in yourself, and govern your day accordingly. When are you most awake? When is the best time to make a phone call or write a memo? When do you need to do something mindless like deleting junk mail? And most importantly, when do you need a break? There are regular intervals when your brain and your body just need to relax—and you should let them.
In the front part of the brain sits the prefrontal cortex (PFC), often referred to as the CEO of the brain. Your PFC is responsible for executive function and is required for things like differentiating conflicting thoughts, determining good and bad, better or best, same and different and predicting outcomes or consequences. Things like writing reports, talking on the phone, producing/editing documents, and managing staff or resources are all functions that take place in the PFC, which means the brain’s CEO is likely working very hard and could benefit from taking a break.
How Do You Maintain Your Brain Power All Day Long?
- Plan your breaks: Taking a break is important so it should be planned accordingly. We recommend working for no longer than 90 minutes without a break.
- Break with a friend: A great way to relax your mind is to give yourself some social time. Plan to grab a coffee with a colleague. Going for a walk is great way to get a much-needed dose of fresh air. Also, the water cooler IS there for more than just water.
- Bring a book: We all have that novel or magazine that we’ve been meaning to read. Bring it to work and dedicate yourself to reading a page or two every now and then. Be sure to read something leisurely (no textbooks or briefing notes).
- Leave your desk: Your brain isn’t the only thing that needs a break. Take your eyes off of the computer screen and have your break elsewhere. A change of scenery is also important. Also practice the rule of 3 x 20 (every 20 minutes, focus on something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds),
- Change the way you think about breaks: Taking a break does not mean you are lazy. It is quite the opposite as taking a break actually boosts your efficiency. You need one – for the good of yourself, your staff, your work, and your organization.
- Breathe: Stop, push back from your desk, and close your eyes. Start taking deep breaths into your belly and fill up to your chest. When you think you’re full up, take another big breath of air. Try to do this for 10 HUGE breaths. When you take deep breaths like this you’ll realize how shallow your regular breathing is. Your entire body thrives on oxygen – feed it!
- Break differently so you don't break! Make your time-out a part of your routine, but do different activities each day to keep your breaks fun and enjoyable. Follow us on Facebook to get new ideas daily.
Are you a team leader, manager, or executive? If so, your team needs breaks too. Get to know them better at the water cooler (people trust you more when they know you). Encourage them to take breaks and watch your team’s productivity soar.