At Ethos3, we have a team dedicated to writing presentation storyboards, pitches, and content for other facets of the brand like our blog. This often means juggling a lot of projects with different creative goals in the same day, and is hard to achieve in one sitting. One way to keep productive is selectively and purposefully taking a break; it’s perhaps one of the most important elements of productivity. Sound crazy?

Why It Works

In 2008, a study at the University of Illinois discovered something weird about our brain’s ability to focus on a task. If we spend a long period focusing on one single task, our focus diminishes and our performance suffers. However, if we incorporate a brief diversion (i.e. a break), we are able to increase our focus and improve our results.

We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” – Professor Alejandro Lleras

What to Do

If you don’t have time to take a full lunch or longer, aim for a 15-20 minute break at intervals when you feel your energy draining. One of the best ways to engage your brain and increase endorphins before you return from a break is to exercise. Even if it means walking around the block, a bit of cardio is proven to reduce stress and help you re-focus. Also consider snacking on brain-healthy foods like almonds, avocados, nuts, dark chocolate, and whole grains. If you have a little more time, consider a short nap of about 20 minutes; it’s scientifically proven to help memory and give you a boost. And finally, be sure to spend some of your break outside if possible. Studies have shown that being outdoors reduces stress levels and can help our bodies fully relax.

What to Avoid

If you do decide to take a break, don’t stay on your computer and check Facebook. Get up, change your environment, and let yourself relax fully without distraction. You know what also doesn’t count as a break? Working on another project. Avoid eating over-sugary snacks that will make you tired (like doughnuts) or anything processed and heavy, no matter how delicious they may be.

Next time you tackle a long task, consider talking to a coworker, catching up on some reading, walking to get a coffee, or calling your mom. You will return to work refreshed and will see an improvement in productivity, we promise.

Question: Have you taken a break today?

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