Do you always find that it is extremely difficult to focus on a task for a long time? Do you always feel that you are easily distracted and found it challenging to maintain your willpower and motivation to get things done?
If your answer is a yes to the above question, it simply means that you need to take short breaks during the day.
Before we talk about the importance of taking short breaks in the day, let’s talk about how your willpower works and why you often find it difficult to focus, to concentrate, and to be productive at work.
How Our Willpower Works
Our willpower is like a muscle. And similar to our bodies, our willpower can get fatigued when we use it over and over again, without taking any break.
Your willpower can also be illustrated as the battery level on your phone. You fully charged it in the morning. And as you use your phone to send messages, to check email, and to play games, you use the battery power.
As you go through the day, the battery power will decrease and eventually you need to charge it again.
And if you don’t charge it? Well, your phone will be out of battery and you can’t use it any until you recharge it.
This metaphor perfectly describes how our willpower works. In the morning, usually, your willpower is at the peak after a good night sleep. And as you wake up and go through the day, you make decisions, you think, and you use your willpower to act.
Your willpower then slowly depletes. And after some time, when your willpower is low, you find it extremely difficult to concentrate on your work.
You are then easily distracted and you can’t focus on your work.
What if you don’t stop and continue to work and to use your willpower? At a point, you may suffer decision fatigue and you can’t focus at all.
And if you keep going on without taking a break, you may suffer burnout.
If you want to learn more about how your willpower works, I suggest you read this article from James Clear:
Why Taking Short Breaks Are Important
There was a research carried out by Jonathan Levav, the associate professor of business at Columbia University, who did a study on the judicial rulings by Israeli judges made a surprising discovery.
Levav discovered that judges gave more lenient decisions at the start of the day and immediately after a scheduled break in court proceedings such as lunch. You can read the full article on The Guardian.
This is what Levav said, “You are anywhere between two and six times as likely to be released if you’re one of the first three prisoners considered versus the last three prisoners considered.”
In other words, prisoners are more likely to be granted parole early in the day or after a break such as lunch.
When the judges experience decision fatigue and when their willpower is low, they deny more parole requests.
In short, taking breaks are extremely important in order to maintain your productivity, your motivation, and also your willpower.
Here are some great reasons why you should take short breaks during the day:
1. Increased productivity
When you take a short break, you create a diversion that actually helps your brain to perform better.
Working long hours without a breather use up a lot of your mental energy, and you need to recharge.
2. Better emotional health
Staring at your computer screen and sitting the whole day can be bad not just for your physical health but also your emotional health.
Your body is created to move. And when you practice an active lifestyle, you allow better blood flows in your body that makes you healthy, physically and emotionally.
3. Reduced stress
This is obvious, isn’t it? Taking a short break can be a good stress management strategy. When you think too much about the problem or work long hours, you create stress in your body and mind.
And when you take breaks, you reduce the stress by giving your body and mind to relax and recharge.
4. Promotes creativity
You do know that working for long stretches without taking a break can cause exhaustion. And when you are tired, it is difficult to be creative.
When your mind is fresh and you are energetic, your creative juices flow better.
According to this article from Psychology Today, you are the most creative when you are taking breaks. The article also states that if you want to be a better writer, be a frequent walker. When you are stuck with writing ideas, just take a break and go for a walk.
5. Better performance
What is the point to work long hours but you can’t focus and deliver sub-par work? If you want to produce outstanding and quality work, you must make sure you are always in the top form.
And being in the top form requires you to take breaks so that you have the highest willpower, energy, and concentration to perform at your best.
Abraham Lincoln said it well:
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
It is always better to produce 2 hours of great work when you are fully focused than to produce 6 hours of lousy work when you are tired.
So aim for quality, not quantity.
Taking A Short Break can be Life-Changing
Read the book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, written by Daniel Pink, and you will understand how taking a break can change your life.
According to Pink and this research from Science Nordic, recess improves students’ performance.
As what written by Pink, the Danish schoolchildren who take the tests in the afternoon score worse than those who take the tests in the morning.
So, to the education policymakers and principals, the solution is clear, move all the tests to the morning.
However, researchers also discovered that there is an alternative. And that is to introduce a short break of about 20 to 30 minutes before a test.
This is what Pink wrote in his book:
“Taking a test in the afternoon without a break produces scores that are equivalent to spending less time in school each year and having parents with lower income and less education.
But taking the same test after a twenty-minute break leads to scores that are equivalent to students spending three additional weeks in the classroom and having somewhat wealthier and better-educated parents.
And the benefits were the greatest for the lowest-performing student.”
Taking a short break during the day may seem like something small and insignificant, but the effect can be life-changing.
Imagine if you incorporate taking short breaks into your day and you are able to perform better at work.
And if this continues for months and eventually it becomes your habit, guess what will happen to you and your life?
You’d become successful at what you do. You can produce outstanding results when compared to those who did not take short breaks during the day.
This is why Daniel Pink says that taking a short break before the test improves the students’ scores, which lead to a wealthier and better-educated society.
Never underestimate the importance of taking a short break during your day.
Nobody has unlimited willpower and nobody can focus for 8 hours straight. We need to take time off to recharge and relax.
You have to understand that success is a long journey. It is a marathon, not a sprint. And this is why you must schedule for pitstops, rest, and recharge your energy before you make progress again.
Hence, schedule short breaks into your days. Rest to go further, my friend.