Taking Breaks: The Key To Productivity

February 23, 2023
 Taking Breaks: The Key To Productivity

Many people struggle to get everything done in a typical eight-hour workday. Despite working hard and putting in long hours, it can feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish all of the tasks that need to be done. However, there may be a solution to this problem: adopting a nonlinear workday.

A nonlinear workday is a schedule in which the hours worked are not consecutive. Instead of working for eight hours straight, an individual might work for a few hours in the morning, take a break, and then work for a few more hours in the afternoon or evening. Alternatively, they might work for several hours, take a break for personal tasks or exercise, and then return to work.

Muse, a meditation tool provider, recently posted a 2022 Brain Health Report, where they state that people with the highest self-reported brain health scores (memory, focus, sleep, mood, productivity, and creativity) are those who are trying the nonlinear workday.

According to Nadia Kumentas, a doctor of naturopathic medicine and Muse’s vice president of marketing, pushing yourself to work at a time of day that is suboptimal “can create stress that can impact your sleep. All of a sudden, you’ve got a vicious cycle, where you’re then not sleeping well, and your mornings are impacted.”

According to Muse's research, individuals who included regular physical and mental breaks in their daily routine, such as going for a walk, meditating, or socializing with colleagues, had better brain health.

But how does it actually work?

The science behind taking several breaks

Our body has a fixed amount of resources allocated for attention.

These resources are normally spent on self-generated thought since it is the default state of our brain. Meaning, our body is always defaulting to a mind-wandering state (thoughts that aren’t related to the task at hand).

To simplify, let’s say you have 100 neurons that are only used for attention. Your body's natural state is to allocate those 100 neurons to mind wandering.

You now decide you want to focus, so then your brain dedicates those 100 neurons and uses them to be fully focused.

After a while, depending on the task at hand but typically 30-50 minutes, our brain starts taking some of those neurons and starts allocating them to mind wandering. This increases over time, causing very few neurons to be used for focusing and most of the neurons to be used for mind wandering. At this point, it’s very difficult to go back to focusing… After all, all of your attention neurons are being used for mind wandering.

The solution? You probably guessed it, a break! In fact, most productive people take many breaks, like going for a walk, talking to a co-worker, or having a snack. These breaks are important in order to reset your mind. After a 5-15 min break, your body is ready once again to allocate 100% of those 100 neurons back into focus.

So how does EMOTAI apply this science to its exercises?

EMOTAI can tell how much of your brain is being dedicated to focusing and to mind wandering. Thanks to our predictive algorithms, we know when you’ve reached a point where your mind is wandering more than it is focusing and we suggest a break. This means that you know when to take your smart breaks which will allow you to stay in high-focus mode for longer periods of time.

Studies show, by doing smart breaks and staying in the flow (high focus mode), you can accomplish a task up to twice as fast!

Are you convinced already? Of course, taking several breaks and having a nonlinear workday is not for everyone. Some individuals may prefer the structure of a traditional eight-hour workday, while others may not have the flexibility in their job to adopt this type of schedule. However, if you have the freedom to try a nonlinear workday, it may be worth experimenting to see if it can help you get more done and achieve a better work-life balance.

If you decide to try a nonlinear workday, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s important to set boundaries and communicate your schedule to colleagues and clients. Make it clear when you will be available for work and when you will be taking breaks. Additionally, be sure to take breaks that are truly restorative. Instead of simply scrolling through social media, take a walk outside or practice meditation to recharge your batteries.

In conclusion, a nonlinear workday can be a powerful tool for improving productivity and work-life balance. By breaking up your workday into smaller chunks and taking breaks throughout the day, you can maintain focus, be more productive and reduce the risk of burnout. If you have the flexibility to try a nonlinear workday, it may be worth considering as a way to get more done and achieve a better quality of life.

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