It’s been proven again and again that taking breaks during your workday can help you regain focus and be more productive. Yet I think few of us take actual breaks with real downtime. More often, during breaks we do a different kind of work, for our brains at least.
During my breaks I find myself online, usually on Facebook or news websites. This is no kind of break for my brain. Each link presents a decision: do I click on it? Do I pass it by? Studies have shown that we get decision fatigue, and being online presents us with high volumes of rapid-fire decisions.
Once I’ve clicked through to any particular website, there is a visual onslaught of ads and videos among the text, vying for my attention. Again, the decisions: what do I look at? What do I ignore?
Just reading a news article can be a challenge on some websites where ads are embedded within the text. Sometimes I have to search to find where the text picks back up again.
Even without the ads and visual clutter, the content exhausts me. After 30 minutes I find I’ve read a little bit about lots of things: local and international news; my friend’s new cat and the debate on what to name it; the weather forecast and radar images; a friend of a friend’s vacation photos; random videos of dogs in the pool; and so on.
After a “break” like this I find I’m more fatigued than when I started.
I’ve decided to make a point to take actual downtime during my breaks. When the weather’s nice I go sit outside and watch the birds or people go by. I don’t look at my phone or my planner. The point is to let my brain rest. No decisions to make, no input to sort, no content to evaluate. I just go outside and breathe. When I come back to work, I feel refreshed and have more ideas.
What do you do on your “breaks?” Do you look at a screen, go for a walk, talk to a friend, or just sit somewhere and breathe? What makes you feel refreshed?