In last week’s article, I explained why taking regular breaks is an absolute necessity to stay focused. It benefits your health and improves your productivity. It makes you a better employee too. But it is not always easy to fit in breaks in busy schedules. Some of us have days with meetings from morning to evening. And some jobs are really never done. So, how can you fit breaks into a busy schedule? Here are 5 quick tips for you.
1. Fit in Breaks by Walking or Cycling to Work
If you walk or cycle to work you can buy yourself some time. It is refreshing. It’s a moment to relax your mind. And at the same, you get in some much-needed exercise. But what if you can’t walk or cycle to work? Some people purposely park a kilometre away from their office. It gently forces them to walk to the office before they start working and to unwind afterwards while walking back. If you travel by public transport, you can get off one stop earlier. If you start doing this, you will feel refreshed and ready before you start and more relaxed when you’ve finished.
2. Fit in Breaks by Not Eating At Your Desk
Many of us who work from home tend to eat at their desk. But having a snack or lunch at you desk while continuing to stare at your laptop and reply to messages is not taking a break. Instead, get up. Walk away from you desk and do not eat in your workspace. Especially when it comes to lunch it is important to set the time in your calender every day and stick to it. You will give your brain what it needs to unwind while replenishing your energy.
Avoid Sugar Rush
Obviously, it is important to eat healthy while you’re at it. Sugar and fast food will only provide a very short energy spike before making you drowsy and tired. That’s just what happens when you feed your body something it doesn’t actually need. After eating sugary foods, your body produces high doses of insulin to combat the sugar high. In turn, the insulin causes low blood sugar levels, making you feel hungry and fatigued and much less focused mentally. So don’t use your short breaks to eat sugar. It will only make you less productive.
3. Fit in Breaks by Scheduling Shorter Meetings
One reason we spend so much time in meetings is that we schedule them too long. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to the time allotted to it. The same is true for meetings. But the solution to that problem is to simply schedule shorter meetings. In my new workplace, the rule is to not plan 1 hour meetings but stick to 50 minutes. And not half hour meetings, but 20 or 25 minutes. Of course, you have to stick to that schedule after agreeing to it. When you start the meeting, especially if you are in the lead, make sure everyone knows how much time you all have.
Scheduling shorter meetings provides you with a 5 or 10 minute break after each meeting. You have time to get a coffee, walk to another room or briefly plan the next meeting or task ahead. If you don’t need a break yet, it allows you to send that e-mail you promised or finish a quick task you need to do.
4. Encourage Your Colleagues
If you are a manager, promote this smart working principle. Be a leader and set the example by building a culture of smart and efficient working. This will not only benefit your team members personally but also your company’s employee engagement and you as manager as well. So encourage your team to fit in short breaks into their schedule. Explain how this improves their productivity and never give them the impression that you follow their every step of online activity. Giving trust and responsibility boosts respect, loyalty and employee engagement. Allow your team to experiment with other productivity techniques if they like.
If you’re not a manager or work in and old-school company, then maybe you can promote the smarter working culture to higher management. It’s a simple business case to make when you can prove productivity increases and more gets done in a day if people take a proper lunch break, for example. Maybe you can get them on board.
5. Schedule Time Offline
Especially when working from home, it is important to make sure you take time out from your job when working hours are done. Working from home causes the risk of being plugged into work constantly. If possible, try to separate your workspace from your personal space. A home office is best. If that is not possible, at least make sure to get your laptop and other work items out of sight when you’re done. It will help you unwind.
If you’ve been working from home and denying yourself breaks, then start applying these tips. Sure, you won’t be walking or cycling to work. But you can still go outside and walk around your block instead, right? Use the principles outlined in this blog and you will see what difference it makes to you and your work. You will not be disappointed.