5 Science-Backed Ways Taking a Break Boosts Our Productivity

11/16/2015 08:30 am ET | Updated Nov 16, 2015
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How many times do you sit down to get work done and find yourself "working" and yet getting little completed?

Do you set aside big chunks of time to get work done, only to end up feeling like you've barely made a dent in it? Do you have that one task that always seems to get pushed off to the next day? Do you end your workday feeling drained rather than satisfied with what you've accomplished?

This is a sign that you aren't taking enough breaks -- or aren't taking them effectively. We prize this idea of being busy, and see taking a break or getting distracted as a problem.

In reality, rest and relaxation are tools our bodies and minds are trying desperately to get us to use.

Most of us are aware that taking breaks from physical activity is necessary to recuperate and prevent injuries. Taking breaks in our mental work is equally helpful, and can be a great boost to our productivity as well.

1. Taking a break once an hour increases our work productivity.

Recent studies show that those who give in to some kind of diversion or distraction once an hour perform better than those who just keep at it without a break. After awhile, our brains numb out a bit to the constant stimulation, and we become unable to continuously treat the task as important. Taking a break allows us to come back to the job at hand with renewed energy and sense of purpose.

2. A break can serve as creative fuel.

No matter how much you love your work, we cannot keep creating when we are on empty. Something as simple as a ten minute conversation with a friend, or watching an inspiring video can give us a much needed boost, or point us in a new direction if we've been stuck. It is difficult to see things from a new perspective or find new insights when we come at it the same way all the time. Talking a step away -- literally or figuratively -- might be just what we need to recharge.

3. Physical movement keeps us from being mentally stagnant.

We are not designed to sit around all day. As difficult as being sedentary is on our bodies, it's not helpful for our creativity and productivity either. Getting up for a few minutes and getting our blood flowing and some more oxygen to the brain is a necessary piece of the work day.

4. An afternoon tea break gives us more than a caffeine boost.

The health benefits of tea stem from more than just the antioxidants in it. Taking the time away from your work, as mentioned earlier, is the first step in the right direction. Instead of the immediate gratification of a fast food snack, tea takes time. The process of making and drinking a cup of tea makes us slow down and gives us time for a much needed pause; a small amount of caffeine and hydration are a big help too!

5. Playing hard helps us with working hard.

If you know you typically have an afternoon energy slump, consider a lunchtime workout. Studies have shown that a moderate level of cardio activity can boost creativity and productivity for two hours afterward. Plus, the change of scene and focus may just be the shift you need for your next breakthrough at work.

The next time you feel guilty about taking a break, consider how much more effective it may make you in the long run.