I’d love to do more with my day, but I can’t handle any more stress! Who else thinks like this but finds it hard to achieve?
Believe me, it is possible! With few simple routine changes and the right approach and discipline, it is feasible to get more done without the extra stress and pressure we all feel. You will be surprised of the positive effects that this has on your working life!
After researching 10% of the most productive people in several offices, a study found that the key to increasing efficiency and releasing stress is taking breaks. More productive people have more and better breaks.
In fact, findings suggest that the most productive people are ones that take an average break of 17 minutes, approximately every 52 minutes. During these short breaks, they step away from the office, leave their mobile phones behind and avoid talking about work. Some do light exercises; others take a stroll or have a chat with co-workers about topic irrelevant to work. In short, they relax! The reason these types of employees are more prolific at their job, is because of their ability to organize their day in little sprints of 50 minutes rather than consolidating everything together. This enables them to stay focused and keep a fresh mind. Scientifically, our bodies are not fixed to sit for long periods of time (4-8 hours), and when we do this can be detrimental to our level of engagement with the task at hand. Actually, when we perform repetitive tasks a lot, we start to deal with cognitive boredom and that will restrain our ability to be successful at the job!
Personally, when I work at home, I take little breaks doing various enjoyable and relaxing things. A short 15 minutes break can really make a big difference to my productivity! I grab a guitar and play a tune, listen to some of our bands recordings or play with my dogs. I sometimes jump around the house or try out some new crazy dancing moves. Anything to help me disconnect from work for a bit! In the office I restrain my inner child a bit more and just go for a walk or listen to some relaxing music on my headphones!
- Listen to a guided meditation. There are plenty of 10-15 minute meditations that trigger your creativity, relax muscle tension and take your mind off the work at hand. All you have to do is put on a headset, close your eyes and enjoy peace and tranquility even in the midst of work chaos.
- Share your break with a co-worker. Alone, you might not always have the strength to pull yourself away from the computer, but if you have a friend taking breaks with you, it is much easier to stick with your break routine. In addition, it offers a great opportunity to bond with your colleagues and get to know them better.
- Step outside for a fresh perspective. Leaving a stuffy office and letting you enjoy the warmth of the sunlight, the coolness of a breeze and the freshness spring air can do miracles to your mind and body. You will come back feeling rejuvenated and ready to approach your work with more energy and a fresh perspective. If getting up from your desk to go outside, is not an option, try stretching your body and getting some exercise even while sat at down.
- Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Stand up and walk away from your desk. Find a quiet place, sit down, close your eyes, smile to yourself and take a few deep breaths. Imagine tension, stress and anxiety leaving your body as you breathe out, and peacefulness, positivity and relaxation filling your mind with every breath you take.
- Say NO to tension headaches. Slowly roll your neck to the right noticing a slight tension in your neck muscles. Hold this position for a count of 120 (2 minutes), then turn your head to the opposite side and repeat. You’ll feel warmth and flexibility return to your neck and shoulders.
- Try people gazing. Watching people walking down the street, chatting in a nearby café, and driving by, is meditation in itself. In addition looking outside the window helps to take the strain off the eyes.
- Rock out to some great music. Music is a great mood changer, especially if you allow yourself to let go a bit. Just a few minutes of humming and dancing can put a smile on your face and get your blood moving. Your car can be a good place for this!
- Take a Thumb and Pinkie Brain Break. This is a great break idea if you need a quick distraction from the problem at hand and to get your creative juices flowing:
- – Take your left hand and have your fingers in and your thumb up
– Then take your right hand and put all the fingers in except the pinkie So in other words, your left thumbs up right pinkie out
– Now switch the roles of your hands. And now try doing it faster
– Not as simple as it looked, right?
- Manage your to-do list or unclutter your desk. What can be more satisfying than taking a long hard look at your do-to list and crossing off a few unimportant tasks? Or unclutter your desk, not only is it relaxing, it also helps to activate productive energy flow.
- Eat an apple. S-L-O-W-L-Y. In the middle of a busy day, when you feel rushed, take a 2-3 minute break to eat an apple (or another fruit that you like). Just do it very slowly, notice the flavor, the texture, the freshness. Doing something at a slow pace might feel weird, even annoying at first. But after a few minutes you feel much calmer and less stressed.
- Take a “No Cell-phone Walk”. Leave your cell-phone in the office and head outside for a brisk walk. Shake off apathy and fatigue. Walk even faster, raising your heartbeat and letting the excitement and the sense of freedom re-charge your mind and body.
- Read a magazine or a book. Choose a read that has nothing to do with your area of work or the latest news. Give your brain the pleasure of not thinking, being stressed or making decisions.
- Make animals of the clouds. Let go of the little child inside you playing this children’s game. It helps you tap into your creative potential and distract your mind from upcoming deadlines or customer complaints.
- Do something artistic. Write a short, funny poem and dedicate it to your co-worker. Draw a picture for your kids. Take a few photos of your surroundings. Let your creative side shine!
- Laugh off the tension. You can start by simply saying, “Ha, ha, ha.” and keep repeating it, until you are really laughing. A few minutes of a good belly laugh help to get rid of tension, relax a lot of involuntary muscles and increase blood circulation.
Now there are some rules you need to consider, while taking your break, or you will miss the whole point! What you’re trying to do is really “break” away! This means:
- No social media, mail or “serious stuff”
- No talking about work
- Really relax!!
- Get creative!
This will give both your body and brain the time it needs to get back in top shape, ready for the next sprint. When I’m working on something that I’m really excited about, I sometimes lose track of time and really get consumed in whatever I’m doing! This can go on for hours but my productivity is really high! I am in “the zone”. Only when this happens, I skip breaks and just keep going until I get stuck or grow too tired! The reason I am bringing this up at the end is because it’s important not to view “the break” idea as a hard rule. See it more as a good tactic to help you be more productive but not the only rule or good mode of work! If you’re in “the zone” you don’t need to break up that moment, but be conscious that of fatigue! It can eventually crawl into your work and affect the quality of your work. So take a break when you think you need it! Some of my best work was produced when I am in “the zone”, and on retrospective but I can usually see when I should have taken a break….
Tips, Tricks, Tools
If you would like more inspiration or ideas on things you can do to increase your productivity at work, here is a list of websites and tools to help you out following links:
- Do nothing for 2 minutes here.
- Francesco Cirillo – Pomodor-technique here.
- Focus Booster here.
- Insight Timer here.
I hope this simple productivity tip has inspired you to improve or change your work approach! If you make some amazing creative art stuff on you break, please share!! Don’t miss another helpful productivity tip – 4Ds will help you reclaim your inbox
International Commercial Product Manager at CCV
With a strong/long experience driving large international digital projects and implementations, Nicolas is responsible for the development of our new digital customer platform – MyCCV. With the CCV customer 100% in focus, Nicolas and the development team are working on making it as smooth and easy possible, to be a CCV customer.