Does your brain wants a break from you?
In today’s fast-paced work culture, it’s common to find oneself struggling to maintain focus and motivation as the day wears on. Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, calls this mid-afternoon slump, and she suggests that the antidote to it is taking a break. According to her, “We can’t expect to use sustained focus and attention for extended periods of time.” Marta Sabariego, an assistant professor at Mount Holyoke College, corroborates this point by highlighting that staying focused requires our brains to burn energy, and as such, it’s crucial to give our minds time to rest and recover.
A 2022 systematic review published in the journal PLoS ONE found that taking short breaks lasting 10 minutes or less reduces mental fatigue and increases vigor. The study also noted that the longer the break, the better the performance boost, especially for tasks that require creativity. Creative thinking requires us to let our thoughts wander, and taking a break is a great way to give our minds the space they need to roam. Dr. Srini Pillay, a psychiatrist and author of “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try,” highlights that the “default mode network” of our brains is active when we’re daydreaming, and it helps retrieve details from our brain’s memories that our logical brain cannot retrieve. This is why some people have their best ideas in the shower.
The urge to check social media or switch between tabs on our computers every few seconds is a fundamental limitation of the human brain. Johann Hari, author of “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention — and How to Think Deeply Again,” suggests that multitasking can reduce creativity, cause fatigue, and increase mistakes. Menial or boring tasks don’t produce the dopamine reward we get when we engage with something interesting, and as such, we may need more frequent breaks when doing these sorts of tasks.
There are many other researchers and productivity experts who have studied the benefits of taking breaks to improve focus and productivity. One such expert is Jim Kwik, a renowned brain coach and author of “Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life.”
Kwik emphasizes the importance of taking breaks for brain health and productivity, stating that “taking breaks is the best way to get more done.” He recommends taking a 5-10 minute break every hour to allow the brain to recharge and refocus.
Other researchers have also studied the benefits of taking breaks throughout the workday. In a study published in the journal Cognition, researchers found that taking brief breaks can help improve memory retention and cognitive processing.
Another study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that taking short breaks throughout the workday can help improve job satisfaction and reduce burnout.
Overall, the research suggests that taking regular breaks throughout the workday can help improve focus, productivity, and overall well-being. Whether it’s taking a short walk, doing some stretching, or simply stepping away from your computer for a few minutes, taking a break can be a powerful way to recharge your brain and improve your performance.
In conclusion, taking breaks is crucial for maintaining focus and creativity at work. The frequency and duration of breaks depend on the individual’s brain and the nature of the work they’re doing. It’s essential to give our minds time to rest and recover, and as Dr. Mark suggests, “It’s the opposite [of muddling through] — You should take a break.”