If you are feeling grumpy, tired, or just unsatisfied with your current level of productivity, maybe what you really need is to take a break! Alejandro Lleras at the University of Illinois, conducted a study based on the idea that the brain counts constant stimulus as unimportant. He said:
The brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. For example, most people are not aware of the sensation of clothing touching their skin. The body becomes “habituated” to the feeling and the stimulus no longer registers in any meaningful way in the brain.
James A. Levine, a mayo clinic professor, suggests increasing productivity by breaking up 15 minute intervals of intense work with short bits of fun and rest. He says, “The thought process is not designed to be continuous.”
As I was researching this topic, I came across a few tips for how to make the most of your short breaks:
Humans aren’t meant to sit for hours upon hours at a time. Getting up and walking around, even for a few minutes, can help your circulation flow which subsequently improves productivity.
Turn off the Screen
Although checking your twitter feed or scrolling through personal social media is a tempting and easy way to spend a relaxation break, your mind does not recover efficiently when it is bombarded with the information overload on your smart phone or computer screen. A little bit of social media is fine, but make sure you turn it off at some point. Perhaps lunch break is a good time to try and keep your phone turned off. Go outside, catch some sunshine.
An interesting article from Gallup Business Journal points out that humans are social creatures. A few recent studies have linked business environments with lots of social interaction to increased productivity. So don’t be afraid to take an extra five minutes to strike up a conversation with a colleague.
Take a Nap
According to research quoted by Forbes.com:
The 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.
The take away here is that your brain is a muscle that needs tending to. While short hard bursts of exercise can help build it up, it cannot function at top performance for extended periods of time. Many top grossing companies have recognized the importance of proper breaks. For example, the headquarters of Ben and Jerry’s, AOL, and Zappos all provide napping rooms for their employees. HBO, Nike, Forbes, and Apple offer on-site yoga classes. Google has a food pantry, bowling alley, and napping pods. Zynga (the company that made Cityville and Farmville) offers their employees relaxation lounges. Here at Tapity, we’ll take all this research as justification for our ping pong table.