Power Breaks - A Great ROI

Phil Weaver's picture

To say that we live in a hectic, stressful world is beyond stating the obvious. Competition is fierce and with such high competition for jobs these days, being at your best is essential. However it's been shown recently that being overly focused and obsessive about getting projects done can be entirely counter productive. It may be a bit on the counter-intuitive side and maybe even difficult for those who consider themselves to be very hard workers to do. But stepping back from your work for a few minutes may just get the job done faster and better.

It turns out that humans work best in cycles. The length of the cycle may be determined by the type of work but not only does physical work require short rests to increase productivity but so does mental. Imagine two guys digging a ditch. Anyone who's done this knows that the most efficient way to get the job done is for one guy to pick while the other guy rests and then the other guy shovels while the first guy rests. With this demanding work it turns out that the fastest way to get the job done is cycling work and breaks. If they both went at it at the same time they would both very quickly tire and very little work would get done. But if they set up a work rest sequence then at the end of the day a great deal of work gets done. Well it turns out our minds work much the same way.

We can divide mental work into two categories. Some requires very focused mental attention and some you just have to be there. Both of these types of work can be done far more efficiently if a work pace is set up. The pace may be different for different types of work but all tasks will benefit from micro breaks.

Work that requires a great deal of concentration tends to draw us deeper and deeper into it. As we get more and more involved in the details we tend to lose site of the overall task. Essentially as we get deeper and deeper into the forest it gets harder and harder to see anything other than trees. This can cause us to waste time doing things in what might not be the most efficient manner. Stepping back and getting our mind onto something else or clearing it altogether can get our attention back where it needs to be. Many great minds have instinctively done this. Walking away from the project and doing something else allows our more powerful subconscious mind to find better solutions. Brilliant solutions can simply come to us by removing ourselves from the task at hand for short periods. Thomas Edison was famous for this. He said that his most brilliant solutions were formed when taking a nap or going for a walk.

Work that is less mental in nature but requires accuracy works much the same. For example lets look at someone who has to input numbers into a computer. The task doesn't require a great deal of our higher mental powers but what it does require is focus. Focus is difficult if it's not interesting so for most people focus would tend to wain over time. Workers at tasks like this soon find their mind wandering and studies have shown that over time accuracy quickly dwindles. These same studies have shown that all it takes to revive the accuracy is a short break, especially a short exercise break. As a matter of fact it has been shown that accuracy goes up by about 13% after a short exercise break.

Not only do breaks increase productivity but exercise breaks increase it even more. There's nothing better than getting the blood pumping to enhance mental ability and mood. Many years ago Zig Ziglar announced that five minutes of exercise will boost your productivity by 15 minutes. Turns out he was right on. Recent studies have shown that a short exercise break will have a double net return. Meaning exactly what Zig said. Five minutes of exercise will get you fifteen minutes of productivity so when you take away the five minutes you spent exercising you still gained ten minutes of productivity or double your investment in profit.

So if your really focused on getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Or your working hard crunching numbers and forcing yourself to stay focused you might be doing it the hard way. Stop what your doing. Pump out three minutes of office exercises. Then get back to work. Chances are you'll unleash your creativity and regain your momentum. Plus a little exercise couldn't hurt.

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