I read an interesting article on the Harvard Business Review Website recently about research that finds that Coffee Breaks Don’t Boost Productivity After All.
Can it really be true that all of the standard thinking that you benefit from regular breaks from work is misleading?
The findings of this report say that you only get the expected benefits if you do something work related.
going outside for fresh air during microbreaks showed no statistical relationship to vitality and fatigue levels. Helping a coworker did, though. The idea seems to be that when you’re in the middle of work, you’ll do better and feel better if you focus just on work.
I live in England and our standard break involves a cup of tea. Wherever you are, you’ll probably have a standard 10 minute break routine. But whether it’s tea, coffee or going for a brisk walk, it could be a good idea to alter your thinking.
Rather than trying to disconnect from work completely and relaxing, how about using your break to think about work in a different way.
Try these steps:
Step 1: Check Your To Do List
Before you leave your desk, check your to-do list. Make a mental note of what you had on your list to do next, as well as a few other items that need to be done soon.
Step 2: Start Your Break
Make a start on your break. Whether that involves putting the kettle on, or going outside, make start, but take a pen and paper with you. Throughout your break, if you think of something to do with work, write it down.
Step 3: Pick a Priority
Whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, or the coffee to brew, think about your list. You’re disconnected from the list itself, you just have it in your head and this can be a great way to concentrate on the things that are the most important.
Once you get away from your desk and think about your work in a different environment you may be able to isolate items on your list that you hadn’t previously prioritized.
Now write down what is your new no.1 priority. It may be the same as it was before you started your break, but it may be something unexpected.
Step 4: Come up with a New Idea
Your brain can do wonderful things and may take you off on a tangent if you put it in the unexpected position of thinking about work in a place that you usually just relax.
So while you enjoy your break, think about work and see if you can come up with something new. It doesn’t have to be a massive project or a new product. In fact it would be ridiculous if you did that every coffee break. It just has to be something new.
One of my recent “tea break new ideas” was to write a post about “tea break new ideas.”
And don’t worry if you can’t think of anything. At least you’ve been thinking about work so your productivity and motivation should remain high.
Step 5: Back to Work
So now you’re refreshed you can get back to work. You’ve got a clear idea about your next priority. Maybe it’s changed from when you left for your break or maybe not. But if not, at least you’ve confirmed that your priorities are correct.
With luck you will also have some sort of new idea written down. You never know, it may be the next big thing.
What are you waiting for?
Following these 5 steps won’t keep you away form work for any longer than a normal coffee break, but should keep you motivated and refreshed, whilst giving you the chance to think about your work in a new way.
So what are you waiting for? Have a tea /coffee break right now!