WANT to be more productive? Keep your nose to the grindstone, or your fingers on the keyboard and your eyes on the screen. Because the more time you put in, the more you’ll get done, right?
Wrong. A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity — and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.
I think I’ll go to the gym now.
Mental concentration is similar to a muscle, says John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.
Breaks are great. But I feel guilty taking too many of them.
Breaks can induce guilt because they’re “this little oasis of personal time that we get while we’re selling ourselves to someone else,” Professor Trougakos says. But that’s just the point.
Employees generally need to detach from their work and their work space to recharge their internal resources, he says. Options include walking, reading a book in another room or taking the all-important lunch break, which provides both nutritional and cognitive recharging.