Many psychologists agree that taking breaks from work improves your mood and overall wellbeing AND makes you more productive. And while nothing beats stepping outside to get some fresh air, not everyone has the option to do so. On some days, you’ve got so many tasks to get through that you can barely squeeze in time to grab a bite. This is where microbreaks can come in handy.
What are microbreaks and why should you take more of them? Read on to find out.
What is a “microbreak”?
As its name implies, a microbreak is a short break. Sure, 30-minute breaks are great and all, but when done right, a five-minute break can give you what you need to boost your productivity and keep ticking things off your to-do list. In a recent study from North Carolina State University, researchers found that microbreaks help employees stay engaged in their work.
“A microbreak is, by definition, short,” says Sophia Cho, one of the researchers from NCSU. “But a five-minute break can be golden if you take it at the right time.”
These microbreaks let you take a step back from mentally or physically taxing activities. They can be impromptu or planned, and can be as simple as having a snack, stretching, or even going through your emails.
How do microbreaks help?
When you’re working on something challenging, focus is crucial. But if you’re spending too long on a mentally taxing activity, your energy levels will naturally dip and your attention will tend to falter. Taking short breaks can help you maintain your energy and finish tasks.
“Microbreaks help you manage your energy resources over the course of the day — and that’s particularly beneficial on days when you’re tired,” Cho explains.
So next time you catch yourself taking lots of small breaks during the workday, stop feeling guilty — it’s actually better for your productivity and general wellbeing.
What should you do during microbreaks?
The great thing about microbreaks is that you can do practically anything that lets you take your mind away — even for just a few minutes — from whatever big task you’re currently working on. All you have to remember is that the break has to be short and voluntary. But in case you don’t know what to do with yourself, here are a few good ideas for your microbreaks:
Even when you’re seated, your muscles stay engaged to support your posture. This is why if you stay in one position for hours at a time, your body starts feeling fatigued. It’s a good idea to take frequent breaks to do some light stretching and change positions. Get up from your desk and make yourself a cup of coffee/tea/chocolate/etc — anything, really. The important thing is you avoid staying in one position for too long a time.
Rest your eyes
Sure, you can spend your microbreaks watching K-pop videos or scrolling through Twitter, but you should also be mindful of letting your eyes relax. When you’re working on your computer for extended periods of time, be conscious of the 20/20/20 rule — every 20 minutes you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
With this in mind, you could take your microbreaks as an opportunity to give your eyes a rest. Look outside the window and appreciate the view or attend to simple, relaxing chores around your home, then get back to work.
Have a quick chat with a friend
One study from MIT found that employees that have stronger relationships with each other tend to have better productivity. So go ahead and hit up your favorite colleague to exchange memes / gossip / music recommendations. (Just make sure you’re not distracting them from something urgent, of course.)
Practice breathing exercises
If you can’t seem to relax even when you’re on a break, trying to keep your mind off work, try breathing exercises. Deep breathing can help alleviate anxiety and improve your mood, so just taking a few minutes to do some breathing exercises can make a huge difference to your outlook.
Play something relaxing
Staying chill when your to-do list seems endless is easier said than done, so when you’re feeling especially stressed, try taking a step back and listening to something relaxing to unwind. Research conducted by Spotify and YouGov found that almost 70% of young Filipinos believe that audio can help them focus during work or study. If you’re not sure what to listen to, check out Spotify’s Wellness Hub to find audio that can help improve your mental wellbeing.
Got any other great ideas on how to spend microbreaks? Sound off in the comments!