It was a cold and rainy day as I sat alone in my home office debugging Webpack config errors. No matter what I tried, the errors would not go away. My natural inclination was to "just get through most of them" before eating lunch. But as I fixed errors, more emerged. Do you know what eventually got me through these hang ups?
As my hunger grew stronger, I decided to give in and went to lunch. Being able to step away and temporarily detach my mind from the task at hand was just what I needed to approach this problem with a fresh approach full of new things to try.
Time and time again, the act of taking a break has helped immensely both for getting meaningful work done and for my overall mental state.
My top three activities while taking a break throughout the workday are:
- Take a walk outside if weather isn't too bad.
- Change my surroundings. This could mean working at nearby coffee shop or moving from a desk to a couch. The context switching required to get up and move also helps to refocus.
- Read a book. Bonus points if it is a physical copy or on an e-reader. It's important to not stare at the same screen all day.
Some companies are planning to take this idea a step further and are piloting a four day work week. Personally, I'm really interested to see how the rise of remote/hybrid workplaces as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic affects workers' break frequency. Curious to see if it goes up or down. In the meantime, I'm happy I get to work on a team that facilitates working with purpose, built on a culture that supports transparency, autonomy and inclusivity.
Four-day weeks and hybrid workplaces don't mean less work—just a more honest accounting of what already goes on. The standard work week in the USA is currently 40 hours, but no one is actually productive that entire time. I set up a poll on Twitter to get some data points on this and here's the results.
Remembering to take breaks has helped me to get more done while working fewer hours, and I can support my teammates better by bringing my best self to my work. Maybe it can help you too. What are some of your favorite activities to do when taking a break during the work day?