When I wrote about my productive routine in a previous article, I said I'd work for 1.5 hours and take a break 30 minutes. And I'll repeat this sequence four times a day.
In my experiments, I reduced my work hours to 4.5 hours (3 x 1.5-hour slots) and managed to get 40% more work done.
The key to this routine isn't simply sitting at my desk for 1.5 hours each sprint.
The key is 30-minute break.
If I don't rest properly, I'll waste the next 1.5 hours of work because I'm not focused. When I'm not focused, I can't get work done.
So today, I want to share how I take a proper break.
How NOT to take a break
Here are some common ways people take breaks:
- Go for a walk
- Take a shower
- Power nap
- Chat with friends
- Look at Social Media
- Surf internet
- Watch TV
- Eat food
- Stare into space
Everyone has an opinion on how often you should take breaks and what to do during your breaks. But they say different things.
Which is true?
I've tried many ideas out there on the internet. Here are some ways I found useful:
- Staring into space with a cup of tea
- Listening to music that recharges me
- Doing 10 pushups
But these methods don't work for me. Even if they did, they would only work for a day or two.
For example, I can go for a walk on Monday. That'll be an effective break. But on Tuesday, the walk wouldn't work. I get stressed up on the walk.
Sometimes I can take a power nap. But on some days, I can't sleep even if I desperately want to.
What I realized was: It's useless following what other people say about taking breaks. You can't pick "one thing" on the list and expect it to work forever.
An effective break
We use different energies for different things we do. Generally, we can say that humans have three basic bodies. When you use a body, you use up their corresponding fuel tank.
- The physical body
- The emotional body
- The intellectual body.
When you take a break, you need to stop consuming the same type of energy you were consuming. Here's an example:
Let's say you go for a run. When you run, you expend physical energy. Your legs get tired. You pant like crazy. When you want to rest, you stop running and walk instead.
When you walk, you give your physical body a chance to recuperate.
See how this works?
If you code, you won't get tired physically because typing into a keyboard doesn't take a lot of physical energy. But you still get tired because you use your brain.
When you use your brain, you deplete the intellectual body's fuel tank. If you want to recover your mental energy, you need to rest your mind.
And sometimes you expend more than one type of energy. You need to recover them all when you take a break.
For example, when I write articles, I consume both emotional and mental energies. Mental energies because I need to think about what I want to convey. Emotional energy because I need to put myself in your shoes. I also need to overcome my fears and doubts when I write.
So when I rest, I need to recover both mental and emotional energies at the same time. I can't, for example, chat with people to recover my energy because chatting with (most) people zaps both mental and emotional energy (for me).
It's not rocket science ya?
This is the reason why you can't pick "one thing" and expect to recharge yourself every time. This is also why you shouldn't listen to anyone else's opinions on taking a break.
Your body knows best. When you expend different types of energy (and in different quantities), you need to rest in a different way.
An effective way to take a break
I found a way that works every time: Listen to your body and do exactly what they tell you.
Sometimes, it means walking farther out to buy bubble tea 🍵 (even though it's unhealthy).
Sometimes, it means bitching about the problem 😈 to a friend .
Sometimes, it means ditching work for the rest of today 😱.
Sometimes, it means taking a walk 🚶 in the park 🌳.
Sometimes, it means working on another project 🛠️.
Sometimes, it means learning something else 📚.
Sometimes, it means chatting with my wife 👱♀️.
Sometimes, it means watching a movie 🎥.
Sometimes, it means sleeping 😴.
The point is, what you think you need isn't always what you need. Pay attention to your body. It tells you what it needs.
Sometimes, it's okay to indulge just a little bit.
The best way to recharge is to listen to what your body wants. Have fun, relax, enjoy, have a good break, and get back to work.