Do You Need a Productivity Break?

I’ve written before about paying attention to your productivity time preferences, and how knowing when you’re most productive and using those hours for your most important work can yield increased productivity.  But sometimes, even though we’ve factored in our time preferences, we still find ourselves in need of a productivity boost.  That happened to me this morning.

It’s been a busy month at our house with out of town guests and kids returning home from college, going back to college, or starting summer jobs.  This time of transition at Chez Sharb has impacted my time to write and I’ve only squeaked out one blog entry.  This morning I committed to spending four hours in my office working on upcoming postings.  The words flowed freely at first,  but within 30 minutes I found myself getting restless and noticed my mind beginning to wander.  I’m guessing this is not unlike what many of you experience when sitting down to work for longer periods of time or on bigger projects (especially if you have ADHD.)

Someone who doesn’t know me might suggest I take a coffee break and let that jolt of caffeine kickstart me, but for medical reasons I can’t consume caffeine.  Someone else might suggest a short meditation break or going for a walk to help quiet my mind, and I admit that some days those work.   What seems to work best for me lately though are what I’ve termed productivity breaks.

The goal of a productivity break is to stimulate the brain (sort of like that jolt of caffeine) AND accomplish something at the same time.  This feeling of accomplishment is key because when working on a longer project, like writing postings, accomplishment or completion is something I might not experience for a long period of time.  I also know that without a productivity break, I’m likely to stimulate my brain in another, much less productive way such as checking email, checking out what’s happening on Twitter, or even worse, heading down the rabbit hole of the worldwide web in search of something “interesting.”

A past coaching client of mine unloaded the dishwasher when he needed to feel more productive.  That is one of my favorite go to productivity breaks, too.  The key to a good productivity break is that it’s short in duration and has a distinct beginning and end.  These factors are important, because otherwise your productivity break might turn into something that ends up distracting you from your work instead of just giving you a short break from it.  This is why checking your email is NOT a good productivity break.  If your inbox is like mine, there are plenty of distractions in there just waiting to hijack your time.

Some examples of productivity breaks for those of you who work in or from your home:

  • Folding and putting away a load of laundry
  • Unloading the dishwasher
  • Ironing a few articles of clothing
  • Hanging a couple of pictures (like those in the above photo I hung this morning during one of my breaks)
  • Shredding a stack of papers

If you work in an office setting I encourage you to keep a list of productivity break tasks, such as delivering something to a different area of the building, taking paper to the shredder, making copies, filing documents, etc.

Productivity breaks have helped me get more done in less time, like writing this post, hanging pictures and shredding paper this morning.  In fact, using productivity breaks has become a favorite best practice for me.

Have you used productivity breaks to bolster your productivity? If so, I’d love to hear how?  Do you have a favorite/go to productivity break?  If so, would you consider sharing it?



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