All IT contractors can relate to how easy it is to get caught up in a project and let time fly by. You pour back coffee and energy drinks to keep moving towards your end goal and eventually hours have flown by and you haven't left your computer. You may end those days thinking you maximized your productivity, but did you really? Even if you did, was it enough to justify the negative consequences of skipping a break? According to a ton of recent research, you're not doing yourself any favours.
Taking a Break is a Good Thing
Study after study has proven that taking a break throughout your day is indeed a good thing. On top of simply being refreshed physically, when you step away from a task that requires a lot of thinking power, it gives your analytical processing skills a break. When you return, your renewed energy — both mentally and physically — allows you to solve problems faster, which in return, boosts your productivity.
But delivering a better solution to your client shouldn’t be your only motivation to take a break. A pause from work is important to your own well being. Accepting that you should have time away from your desk means you’ll open up more time to exercise and eat properly through your day. You can also run some personal errands and tasks, which will free up your evening, ease a stressed out mind, and maximize work-life balance.
How to Take the Best Breaks
We understand. Taking a break is much easier said than done, especially in the IT industry when you have to deal with emergencies, outages and tight deadlines. IT contractors can’t just get up from your desk and leave… or can you? Keep in mind that you are a contractor, and not an employee — you are entitled to work any hours you please as long as you continue to honour the agreement between you and your client. Here are a few tips to take the most effective breaks:
Fully detach. When you take a break, turn your mind off completely from the task-at-hand and change your train-of-thought.
Move around. This will help with the previous point. Get away from your desk, go outside, and get some exercise.
Be social. Breaks are better with others and the social aspect will help you recharge. Just be careful not to distract your client’s employees.
Avoid all screens. When you go outside to recharge your batteries and get your mind off things, your phone is going to be a hinderance. If you must bring it with you, put it on silence and turn off email alerts.
Take a nap. Research has proven that a quick 20-30 minute nap can have significant health benefits for some people. Meditation is also an option that will clear your mind.
Do something else. Perhaps you don’t want to take a full break. Completing entirely separate, irrelevant tasks will let you stay productive AND temporarily break from your current project.
Take Microbreaks. Often when we think of a break it’s the traditional 1-hour lunch break, but productivity experts also encourage microbreaks throughout the day. For example, 90 minutes on/20 minutes off or 25 minutes on/5 minutes off.
Try any one of these 51 ideas to do when you need a break from The Muse.
Taking breaks isn’t just important at work but everywhere in life. Home DIY projects get done with more care when there are breaks, gamers see more success when they let their mind rest for a few minutes, and resumes are written much more clearly when you review them with a fresh set of eyes. How often do you take a break?