It sounds simple enough, but we all know how difficult it can be to drag ourselves away from our desks during the work day. Since we’re not surrounded by colleagues heading out for lunch or coffee, and we all have a lot of work on, it can be easy to forget to take breaks. We take up a task, get stuck into it, and before we know it, we’ve missed lunch time and have just a couple of hours left to get the next couple of items off our task list.
Sitting (or even standing) at your desk all day is bad for your concentration, your posture and, often, your productivity. Even if you take a half-hour to read the news headlines around 1pm, many would say that’s not enough. You actually need to get away from your workstation, stretch your legs, and clear your mind. Here’s how I make sure I get a well-earned break during my work day.
- Plan it. If I’m feeling like my workload isn’t in hand, I’ll struggle to convince myself I have time for an ad hoc break. At the start of each day, I look at what I need to do, and work out when might be a good time to take a break. Perhaps it’ll be between tasks, or when I’ve reached a certain point on a larger task. Perhaps it’ll be at 11 on the dot. Either way, making a time to have a break can be a big help.
- Time it. If I’m really pressed for time, I might time my break. If I’ve decided I deserve half an hour, I’ll take it — but I’ll time it, and set an alarm so I know when it’s time to get back to work. I’ve found that setting the alarm makes it easier for me to switch off from work completely while I’m on that break, probably because I don’t need to have one eye on the clock all the time.
- Make it appealing. If it’s raining outside and there’s nothing much to do while I’m on a break, I may not have much motivation to take it — especially when I’m faced with the usual mountain of work. So I try to make my breaks appealing. Perhaps I’ll go for a run, call a friend, walk to the shop or settle down with a good book. Whatever the case, I make sure I have something I really want to do lined up for that break — even if it’s a powernap!
- Make it your own time. I try not to fall into the trap of spending my lunch hour hanging out the washing or doing the grocery shopping. I think break time should be my time — after all, it would be if I were working on site. So I don’t even look at my email, and I let any work calls go to voicemail (unless there’s some crucial, life-changing call I’m waiting on). Instead, I aim to spend my break doing something I enjoy. Work is always still there when I return to my desk at the break’s end!
- Make the most of it. If my break doesn’t go to plan — the book I settle down to read turns out to be a dud, for example — I try not to just look around forlornly before heading back to work early. It’s important to make the most of a break. If I find myself with more spare time on my hands than I expected, I try to enjoy it, adding that run (or nap!) to my break agenda, rather than cutting it short.
These are the tactics I use to ensure I get a break in my day. What are your secrets?