Do you ever start a new project—whether it’s a big presentation at work, volunteer activities, or cleaning out the closets at home—and get so wrapped up in what you’re doing that you power through without taking a breather and without eating?
You might think a “warrior” mentality means attacking your to-do list without coming up for air. Even I can get caught up in this thinking sometimes. But evidence shows that hustling at 110 percent all the time can lead to chronic stress and physical and mental health issues. Hitting the pause button on a frequent basis might actually improve your performance.
One study using a productivity app tracked how employees spent their time and found that the top 10 percent most productive workers weren’t putting in more hours than the rest of the company. In fact, the highest producers took more breaks than their coworkers.
Other research in the journal Cognition found that taking brief breaks from work improves focus and prevents your brain from zoning out while tackling a long-range project.
If you want to be more productive without stressing your system, learn to take mini-breaks and make sure you have nutritious snacks around. In the study by Draugeim Group mentioned above, the most productive employees worked 52 minutes then took a 17-minute break. Even if you don’t have 17 minutes, you can help recharge in as little as a few minutes. Here are five quick ways to refresh your brain so you can come back re-energized and get more done.
- Get your heart pumping. Get up out of your chair and do some old-school jumping jacks, push-ups, or yoga sun salutations.
- Connect with nature. Taking a walk in nature improves attention and performance in the workplace, so head outside for a brisk walk. Plus, exposure to sunlight and fresh air boosts productivity. I like to break up my day by taking my dog for a quick walk. I’m always more energized when we get back and ready to tackle whatever’s on my to-do list with a fresh perspective.
- Take a breather. Close your office door or put on your headphones and zero in on your breathing. I find that even a quickie meditation session can help reset my intentions and increase my focus.
- Look away from your computer and let your mind wander. Research in the journal Science shows this gives your brain’s prefrontal cortex a break from all the complex mental tasks and problem-solving it’s been doing. It also lets ideas that have been simmering in your unconscious mind bubble up to the surface. Sometimes my best ideas come when I’m daydreaming.
- Fuel your body. If you have a tendency to forget to eat when you’re in the middle of a big project or on a tight deadline, keep a few brain-healthy snacks on hand to keep your energy up. Check out brain healthy recipes on my website or try this favorite from the Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook:
Smoked Salmon Coconut Curry Roll-ups
1 teaspoon Vegan mayonnaise (optional)
1 coconut wrap, plain or curry flavor
2 ounces smoked salmon, nitrate-free lox, cold or canned salmon
1 slice of cucumber, sliced lengthwise
¼ avocado, sliced
Spread vegan mayonnaise, if desired, on coconut wrap
Add lox, cucumber, and avocado.
Roll tightly with a fold at the bottom so contents don’t spill.
If necessary, wrap with parchment paper or paper towel for transport.