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For as long as I can remember I have punctuated my day with regular ‘thinking breaks’.

I don’t know when I started this habit or how I learned it. I only know that as far back in my working career as I can remember I have stopped mid-morning and mid-afternoon(ish) to switch off by reading or jotting down a few ideas. If I couldn’t manage it for any reason then I’d stop on my way home, in a park, café or on the beach, for 20 to 30 minutes.

When I was younger there was often something slightly furtive about these grabbed respites. They were tainted by a feeling of guilt as if I’d been playing hookey. As I got older though I learned to value these moments away from the coal-face of my daily demands. I learned to use the breaks, to reflect and plan, or to catch up on the backlog of ‘things to read later’ that has been a permanent feature of any desk I’ve ever occupied.

Of course, there have been many days when I have not been able to take these thinking breaks as or when intended. As time went on though I increasingly found that if I neglected this habit for too long, I suffered.

Punctuate your day

I have come to think of this pattern as the punctuation that helps me make sense of my days. One of the key aspects of this habit is that the busier I am, the more important these breaks are and the more they must be protected.

Aim to punctuate your day with at least five short breaks – anything between two and 10 minutes will do it – and it helps to move. Get away from whatever you are doing, breath, and make a conscious effort to change your focus of attention for a few minutes. You’ll find mental and physical energy levels improve, and productivity and creativity will be enhanced as well.

There’s a scientific basis for this if you need one to validate it. It has to do with our rest-activity cycle… and the quaint idea the people are not machines. We are living organisms with rhythms and cycles that are there to help us, if we will just respect them.

Reading

Kate Croston: Short Breaks That Improve Productivity.

Workawesome: The Path to Productivity: Short Hours, More Breaks.

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