While it’s common knowledge that power breaks are helpful to our work days, planning for certain types of break can be a smarter strategy. Goal-oriented breaks actually help us to tap better ideas and solutions, reduce our stress, increase our productivity, and more. By intentionally selecting the right kind of break, you can make a powerful difference to your mood and achievements. Check out the following power breaks that can benefit your work and life:
Take an Idea Break
As Dorie Clark shares in an article at Harvard Business Review, going for a walk can be powerfully beneficial to strategic thinking and generating fresh ideas. “Walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after,” reveals the Stanford University study she cites in her article, which gave its participants tasks to achieve while walking on a treadmill. Like them, you can draw on the benefits of a walk in order to find creative ways forward and/or solve problems. In fact, as Clark also argues in an article at Duke Corporate Education, that leaders should be praising us for taking strategy breaks, rather than for sitting at our desks until late. Here’s how you can take a break to aid your strategic thinking and boost your creativity:
1. Ask yourself a question before you set off on your walk, or hold a topic in mind.
2. Enable a “creative boost” by letting your mind wander, as you walk.
3. Once you get home, log any ideas you’ve had and note down any new themes or thoughts. You may well have found a creative way forward—even if it isn’t yet obvious to you.
Take a Stress-Busting Break
Dr. Phil Maffetone suggests a five-minute “power technique” for reducing stress and energizing your mind. When you take a power break, “the brain produces powerful alpha waves that can reduce cortisol, our key stress hormone, and balance the autonomic nervous system,” writes Dr. Maffetone, who suggests starting with a 1-2 minute break, so your brain learns to stay in alpha. Here are the steps he suggests:
1. Switch on some “alpha-generating music,” says Dr. Maffetone, which he defines as music you love—perhaps from your youth, or other songs you’ve fallen in love with.
2. Relax, with your hands or crossed arms resting on your upper abdomen, and inhale for 5-7 seconds, before exhaling for the same.
3. Keep doing so for five minutes, without forcing or pushing your breath. Make sure you don’t fall asleep, however, and if you start to do so, it’s time to stop.
This teaches your brain to stay in alpha, which can help you to feel rejuvenated and reduce stress.
Take a Productivity Break
A break doesn’t need to be long in order to be beneficial. For example, take a look at the Pomodoro technique, courtesy of Francesco Cirillo. When the pressure is on because you have close and intense work to do, the Pomodoro technique can help you to power through your work, increase your focus, and cut distractions. What’s more, because it trains your mind, it can lead to increased concentration abilities, over time. Here it is:
1. Using a Pomodoro (or other) timer, work for 25 minutes, then break for just five.
2. Continue, in this vein, until you’ve worked four full 25-minute sessions, then take a break of thirty minutes.
3. Repeat the whole process, as needed.
It may seem counter-productive to take power breaks, but in actuality, they’re essential and smart. Taking time to plan the type of break you need can pay off by deepening your success, increasing your focus, enriching your ideas, and promoting your wellbeing.