5 Ways To Boost Productivity With Intentional Breaks

Raise your hand if you find yourself hitting up social media, daydreaming, or generally wasting your time while you're supposed to be working ??

raise hand

Don't worry, you're not alone! One survey found that 80% of employees waste time at work on non-related tasks. Like playing sudoku, paying bills, catching up with friends? And with the current state of the world, I'd guess that number is even higher!

Truthfully, it's not our fault that we waste this time, the adult attention span lasts for about 20 minutes (we can choose to refocus on the same task after that). It's completely unrealistic to plow through an entire work day fully engaged in work alone. Our brains need breaks!

Instead of trying to force yourself to respond to that email (you know the one you've just read 16 times and you still have no idea what it says), try to take intentional breaks. Breaks that will re-energize you and boost your mood.

5 Steps To Take Intentional Breaks At Work To Boost Productivity:

1. Examine your priorities.

All of the things in your life are not equally important. Somethings mean more to you than others. It's easy to get caught up in all of your responsibilities, and forget what's actually meaningful to you. Take the time to make a list of what gives your life purpose and fuels your soul.

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2. Identify what boosts your mood and energy.

Review your list of priorities and star anything that reinvigorates you! By doing things you enjoy during your break, one study found you're more likely to return to work more energized. Make a list of actions that revitalize you, and support your priorities.

For example: going to yoga, taking a walk or eating lunch outside, Facetiming friends, watching a favorite TV show, reading a book, playing with puppies in a shelter, etc.

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3. Plan ahead.

Even if you have a totally unpredictable daily schedule, there is usually a certain rhythm, if not a set schedule, for your day. For instance, my mornings are almost always slow AF because I'm not running on all cylinders #GimmeAllTheCoffee.

Take a critical look at your week and figure out what times of day you're more prone to lulls? Try to plan a break in those times, rather than just “pushing through” them. For many, mid-morning breaks are more likely to boost your concentration and energy levels compared to mid-afternoon breaks. This might mean going to yoga on your lunch break and packing your gear for the day or scheduling a lunch with a friend.

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4. Don't forget to use small breaks to your advantage.

I guarantee you are taking more 5-15 minute breaks in a given day than you realize. If you don't believe me, track your time in detail for 48 hours. Mark down every task switch you do down to the minute. Every time you get on Instagram, open emails mindlessly, or daydream. I want it all marked down and if you don't find a handful of 5-15 minutes that were mindlessly wasted then you weren't diligent enough.

Use these mini breaks to your advantage! Refer back to your original list of priorities and choose an activity that supports them. For example, developing your spiritual side may be a priority. Use the five minutes to do a meditation or read something that supports your practice.

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5. Remove distractions

I work with my phone in another room so I'm not tempted by it while working. This way when I do choose to take a break, it's intentional; not mindlessly picking up my phone and losing 5 minutes when I didn't mean too. There are also different browser extensions and apps you can install that block access to websites or apps to help you stay on track! 

How do you take more intentional breaks?!

Originally published 10/19/17; Updated 03/19/2020

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38 thoughts on “5 Ways To Boost Productivity With Intentional Breaks”

  1. #2 sounds like a really great idea! It’s easy to do things on a break that leave you feeling even more sluggish. I actually refuse to eat unhealthy food on breaks now because it made working even harder. I’m going to write a list for myself!

  2. All these suggestions are only going to help me perform better! I usually make a to-do list at the start of the day, then redefine it as work piles on, so writing everything down kind of becomes a break.
    Thinking ahead is really much needed too!! 🙂

  3. Yes to all these! I definitely need to take small breaks and get out in the sunshine when I can during the work day. That helps me and my energy, for sure!

  4. Hi Rachel, this reminder comes at just the right time for me! My business has started to get so busy that I am working long days with zero breaks and even into the wee hours of the morning. I need to set some boundaries, priorities and definitely need to schedule breaks. I am going to put break reminders in my phone right now!

  5. Such great tips! Small breaks are SO important! I always find that I do better with getting things done at the last minute too, haha. Not the best way to do things but it forces me to get the job done!

  6. Love these tips! I love taking mini breaks–they are the perfect recharge that I need! A lot of times I will call my Mom or sister and chit chat and unwind and then I am ready to tackle the remainder of my daily tasks!

  7. I need to practice this! I am a multi-tacker, but I get the most work done when I concentrate on one thing (surprise, surprise!) and then take a break! It definitely helps keep me focused.

  8. I’m glad you brought this up as I thought it was just me! When I stare at a computer too long I go CRAZY! I need to get up and walk, talk, eat! I also know that if I hit a certain moment in the afternoon that my creativity is gone. Yet, I also know it comes back strong first thing in the morning – probably because I’ve had a good break and sleep!

  9. I definitely get distracted by my phone so I’ll sometimes turn it off completely or put it in another room to avoid temptation. I like to take study breaks to get fresh air…I find it really revitalizes me!

  10. I always feel bad doing non-work tasks, but honestly I just can’t focus all day on the same thing. I often find myself taking walks, going to find Diet Coke, and taking care of personal things like bills and Instagram haha.

  11. Taking breaks at work is a must for me! I’d go crazy if I just sat at my desk all day and stared at my computer. It always helps to take a quick walk with coworkers or go get a drink/snack! I love your idea of keeping track of break time and seeing how much time is spent on them. I think it’d be really eye-opening for me if I started to do that. I’ll have to try it out.

  12. I used to be SO good at scheduling breaks but lately, I’ve been awful. My breaks turn into naps and then I never can get back into the swing of things after, haha. I know I have a good reason, but I’m hoping to curb the napping so I can be more productive!

  13. I get up every hour or so just to make sure i’m not sitting all day. Breaks are imperative for my productivity, just as they were when I was in college studying. Expecting to work for four hours straight with no breaks or distractions is unrealistic in my opinion.

  14. I always like to plan my day in advance that way I stay focused, but between projects and campaigns I can take mini-breaks! And, I always try to step away from my desk for lunch.

  15. This is really helpful! I feel I should take more breaks during the workday. I do take breaks to stretch and sometimes take a short exercise break. Just a 15 minute walk will leave me feeling refreshed and ready to deal with the rest of the workday.

  16. Been there, done that (I think I’m actually doing it right now)! Thanks for sharing these tips. Planning ahead is something I’m always working on!

  17. God knows I have the attention span of a toothpick, lol! I like the idea of planning ahead & figuring out the best ways to renew your energy!

  18. Elizabeth Johnson

    I love this! With two little ones at home I tend to get side tracked easily. However, when I get my quiet afternoons I like to take short breaks to help keep me on track. I’ll switch over the laundry, that way I get to stretch and feel refreshed when I come back to my desk. Great post!!

  19. I always forget to take intentional breaks. At the same time I know that I have, because I know I would be so much more productive if I did…

  20. I am great at making a list that goes from most important to least important! It’s great when I get everything I need in order!

  21. If I don’t take small breaks, I am definitely unproductive. I think taking that 5 minutes every morning to plan ahead and straighten out my priorities helps me be productive, as well!

  22. Breaks are so important — I’m better at my job when I take a minute away to breathe, get some air, socialize, etc. Your body and brain are not meant to work hours and hours in a row without stopping!

  23. These are great tips! I am all about the pause button at work. I usually take a 10-15 minute break every two hours of working to walk Theo or grab a snack. On the days I try to work through my lulls, I get so much less done!

  24. Logan Elizabeth Abbott

    I used to waste so much time during my workday because I just couldn’t keep focused on my work for a long period of time, but you’re right, I’ve started taking focused breaks during the day to get other, smaller tasks on my to do list done and it really helped! These tips are pretty awesome!

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