Knowing When to Take a Break

There always comes a time in which we not only deserve a break, but we actually need one. In other words, taking a break actually makes us more productive after a certain threshold. You can apply this on both a micro and macro level. For example, taking a break every couple hours by taking a walk or eating, helps energize your body through increased blood flow, centralization of information, and fuel for your body. Taking a break after several days or weeks of working helps our mind categorize information better and allows us to take a step back and see the forest through the trees.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of writing a dissertation because we all want to get it done as quickly as possible. However, at a certain point you can become counter-productive, or at least slow down in your optimal efficiency levels. Think about a car for instance. You can’t run a car on full speed forever or it will overheat. Sure you can go slower and for longer, but every gasoline-driven vehicle must come to a stop to refuel at some point. The same principle applies to us, humans.

So how do you know when to take a break? It really comes down to two ways. You can either stick with one method or you can implement both.
(1) Set a timer for 2 hours when you start working. Once that timer goes off, give yourself no more than 60 seconds to finish your train of thought and then get up and walk away from wherever you’re working. Take at a minimum 5 minutes to walk around and stretch. When you feel hungry, take extra time to eat.
(2) The first method is more methodical and scientific, while this second method is more intuitive. As soon as you start feeling distracted, tired, in pain from sitting, or any major negative effects from working too long, get up and take a break. The reason this method works for some better than the first method is that not everyone’s body and mind works the same way or on the same schedule.

Just remember that taking a break sometimes feels like you’re losing time from working, but in the grand scheme of the time you spend working, you will actually become more efficient and productive.