Recent studies suggest that taking regular short breaks leads to better attention and focus on a given task in the long run. This includes taking regular coffee breaks in the morning and in the afternoon, or properly recharging the body and mind’s batteries by staying for a weekend at somewhere like a Fredericksburg Bed and Breakfast.
The science behind attention loss
It is a common response that after a length of time focusing on a subject, you begin to lose interest or lose your attention to it. For students, we catch them daydreaming while in class or yawning while reading a book. This phenomenon also occurs in sensory perception where the brain gradually gets used to a stimulus and stops registering it. For example, when you get your hair cut with fringes covering your forehead. If this is the first time you do it, you’re likely to always notice the way your hair covers your eyes. However, after a few days to a week, you’ll no longer notice it.
Constant stimulation is deemed by our brains as unimportant, eventually erasing them from our awareness. This is the science behind attention loss and depreciation of work progress. The more we do a task, and the longer it takes, the less importance we ascribe to it. Thus, it will be better in the long run to deactivate the focus at short intervals, and reactivate the same, to maintain quality of the work towards the goal.
The science of taking breaks
Numerous studies provide an insight to the science of taking breaks. Studies made in 1987 and 1990 suggest that the quality of work suffers after an hour of continuous focus if there are no short breaks between. Data entry workers will do well to take micro breaks consisting of 20-30 seconds of non-work activity will help improve their accuracy, speed, and general performance. These micro-breaks may include a little music or just closing the eyes and turning away from the screen for 30 seconds, as a 2003 study suggests. A 2001 study also established that scheduled breaks are more beneficial to the worker, than if we let them take breaks when they want to.
Research also provides for the benefits of taking these short breaks. Studies found that having breaks reduces stress and improves mindfulness. This in turn results in greater insight, balance, and clarity, as well as increased well-being and increased energy. Other benefits include improved interpersonal relationships, leadership presence, and greater creativity.
How to take breaks
Taking a short break may mean breaks within the day or within the month, or the year. However, most people have a concept of break that doesn’t really help much. Have you ever had a stressing day at work and to take a break, you decide to look at your Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network for a few minutes? Studies suggest that this can be considered a short break. However, a better option would be to take your eyes off the screen and stand up to do something. You may take a short walk to the coffee station, or a short stroll around the office. Your mind will feel refreshed and active once more, compared to just browsing social media.
It also helps to make the break a social one. For example, after a 90-minute burst of work, take a five-minute break to have a coffee or make small talk with your office mates. Studies also suggest taking a vacation from work at regular times in a year. Working through your vacation days will result in higher possibility of being burnt out. The anticipation of an upcoming trip will enhance the well-being of the worker, and the much needed break will refresh focus and enthusiasm.