A good break will do three things for you:
- Re-energise you just before you de-energise
- Leave the previous task behind
- Get you into the right energy pattern for the next task
~~~ Re-energise before you de-energise ~~~
… and he made it to the finish line, collapsed and died - A bit extreme, hey? But that’s what we often do, in smaller magnitude. Work so hard and long that we fall into a massive energy hole. Once this happens it takes a long time to re-energise.
Working hard is good – Working smart is better. The key to smart re-energising is to do it just before you get tired. Use our energy tracker exercise to find the right times and a smart strategy to re-energise.
~~~ Leave the previous task behind ~~~
Often we move on to a task, but still have the previous task in mind. Conversations with colleagues, reading jokes or watching a short video can help to leave the previous task behind by providing stimulus on something completely different, hence distracting you.
Why didn’t Mohammad Ali have sparring matches in the breaks of his title fights? Doing the same thing in your breaks as during your work periods diminishes the value of the break and doesn’t help to move on. For example, if you are working on a computer, do not browse on the internet during your breaks.
~~~ The right energy pattern for the next task ~~~
Your break does not only have to leave the previous task behind, but has to also put you into the right energy pattern for the next task.
Coming out of a heated meeting and now going to work on a concentrated task? A short walk might help you wind down and put you in the right rhythm for this. Going to work on burning issues next? A small fruit snack can give you the little energy-kick you need.
~~~ Good breaks are about quality, not duration ~~~
Have you rested on the couch and then struggled get up? It can be difficult to get back into the rhythm after a too relaxing break.
Would Mohammad Ali appreciate a 60 minute break between boxing rounds or soccer players a two hour half-time break? No! Because you lose rhythm and momentum.
A counterintuitive way works with minor signs of tiredness: have no break, concentrate and get back into the task. Often this will re-energise and refocus you instantaneously.
A good break is more like a quick pit stop at a Formula 1 race rather than a two hour lunch, it doesn’t need to be long, just good quality.
With these tips in mind, you can now work out the best breaks for yourself. Try different things consciously and observe yourself. In a few weeks time you will be much more break-smart. See the next pages on the longer breaks.