Balance Strategy

What kind of break best recharges energy levels?

One big challenge we all face during the workday is maximizing our energy so that we can work productively for an extended period of time. One of the tips I have written about is to take short breaks throughout the day to refresh your mind and recharge. I have quoted Tony Schwartz and his book Be Excellent at Anything that recommends taking a few minutes away from the computer to stretch your legs, get a glass of water or some other activity that provides a break from work-related stimuli.

Now a research finding has emerged out of Charlotte Fritz’s work at Portland State University that tells a different story. Harvard Business Review Magazine in the May 2012 article “Coffee Breaks Don’t Boost Productivity After All” interviewed Fritz about her findings. In essence what Fritz discovered through a series of studies she conducted is that “breaks that involved work-related tasks appeared to boost energy.”

Fritz states in the interview: “The only time people showed an increase in vitality was after they took short breaks to do work-related things, such as praise a colleague or write-a-to-do-list.”

She also found that microbreaks that were true breaks from work didn’t appear to provide any positive impact on a person’s mental clarity or energy levels.

If Fritz has it right then this provides yet another great reason for mentoring. Taking a scheduled microbreak to help someone with a question or a problem might provide also provide a helpful energy boost.

The question is who has it right? I suggest this is best answered by what works for you in your own practice. Over a few days try out taking short breaks in which you discuss work with a colleague, or write your to do list, or engage in some other work-related activity. Note after each break what kind of impact you experience on your energy levels. Later, try out short breaks in which you take a brief time out from all things work related. What impact do these breaks have on your energy levels?

If you have a moment please email me to let me know what you discover.

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.