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.