We all know that taking breaks from work (especially computer work or other mentally demanding forms of work) is good for our productivity. It’s not enough just to take a break, though. If you whip out your phone as soon as the time for your break arrives, you’re going to miss out on a lot of benefits.
A new study looked at 414 people and required them to perform a cognitively demanding task (solving anagram puzzles).
Some of the participants completed the task after spending time on their phone during a break, and the others completed the task after taking a break without using their phones.
The participants who used their phones took 19 percent more time to complete the task, and they solved 22 percent fewer problems than the people who did not use their phones.
The researchers conducting the study concluded that using your phone while on your breaks can cause you to feel more mentally drained and can also hinder your accuracy while at work.
If you find yourself going back to work after a break and feeling like you didn’t get much of a chance to recharge, your phone usage might be to blame. Listed below are some alternatives to scrolling that you might want to try to get more out of your breaks:
I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for your overall health and well-being. Meditating during your breaks at work is a great way to start building a meditation practice. It also gives you an opportunity to recharge and feel more at ease before you go back into work.
If the idea of meditating during your break feels overwhelming or unenjoyable, don’t worry. You don’t have to spend your whole break practicing mindfulness.
Try setting a timer for just a couple of minutes (I don’t consider pulling out your phone long enough to set a timer the same as scrolling for an entire 15- or 30-minute period), then close your eyes, sit quietly, and focus on your breath.
It might feel a little awkward at first, but you’ll be surprised at how much more energized and calm it can help you feel.
Talk to Someone IRL
Yep, I went there. What if, instead of zoning out and distracting yourself with your phone for the duration of your break, you actually talked to someone face-to-face?
If you have co-workers with whom you enjoy speaking (I know, not all of us are so lucky) and you have a chance to take a break at the same time as them, why not catch up?
Spending some time connecting with someone one-on-one can work wonders for your mood and energy levels, and most of us could use a mood and/or energy boost before going back into work, right?
Go for a Walk
If you have a sedentary job, there’s a good chance you have a hard time fitting in a lot of steps throughout the day.
Taking a walk during your breaks at work gives you an opportunity to stretch your legs, get out of the office, enjoy the fresh air, and increase your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). It gives you a chance to get away from your annoying co-workers (we all have at least one) for a little while.
You don’t have to walk in silence, either, if that doesn’t appeal to you. Try listening to some calming music while you’re out (I put this in the same category of setting a timer on your phone — I don’t think that taking a minute to choose a song will totally derail the restfulness of your break).
Do a Mini-Workout
If you don’t want to just walk while you’re on a break, why not take the time to fit in a mini-workout? You can do a lot of exercises with just your bodyweight, such as push-ups, squats, and planks.
Give one of my bodyweight-only workouts a try during your break, or spend some time stretching and working on your mobility if you’re not in the mood to break a sweat. There are tons of options for you to choose from!
Put Away the Phone!
Whatever you choose to do during your break, I challenge you to put away your phone while you do it (with the exception of setting a timer or choosing some relaxing music).
We’re so glued to our phones these days, it’s likely going to feel a little weird not scrolling while you’re away from your desk. If you can replace your afternoon scroll with a new habit — perhaps an afternoon stroll — you’ll probably see some impressive benefits in terms of your productivity and work performance.
Give it a try today and see how you feel!