One individual works hard and takes breaks in a competition to cut down the most trees in one day using crosscut saws, while the other takes a 10-minute break every 90 minutes. The winner is determined by their activities during the breaks. The individual who spends their time scrolling through their social media feeds may win, but the one who takes time to relax, refuel, and sharpen their saw is more likely to win. This metaphor is based on the fable of the woodcutter by Steven Covey.

A meta-analysis of 22 research published in 2022 discovered that “micro-breaks” (27 seconds) can raise vigour, minimise weariness, and improve performance, especially for jobs requiring little cognitive strain. The 10-minute break is more useful, especially for “highly depleting” tasks.

Due to “blame” ultradian cycles, and biological patterns rooted in our DNA, our brains can only focus for roughly 90 minutes. These rhythms are similar to circadian rhythms, in which the body and brain consume oxygen, glucose, and energy when performing tasks that require persistent activity. However, this causes the accumulation of by-products such as weariness, metabolic waste, and working memory, which can lead to a deterioration in mental and physical performance when we enter the ultradian trough. This can lead to feelings of disengagement, boredom, and tiredness, making breaks necessary to sustain peak performance.

According to the researchers, taking a mental break from social media can assist in recharging brain resources. Reading, listening to music, closing your eyes, or viewing short movie clips can boost recovery and performance while also giving physical recharge. Scrolling through social media feeds, on the other hand, continues to deplete cognitive resources.

Another strategy is taking pauses for fun activities is more useful than using them productively. Micro-breaks at work can result in lower well-being, poor sleep quality, and an increase in negative mood. If you can’t stop grinding, use breaks to sharpen your mental and physical skills. During breaks, for example, laying hardwood floors with a snack helped refresh and provided a mental boost when returning after each break.

It is critical to plan and be proactive about taking breaks to preserve attention, clarity, creativity, and productivity. Dehydration can occur if you wait until you are mentally weary or thirsty. Plan for 90-minute breaks and determine what to do and what not to do. Your activities during these breaks have a big impact on your overall productivity and focus.


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