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In a global economy that rewards strivers, concepts like rest and relaxation can start to take on the sepia tones of old photographs.

Technology has blurred the lines between work life and the spaces where life actually happens. But a healthy balance is one of the most important factors in determining success. Overlong hours can lead to burnout. Building breaks into projects can refresh creativity, create a healthier workforce, and, believe it or not, increase productivity.

Break it down

When approaching the challenge of building rest periods into projects, consider the various types of breaks and their importance. Time off of a day or more allows team members to unplug from the workplace. The extended period allows the mind to refocus. The body can recharge. Intermediate breaks of an hour or more can seem inconsequential, but are just as important as longer vacations and holidays. More than a third of employees eat lunch at their desks, often leading to unhealthy eating and weight gain. Lunch hours reduce tension and boost motivation. Even mini-breaks of five to ten minutes should be peppered throughout the day. Or perhaps even longer: the growing popularity of nap rooms shows more companies are embracing the need for rest and recovery to aid productivity. Just a few minutes every hour or so can provide the respite needed to return to work with a refreshed perspective.

Break from tradition

As counterintuitive as it may seem, taking time off is the best way to get more done. In a world where 12-hour days are celebrated, downtime can be viewed as trivial. But breaks can actually increase brain power, change perspectives, and improve productivity. Mental acuity and creative decision-making are critical to successful projects. Periodic rest and recovery offer a path to these creative states. And too much focus on a single intellectual challenge actually decreases the relaxation and openness needed for creative planning, designing, and problem solving. According to a recent study, creative discoveries occur more often to those who take breaks.

Make or break

Excessive work hours can lead to stress and burnout. In our ongoing quest at self-realization, we can’t forget the importance of down time. Moments of contemplation, of exercise, or even of sleep, keep us healthy, increase creative problem solving, and improve overall productivity. We develop new ideas and solutions when allowed to consciously step back from our work. Suddenly we have time to review—and reframe. The mind clears. The juices begin to recirculate—the capacity to recommit and get real work done.

 

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