As a writer, you probably recognize that stretched-out, overheated feeling your brain gets when you’ve been at it just a bit too long. You may be tempted to just power through, knowing that once you get up, you’re likely done for the day. Surprisingly, working without regular breaks can actually decrease your overall productivity. Read on to learn more about how you can utilize well-planned, frequent writing breaks to increase the quality and output of your writing (or whatever other tasks may be at hand).
Tune out the distractions
A focused break is so much more effective when it follows a solid block of work. This means eliminating as many distractions as possible during your writing time. For example, although you can’t always prevent interruptions, stifle the reflex to pick up your phone when it makes noise. You may want to begin keeping your phone in another room (or at least out of reach) while you’re working.
Because writing often involves online research, avoiding distracting websites can be more difficult. As someone with adult ADD, this is an issue I struggle with daily. And I often don’t practice what I preach. (Writing on an extremely old, slow computer that crashes when more than 2 tabs are simultaneously open does help— highly recommend it.) For those of you with better technology, there are dozens of apps available that will keep you from opening certain websites for a prescribed time (as well as remind you to take frequent breaks).
Keep it short—but not too short
If you only allow yourself a quick bathroom break every few hours, you may actually begin to accomplish less over time. Data collected by one computer application found that the most productive employees take, on average, a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes they spend working. Another study found that employees who were reminded to take regular breaks had a 13 percent higher accuracy rate compared to those who didn’t take breaks.
To keep the amount of clock math you’ll need to do to a minimum, you may want to aim for 10- to 15-minute breaks once an hour.
Get away from your desk (or couch) and hydrate
Using at least part of your break to get active has so many benefits. Taking a short walk will improve your circulation and wake up your metabolism (which totally justifies a brownie after a walk to the kitchen.) If you’re working from home, this is also a good excuse to tackle the mountain of laundry that likely awaits you.
After you’ve gotten active, drink a glass or two of water. Dehydration shrinks your brain (which is what causes a dehydration headache), and chronic dehydration can cause cognitive issues similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, you can quickly reverse the mental effects of even chronic dehydration just by rehydrating yourself.
Play a brain game
By periodically redirecting your brain to things other than writing—even something as simple as naming all the colors you see in the room—you’ll avoid the risk of burnout. However, games that require you to compete with others (or yourself) offer the most tangible benefits.
The competition inherent in mastering small tasks or beating a competitor can temporarily increase the levels of dopamine in your brain, which increases your desire to achieve. You may be happy to learn that all the time you’ve “wasted” playing Words With Friends actually increased your mental capacity. Play a competitive game just before you settle back down to work to help you apply your dopamine-fueled motivation to writing.
Check the news
If the ideation struggle is as real for you as it is me, browsing news headlines during your break may be a good way to get some leads, even on the driest of topics. You may want to do this toward the beginning of your breaks so that any ideas you might get have time to percolate subconsciously before you’ve settled back down to writing.
While you don’t have to adopt each of these suggestions for every break you take, you may find that incorporating one or more during each break can, over time, help you increase your productivity—allowing you to sign off sooner, earn some extra cash, or both.
How do you make your breaks effective?
This article was written by one of our writers. The author’s views are entirely their own and may not reflect the views of WritersDomain.