Are you “at work” right now? If so, reading this blog could help you become more productive when you turn back to your next task – and I swear I’m not just saying that to get you to keep reading. 

Taking breaks is one of the key ways to increase productivity, as counter-intuitive as it might seem. It’s the same with exercising, isn’t it? If you try to do an exercise that’s challenging for you – say, 30 push-ups in a row – you might tire out or hurt yourself by the 20th straight push-up and end up quitting early or getting discouraged. But if you take a break after the first 15, powering through the last 15 is easier. 

It’s the same with work productivity. 

Research backs this up, by the way. Take the study published in 2011 that examined the decisions of 1,112 Israeli judges presiding over parole board hearings. They made favorable rulings about 65 percent of the time, but the average dropped to nearly zero when the judges had been working for several hours straight without breaks. 

After they were given breaks, their favorable rulings returned to around 65 percent. Essentially, the judges were experiencing decision fatigue from making too many decisions without rest in between, so they defaulted to just saying NO to parole requests. Making thoughtful, measured decisions was too hard when they were mentally tired.

Taking a break might also boost your creativity and help you discover solutions to problems.

Researchers from Stanford ran experiments that required participants to complete tests of their creative and cognitive thinking, both while sitting and while walking. People had the highest test scores and most creative ideas while walking outside, and they demonstrated a “residual creative boost” when they sat back down after walking.

I know what some of you might be thinking. “I’d love to take more breaks – but I’m swamped.” Granted, some types of work don’t allow for frequent stops during the day But if you’re resistant to taking breaks just because you think you don’t have time, I want to challenge you to give it a try. Powering through a pile of work isn’t necessarily productive if you’re tired, cranky, antsy or distracted.

So, if you’re looking for ways to increase productivity, give yourself a break – literally:

Even a five- or 10-minute rest period to take a walk

Grab a snack 

Talk to a loved one

These breaks can help you refocus, refuel and recommit so that you’re able to work at your peak performance level when you sit back down.

I talked about the value of taking breaks, among other things, in a recent chat with my friend Mari Ryan, the CEO of Advancing Wellness. Read the transcript of our conversation, or watch it yourself, by clicking here!

And if you’re looking for more ways to increase productivity, you might be the perfect candidate for my Time Matters Boot Camp 90-Day program. During this intensive three-month course, I’ll help you design a time management system that works for your life and your brain, and you’ll get access to my one-of-a-kind accountability tool – among other resources. We’re getting started now so this is your LAST CHANCE to enroll! Click here for more information.

As always, feel free to reach out with questions. In the meantime, I hope you’ll find some time for a break today!

Be well,


Sarah Reiff-Hekking