We've talked a lot about our natural need to take breaks, allowing us time to give our brains a mini recharge before moving on to the next task. Many of us do this by checking our Facebook pages, heading over to BuzzFeed or another online time suck. It turns out we've been doing it all wrong.
We should be taking breaks the way power lifters do. They'll lift that one heavy thing, that thing that takes all their energy and muscle strength. When they put it down, they don't simply pick it back up again. They will wait until their muscles are ready. Our brains work much in the same way.
"There is a reason why power lifters take five to six minutes to rest between sets, the energetic system takes that long to replenish properly," said Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. "You have to have an awareness of the fact that just because you're not moving your body doesn't mean that you aren't working."
According to this mindset, you should structure breaks around a rhythm of deep work followed by rest.
"Top performance requires full focus, and sustaining focused attention consumes energy--more technically, your brain exhausts its fuel, glucose," said Daniel Goleman, a psychologist who believes in the notion of emotional intelligence. "Without rest, our brains grow more depleted. The signs of a brain running on empty include, for instance, distractedness, irritability, fatigue, and finding yourself checking Facebook when you should be doing your work."
Therefore, an actual break, the kind that really allows your brain to rest and recharge, requires a complete lack of stimulation. Relax, turn off your brain for a few minutes, take a power nap -- then you'll be ready to take on that next task.