The afternoon is when most of us hit a productivity wall and feel the need for a break, but a new study suggests that it might be better to conserve your energy earlier in the day.
Photo by Evi Christodoulou.
The study, led by Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu, and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, analysed over 900 surveys regarding breaks at work. Breaks were considered to be any formal or informal time during the workday when work-relevant tasks were not required or expected. So think lunches, coffee, socialising with co-workers, and personal email. The results suggested that it's better to break before you've used up your mental resources in order to refresh and actually recuperate some of those resources. Hunter explains to Jordan Rosenfeld at Mental Floss:
We found that workers should take a break mid-morning, before lunch. Morning breaks were the most effective at restoring resources of all breaks across the day... Your mental resources decline throughout the day, so when taking a mid-morning break you're replenishing a small amount of lost resources better as opposed to afternoon, when it's harder to get back to your pre-break state.
Essentially, you're filling up your gas tank before the "E" light comes on. You'll still probably encounter a bit of an afternoon slump, but it may not be nearly as debilitating. It might seem awkward to break when it doesn't feel like you need it, but just might be the adjustment you need to make it through your workday in a productive manner.
Give Me a Better Break: Choosing Workday Break Activities to Maximise Resource Recovery [Journal of Applied Psychology via Mental Floss]