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One of the most effective time management and personal effectiveness tools is that of taking frequent breaks throughout the workday. Psychologists have stated that a 15 minute break for every 45 minutes of work keeps your brain working at maximum efficiency. Time management studies have shown that you will get more things done, make less mistakes, and have less stress if you simply take many frequent short breaks. The best way I have found to do this is to set a timer. A great online timer is e.ggtimer.com, though these days I usually use a timer app for my smartphone. The system is to work for 45 to 60 minutes, then take a 15 minute break, then work again for another 45 to 60 minutes, and repeat all day until you're done. When I do this I work in 60 minute bursts. Force yourself to put your head down and WORK for those 60 minutes and don’t do anything else. When the timer goes off, get up and leave your office and do something else for 15 minutes (set another timer if you want). Then get back to work. The most effective breaks are when you actually go outside and take a walk. If the weather is bad, leave your office and go to some other part of the house or building do something else, like read at book, eat some yogurt, watch some TV or YouTube (just for 15 minutes!) or play with your dog. You get the idea. Then get back to work. Sometimes the timer will go off while you’re working and you won’t want to take a break. You’ll be in the flow of work and getting lots of things done. That’s fine! Set it for another 45 or 60 minutes, and keep working. You need a good feel for the times where it really isn't a good idea to take a break because you're being so productive. The point is to be aware that you can take a break when the next work interval is up.
This article was originally published on December 22, 2011