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07 Feb

Plan your breaks to increase your creativity

Datum: 2024-02-07 09:00
A cup of coffee with a smiley face drawn in the foam on a wooden table.

When we have dif­fi­cult and demand­ing tasks to do, the kind where we need to be cre­ative, some of us tend to dive head­first into the task and emerge from it a few hours lat­er — after fin­ish­ing it com­plete­ly. In best case sce­nar­ios, we feel flow” and time swift­ly flies by, a feel­ing I find almost intoxicating.

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

A bit too intense at times?

But, the question is if this behavior is optimal and preferable. Sure, we get the job done, but when we finish we might very well feel dazed and a little lightheaded. And no wonder - not taking any breaks will eventually drain you. Or, are we right to strike while the iron is hot and work till we drop?

An interesting study indicates that taking breaks regularly is highly recommendable and that it benefits your creativity and efficiency.

The researchers Lu, Akinola, and Mason at Columbia Business School found that the test subjects who switched tasks or took breaks at regular intervals did far better in a creative problem-solving exercise than those who “took five” spontaneously whenever they felt like it. The reason for this difference was, according to the researchers, that by pausing once in a while we reduce the risk of getting stuck in old patterns of thought without realizing it. Let us, therefore, decide beforehand when to take breaks whenever we are working on creatively demanding tasks.

Do this

The next time you need to work on a task that requires both your creativity and concentration, set a timer so that you know when to pause for a few minutes. 

Use the timer on your phone, or for that matter, an app that allows you to flip between working and pausing at regular intervals. 

I use the app Tomato One (OS X) and there are countless similar ones out there - for instance, the neat clock app in Windows.

Easier and better

If you plan and actually take breaks at regular intervals instead of only stopping when you simply do not have any more energy, you will, according to the study mentioned above, get the tasks requiring your creative side done easier and the end result will be of higher quality. 

What is being on point and alert when doing something creative worth to you? Well, only you can be the judge of that, but speaking for myself, this is a trick I will try - especially since it gives me a good, valid reason to take a few minutes and simply rest.

What is your way?

What are your thoughts on taking breaks? Do you have a strategy for weaving rest into your tight schedule that works for you? It is an important question many are looking for an answer to, so feel free to email me and share what's your way.

(By the way, when you take a break, make it a real one.)

You can get more tips like this - easily and free

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If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.

Yes, I want more tips!