Micro-breaks: Here’s how to use less than 10 minutes to get away from it all
The chat with the co-worker; the 3 pm coffee; the quick evening stroll to the street vendor — they were all micro-breaks. They punctuated the workday, relieved stress, put the to-do lists in perspective and got you out of your chair.
In the new setting of work from home, these micro-breaks have largely vanished, and it’s important to reinstate them.
“While focus is important during the workday, staying focused on one task for too long can start to backfire,” says psychologist Devanshi Jalan. “Our brains are wired to shift focus. The mind naturally wanders when energy levels dip. The body starts to crave movement. Essentially, breaks help ease your body and reboot your brain.”
A well-planned micro-break can do the job. It can be just 2 to 10 minutes long. It can involve making and sipping a cup of tea, doing stretches in a balcony, or just cuddling a pet. In fact, there are only three rules to follow when taking a micro-break: it should be short, intentional and voluntary.
“Ideally for every 30 minutes of stagnation, you should have at least 1 minute of stimulation,” says Jalan. “The formula varies from person to person but you should not go beyond 90 minutes without taking a break. They will in the long run keep you healthier, help you focus better and prevent errors, and stave off burnout.” Here’s how to craft a micro-break well.
It must feel different from work: Two minutes of stretching on a balcony; a brief chat with a friend or even an exchange of text messages; a cup of tea by a window — a good micro-break should look nothing like work, if you want to return to your desk energised. So, ideally, no email, screens or to-do lists. “Shift your focus, in order to focus better,” Jalan says.
Take the break before it’s needed: Don’t wait until you’re feeling snowed-under or just snapped at a loved one. Schedule your breaks as treats you can look forward to, or rewards for reaching small goals.
Keep it short: Don’t let a micro-break stretch into half an hour of Instagram reels on resin art. The idea is to hit refresh, not shut down and restart. Mismanage the breaks and you could end up more harried than you were when you started out.