A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Pomodoro Technique. It’s simple. You work like your hair’s on fire for 25 minutes, then you take a five minute break.
But what to do on your five minute break? Pee breaks are very important, as are collapsing-on-the-floor-and-staring-at-the-ceiling breaks. But breaks spent checking voicemails or emails, or getting sucked down an internet rabbit hole just don’t cut it. You end up feeling like you didn’t have a break at all. The best kinds of breaks are those that quickly recharge your brain–and also boost other areas of your life. Here are six such breaks:
1) Tabata Break. A “Tabata” is a four-minute interval workout that’s been show to dramatically increase fitness. You pick an exercise (push ups, sit ups, squats, lunges, burpees, dips, pull ups, jump rope, or any thing else that works for you). You do as many reps as you can in good form for 20 seconds. Then you rest 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times. For fun, keep score. Your score is the lowest number of reps you do in. Sounds easy. But it’s surprisingly killer.
THE PAYOFF: Do a Tabatas for 8 of your daily Pomodoro breaks, and at the end of the day, you will have worked out intensely for 40 minutes. During a major time crunch, you can skip the gym and and still maintain (if not improve) your fitness level. This page has a library of videos and ideas for exercises.
2) Meditation Break. Keep it super simple. Five minutes. Eyes closed. Sit up straight. Focus on breath, just watch thoughts float by. That’s it. It’s five minutes, you don’t need a book, a class, or a podcast to get started.
THE PAYOFF: A single meditation break will lower stress, improve your concentration, and help you be more mindful at the task. Two meditation breaks a day will change your life. Over time, meditation can produce lasting changes in your brain can make your brain bigger, strengthen your willpower, and even slow aging.
3) Hydration Break. Have a tall glass of ice cold water with lemon, cup of green tea, or some fresh fruits & veggies.
THE PAYOFF: Hydration and enzymes fuel your brain for continued intense effort. I’ve been replacing my afternoon chocolate and coffee breaks with icy cold water and antioxidant-rich green tea, carrots, jicama, cucumber & celery or apples, berries & pears…and my afternoon headaches and tiredness are all gone.
4) Creativity Break. C.M. Mayo’s got a fantastic website with 365 5-minute writing exercises. A five-minute writing exercise fits perfectly in a Pomo break.
THE PAYOFF: Use one pomodoro a day for a five minute creative writing exercise and you’ll soon have a notebook full of ideas. The quick burst of creativity changes your energy—once your mind is in a more creative state, you may find yourself approaching your work in a fresh new way. Variation: Five minute paintings or sketches.
THE PAYOFF: Sitting in a chair is terrible for your body. That’s not news. Getting up and stretching things out calms the mind and soothes chair-induced agony.
6) Hilarity Break. go watch or read something hilarious or talk to the office comedian. Ask your nieces and nephews for the latest idiotic viral video. Narwhals? The Amazing Horse? Harry Potter? Lonely Island? They get funnier with stress.
THE PAYOFF: It’s been scientifically proven, kids. laughter cures stress.