Teleworking and Fruitful Breaks (2/3)

In my last post, I talked about how I use an extended version of the Pomodoro technique (45 minutes work, 15 minutes rest) to help me focus while teleworking.

In this post, I want to brainstorm how to take fruitful breaks during those 15-minute rest periods.

How can we use our breaks wisely? My current approach: by resting and/or using breaks to take small steps forward. (Side note: none of my ideas are as fun as this guy’s approach to work/breaks: the Animedoro)

#1: Resting – This is what we normally think of when we think of breaks. Focused work is tiring, so it is healthy to give our minds a rest. Resting will look different for different people. My go-to activity is a quick 15-min walk around the block. Other options include: going outside to chat with my wife (who is also teleworking), grabbing a snack, or just lying down and staring at the ceiling.

#2: Taking Small Steps – I’m sure I sound repetitive, but hear me out: breaks are an effective way to consistently take small steps forward. How often do we think: “I wish I could build X habit or learn Y skill, but I can’t find time in my schedule” or “I need more time to tackle this endless list of errands!” On their own, these tasks usually don’t take too much time, but they can feel daunting with all our other responsibilities and commitments, so they get pushed to the backburner. Making time to do a few small tasks during your breaks is a way to consistently make progress in needed areas and reduce stress. A few ideas below for how to do this:

  • Build Healthy Habits – Do a set of pushups or pull-ups. Clean up my workspace. Respond to people’s messages (I am notoriously bad at this). Have a quick spurt of reading or writing.
  • Knock Out Miscellaneous Personal Tasks – Pay your bills or schedule appointments. Do chores around the house. Especially helpful if you’re making big life decisions: planning a wedding, home-buying, etc. with many tasks to stay on top of.
  • Learn Something New – Read that interesting article. Brush up on work knowledge. Check on that all-day cooking project that’s simmering in the oven.

The goal is not to be productive every single moment of the day (i.e. using every break to do personal “work”). Taking time to pace yourself and rest is equally, if not more important. I’d recommend alternating between resting breaks and “taking small steps” breaks.

For some further reading, I recommend checking out this article on deep breaks by writer, Cal Newport.

In the next post, I’ll wrap up this brief series on teleworking with a few thoughts on balance and avoiding pitfalls.


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