Respect Your Working Rhythm and Physical Needs
If you don’t respect your body, it will betray you. You will get sick, groggy, cranky, foggy-brained, forgetful, and easily distracted. To increase your productivity, you need to understand and respect your own working rhythm and your physical needs.
Different time management proponents will give you different types of advice about working rhythms. A very popular method is called the Pomodoro Technique. It’s called that because the technique uses a kitchen timer as part of the process. And you probably have seen those kitchen timers that are red and made in the shape of a tomato. The Italian word for tomato is “pomodoro” and the technique is named for that.
The process starts when you set your kitchen timer for 25 minutes. Eliminate all distractions — no phone, no e-mail, no prancing kittens on Facebook — for those 25 minutes. Work diligently and completely focused for those 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, stop your work and take a break for five minutes. During those five minutes, you should get up and go get a glass of water, take a walk around your office to keep your blood moving, do some stretches, or give yourself a foot massage. In other words, separate yourself from your work routine.
When your five minutes are up, set the timer for another 25 minutes and start the process all over again. After four sets of 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break, take a 20- minute break.
Now, there are people who don’t thrive on the Pomodoro Technique. The frequent interruptions don’t keep those people focused. Instead, they distract them. Some people work better when they use a 90-minute work session followed by a 20-minute break. Some studies have found that the optimum working rhythm consists of a 52-minute work session and a 17-minute break.
To find your own personal best working rhythm, try a few different options. See how they work for you. Then use the one that suits you best. Use it consistently and with laser-like focus.
Whatever work rhythm is most favorable to you, don’t overlook the importance of taking a break. There are lots of reasons to be careful to take breaks. First, you are not a machine. Human bodies function better when they take breaks. In fact, studies have shown that your performance improves when you take frequent breaks.
A second reason to take breaks is that separating yourself from your work helps you to solve problems and to see things differently. How many times have you come back to your work and remembered that you had forgotten something that you needed to do? How many times have you returned to a document that you were working on and seen a typo? Breaks from your work make your work better.
And one more thought on the importance of breaks — when you take a break, have a glass of water. Dehydration can cause fatigue and foggy-thinking. In fact, one study showed that re-hydrating improved brain function by 14%. A lot of people are dehydrated without being aware of it and you may be, too.
So, to improve your productivity, be aware of your personal body rhythms and your own physical needs. Experiment with different work rhythms to determine the best length of time for work and the best length of time for breaks for you. Be sure to take your breaks. They refresh you and improve your performance. And drink plenty of water!