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What research has been done on this subject? I.e Is it better to work 95% of the time and break for 5% or 70% - 30%? What should you do during your break?

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You're asking three questions here 1) what research is done 2) what should the breakdown be and 3) tell me what to do. The research question is interesting. The other two, I suspect have no actual answers beyond "it depends on yourself and your interests and activities". –  temptar Nov 25 '11 at 10:33
    
The other two could have answers, if enough research was done on the subject. Whether total productivity over time is maximized by 5% or 30% breaks is a reasonable scientific question. –  weronika Nov 27 '11 at 21:11
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3 Answers 3

In my experience, taking a break from work helps in more than a few ways.

  • Keeps your attention levels high (drinking water recommended for breaks). Research has proven we can't focus for too long without our minds wandering off, so frequent short breaks are a way to recharge our attention-bar.

  • Much of knowledge workers' productivity is more related to quality than to quantity. Five minutes of highly focused and motivated work can produce more than half an hour of sitting in the chair forcing yourself into a task. Breaks allow you to refresh and come back for a full burst of energy. Think of cavalry charging an army of infantry. Often the cavalry will disentangle from battle (given the proper support by allied infantry) only to be able to charge again. The burst is so much more effective than stale fighting.

  • If your work involves problem-solving or in any way creativity, a break where you really don't think about work is a great way to zoom out and give your brain perspective. The mind works in wonderful ways, as in finding solutions in our sleep, and this is analogous--distancing your thoughts from work gives it opportunity to analyse it subconsciously in ways you couldn't willingly do.

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OP is asking for evidence of research and not advice. –  temptar Nov 25 '11 at 10:29
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Not exclusively IMO, "What should you do during your break?" seems to a good degree subjective to me. –  Vic Goldfeld Nov 26 '11 at 9:53
    
By the way, congrats on using your network reputation bonus to downvote everyone. Why don't YOU take a go instead of playing karma police? –  Vic Goldfeld Nov 26 '11 at 9:57
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Once upon a time, there were two man chipping wood. The one wanted to do a lot and so he just was chipping. The other man was chipping only 50 min. and then after a 10 min. break again. At the end, the first one saw, that although he did not make any breaks he had less then the other man who did breaks. So he asked him how this can be? "In my breaks I was sharpening my axe".

This means, if you are doing a lot of thinking and reasoning, then take a break and switch to your emotional channel and spend some time there.

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Well, he was sharpening his axe, not lying on the beach sipping orange juice. You could say that the former is called studying (not producing or working) and the latter is called taking a break. –  siamii Nov 20 '11 at 2:07
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No. If you are working you will have to put thought into your work. If it is more or less does not matter. Even if your work is more "body" work, a 10 min break will give your body time to regenerate and a break from thinking gives your head time to order things. You are leaving the "reasoning"-channel and just, yes have to chill 10 min in other than the reasoning channel - your emotional. –  hellectronic Nov 20 '11 at 9:39
    
OP asked for evidence of research, not fables. –  temptar Nov 25 '11 at 10:29
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If you want to take a break from mental work, do something physical. Yoga, Tai Chi and dance moves are perfect. Reading information will on the other hand interfere with your mental work.

If you do physical work and want to take a break, do somethign mental. Read a book.

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OP asked for research evidence not advice. –  temptar Nov 25 '11 at 10:29
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