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I understand there comes a point where you can be so fatigued/stressed/distracted that continuing to work on a project will be less productive than if you were to step away to do something else.

Simply put, what is the best possible way to select a point to pause working to maintain optimal productivity?

In my personal experience I seem to have several "stages" of productivity loss. At first I notice my eyes strain, or a wave of fatigue coming on. If I continue to push through the issue may resolve itself. But, if the issues do not resolve I tend to have attention issues ("Maybe I should check my email?" or "I should call/check up on my family.."). In my third stage I notice an intense drop in productivity, often times working at half to one-quarter speed. If by some chance i'm still pushing through the final stage is me hitting the productivity wall - repeating the same actions over and over without noticing (essentially 0 productivity).

I'm worried if I stop working at the slightest notice of productivity loss that will instead lead to greater productivity loss.. how can I help find my "sweet spot" to pausing and refreshing myself?

Thanks in advance.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Take a break on a schedule. You need the break before you feel the effects of exhaustion. If you reach the first stage you described anyway (even after taking breaks), stop then. When you reach the stage where you are working at one half speed, you are actively harming your project and that is when more (And generally worse) mistakes are made.

It is a scientific fact that tired workers make more mistakes and that it takes longer to do a project when you work more than a normal 8-hour workday due to the increased mistakes and loss of productivity. If you are doing this regularly enough to be asking this question, you need to re-evaluate your job and or your lifestyle.

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Pre-emptive breaks hadn't even crossed my mind. Thanks HLGEM – pblock May 3 '13 at 17:32

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