Active Breaks – The Secret to Productivity

Have you ever had one of those days where you spend more time starring at the screen or spend lots of time at the coffee machine because you just can’t find your groove?

For years, I thought that in order for me to be successful at work , I had to keep the same patterns as my colleagues. Little did I realise this was completely stifling my ability to think creatively and strategically. 

Until I learnt in order for me to really get in my own head and be as productive and creative as possible, I needed to get out of my own skin.

I used to be the working through the day straight person until I started to recognise how foggy my brain was actually becoming.

I couldn’t get the ideas out of my head because I was stuck physically in one spot. When I travelled be it for business or pleasure, however, I found I would come back brimming with ideas – in fact many of these ideas would turn into some of the best campaign work I have ever done.

It dawned on me earlier today as I went out for a my 20 minute walk break, how much more productive I am when I take regular breaks. I now know if my day is to be truly productive, I need take active breaks. 

This is well and good and there are lots of articles out there with top tips, but given I am a very practical person, I wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to break regularly, get moving or tap into the 'other' side of your brain to maintain your groove throughout the day. The following was my day on Tuesday this week:

4am - The day started with a 4am wake up to work on some desktop research for a client (who says work has to be 9-5, I am an early bird and come 2pm, I am done for the day). I find this is the time of the day when my head is the clearest. It is not sustainable to do this every day but I aim to do a 4am start at least once a week.

6am – Boxing class – when my boxing partner commented on the power that was coming from my hits, I jokingly commented it was because I had a lot of energy to get out – mental energy, that is to make way for the thinking I knew I had to get do.

7am – Breakfast with my family and getting the household organised for the day. 

8.30am – Having had a few hours break and doing other activities, my brain is ready to focus again.

10am – Morning tea break – but not before I complete a seven-minute HIIT session to get my body moving and the blood flowing again. Then back to it.

12noon – lunch in the sun. If I am working from home, I take some time to ground myself and lie on the grass. When I am at my office, I take a walk for 15 minutes and enjoy the time in my own thoughts – NO PHONE ALLOWED!

12.30pm – 2.30pm – In this time I try to do at least ten minutes of writing (like I am doing now), about anything, much of it are just a bunch of words on a page, but knowing I am heading towards my 3pm slump, it helps to keep me going to finish the tasks of the day and get any 'noise' or 'distractions' that cause me to procastinate out of my head.

The rest of the afternoon comprises of time with my kids, cooking (another form of active meditation for me) and only taking work calls if they are absolutely necessary.

Some days it’s a round of chess or poker (two new skills I have learnt this year), hoola hooping, 100 skips or even a power nap for 20 minutes. The point being every time I stop and change the scenery and activity, I always come back feeling a lot more focused.

“This is easier said than done” I hear you say. It is. Trust me. Regularly active breaks get out of your skin, sharpens your thinking and not only makes you more productive but more creative (it's even helped me when forecasting as it allows me to see the numbers and its potential clearer). You never know you might just come up with your next big idea whilst hoola hooping!