12 productive ways to take a break at work

by Glen Dalakian II, September 4, 2013

Whether writing a long report, entering hundreds of names into a database, or dealing with a tough client, sometimes it’s nice to take a five and regroup. 

When I have writer's block or get stuck on a certain project, for example, sometimes I just need to get up and separate myself from the situation and revisit it in a bit with fresh eyes.

But instead of losing time stalking old friends on Facebook, it could be nice to fill a break with something, or someone, a bit more productive. Here are twelve productive ways to switch up your focus, find new inspiration, and get more energy in your down time. 

1. Watch a TED video.

Covering a huge range of topics, TED Talks offer something for everyone. I'd recommend exploring one avenue that has nothing to do with your current interests or expertise; you're bound to discover something you didn't know before. Usually around ten minutes, these videos are a great way to challenge what you previously thought and stay motivated to push ahead with your work. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the list of the 20 most-watched TED Talks of all time or our list of 4 TED Talks from Arab entrepreneurs.

2. Read an article or a new book.

While you’re pausing to take a break from work, take some time to see what’s going on in the world around you. Pick a few online or mobile news sources that capture your attention or cover happenings in your field and dive in. Our team likes to use mobile news aggregators Nabd, Pulse, News360 to see the latest news; I always like to know what others are talking about and where my field is heading. If you've found a good book, read a section or chapter while you're taking a break; you've probably already checked out Chris Schroeder's new book, so here is our list of 15 must-read books for entrepreneurs.

3. Check out your site’s trends.

It’s always fun to look back at your analytics, if you aren't obsessed with them already. If it's under your jurisdiction, check them out on platforms like Woopra, Parse.ly, Chartbeat, or Google trends and analytics to see how you're progressing. If it's not your responsibility, but you're still really dedicated, it can be revealing to Google your company and see what others are saying about your work and how the company is perceived online; you may find unexpected feedback that can help you improve the brand.

4. Read what your followers are sharing.

Besides looking at your own company’s activity, see what your fans are talking about on their own social networks. Check out what they tweet, like, and share and see if your company can meet their interests and join the conversation. Besides building your own brand, it’s also interesting to participate in the latest conversations in your field. Like, follow, and engage with other content as well to build your reputation as an active and respected member of the community.

5. Get yourself organized.

When you're running around and getting things done, it's easy for papers to pile on your desk or workspace. If you have some time for a break, clean up your space to make it inviting for others and more conducive to helping you work through new ideas. It might be a good idea to go through unanswered e-mails to make sure you're not missing anything. Get rid of stuff that you don’t need, whether on your desk, filling up your inbox, or cluttering your harddrive; don’t be afraid to throw things out if you don’t need them anymore.

6. Question your colleagues.

Sometimes, the best resource or mentor is sitting right next you. Don’t be afraid to step away from your desk or workspace to chat with those around you. This can be particularly effective in a coworking space when everyone is working on very different projects. For a few minutes, step away from your desk and pick your neighbor’s brain about what they’re working on, if they have suggestions for your project, or just to hear about their past experience. You may make a new friend or mentor, but you’ll certainly make a friendlier colleague.

7. Get inspired.

There is a lot of inspiration to be found outside of your industry. Go online and check out cool designers, research local artists and their work, or even begin doodling yourself to express your own creativity. Sometimes seeing what others can create can motivate you to imagine your own innovations. Take time to check out what others are creating, whether art, music, or tech, to find inspiration in your own work.

8. Set short-term tasks and priorities.

When work is piling on, it’s easy to lose track of priorities and little tasks that get thrown your way. Take some time each day to clearly outline your goals for the day and the week to begin checking off tasks, even the little ones, that otherwise could get lost in the shuffle. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, so break things down into small tasks and get them done.

9. Take an online course.

There are plenty of courses available online that let you move at your own pace and even complete tasks in short intervals. Research online to find a new skill you are interesting in cultivating and find out if there is an educational course available online to supplement your own skills. Codeacademy for example teaches users to code for free and can be paused and returned to easily. Udacity too offers tech courses that you can complete in short intervals, and there are tons of other massive open online courses (MOOC) alternatives. Find a skill you’re lacking and start fostering it in your free time – it may come in handy down the road.

10. Get healthy.

It’s important to stretch your legs, get the blood pumping, and move around rather than sitting in front of a computer screen all day. During your break, it may be worth it to head to a nearby gym to get in your daily workout; here are 10 reasons why exercise makes you better at your job. If I need an energy boost, I like to enjoy a healthy snack, have a cup of coffee or rehydrate with a glass of water. Find ways to keep your energy up and refuel in a healthy way to stay engaged and focused throughout the day.

11. Expand your network online.

For some, social networking is just a distraction. But platforms like LinkedIn can have a huge personal benefit for your career. I like to check it every day just to see what people are talking about, who is meeting who, and to sustain a connection with people I recently met in person. It’s a great way to build current relationships or find out if others are closer to you than you thought.

12. Take time to find your own creativity.

Not every break needs to be filled with specific content however. It’s important for your brain to rest as well; studies have shown that more downtime and rest can lead to greater productivity. Some even recommend taking a power nap for half an hour in the early afternoon to wake up refreshed for the rest of the day. Teams too can pause their work and take time to take a step back, refocus and get everyone to move forward on the same page. Each of us needs some quiet time once in a while to recharge and separate ourselves from our work, I know I do. And who knows- while reviewing the day in your mind, you may just rediscover a detail you missed or an idea worth pursuing.

Let us know in the comments section below if you do any specific activities during your breaks to make them useful and refreshing for you.

Photo Credit: The Office Facebook page.

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Glen is Features Editor at Wamda. You can follow him on Twitter @glenjd2, connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+, or reach him at glen[at]wamda[dot]com.

 
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