This post was influenced by an article originally posted on Harvard Business Review.
We are creatures of habit.
When people discuss habits they typically use what happens when you get home from work as an example of things we do without thinking. Additionally, they will talk about smoking or working out.
If you’re like me, you’ve read plenty of articles and books on habits. You might have even seen B.J. Fogg discuss his theory about tiny habits (it works).
But, you probably haven’t considered making breaks habitual.
Professors from Columbia Business School created two experiments. They placed people into one of three scenarios (from the article):
- Spend the first half of your time attempting the first problem and the second half of your time attempting the second
- Alternate between the two problems at a regular, predetermined interval (e.g., switching every five minutes)
- Switch between the problems at your own discretion
Participants thought that the third option would make them more creative and help them solve the problems faster.
But, the people in group two were able to solve the problems faster. Furthermore, they generated more original ideas.
For those of you familiar with the idea of time-blocking, these results may not be surprising. The set intervals allowed people to focus on the issue at hand. Then, providing a break to work on the other issue. When they switched back to the original issue, their mind was fresh and ready to pick up where it left off.
To be creative and productive, you need to give your brain a break, but that break can be switching to a new problem.
I have found nothing to be as refreshing as a quick walk around the block (or office, if it’s raining).
Maybe this can be one of the two times you check your email.
Schedule in breaks and I think you’ll find yourself happier with the quality of your work. The research shows that you’ll solves problems faster and be more innovative. Two skills required in the current economy.
Perhaps you’ll even get out of the office on time (remember happy hour?).