The importance of breaks for entrepreneurs health and productivity

As an entrepreneur, particularly within the tech industry, spending hours upon hours in front of a computer screen is most likely a daily occurrence.

And when you’re not busy working away in front of a computer, you will probably be using your phone to keep in contact with important clients, check your emails or get the latest industry news.

With the drive and passion for achieving greatness within your chosen field, getting the most out of each and every day is essential. For most entrepreneurs, this usually translates into extremely long and tiring hours.

While this hard work and determination can pay dividends and help you create the next big business, the importance of taking care of your health and well-being can never be underestimated.

The good news is that success doesn’t have to come at the cost of your health. In fact, the two should go hand in hand. And one of the key decisions that can help you to achieve this aim is deciding to take regular breaks away from your work.

Now, I’m not suggested we should all be aiming for Tim Ferriss’s 4 hour work week. I’m not even suggesting we should stop working evenings and weekends. Of course, if you can do that then great. But for many, if not most entrepreneurs, that is simply not going to be an option.

What is important, and certainly achievable no matter how busy you are, is taking regular 5 or 10 minute breaks throughout the day. Doing this can help you to stay healthy, and can also have tremendous benefits for you and your business in terms of productivity, focus and creativity.

Kimberley Elsbach, who is a professor at UC-Davis and studies workplace psychology says that “Never taking a break from very careful thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative”.

Failing to take breaks from work can lead to various health issues too, including stress, repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, back and neck pain and depression. These issues can eventually lead to complete burnout, which isn’t going to do you or your business any favours whatsoever.

So, how can you get in the habit of taking regular breaks? One way to encourage this is by utilising the Pomodoro technique. This time management technique is a way of improving your focus and workflow, particularly for those who are maybe struggling with procrastination. But it also has the benefit of encouraging regular short breaks.

There are no hard and fast rules, but the most common implementation of the Pomodoro technique is 25 minutes of intense, non-disturbed work, followed by a five minute break. This process is repeated four times, at which point a longer break of around 15 to 30 minutes is taken.

You can of course tailor this technique to suit your own personal requirements or work preferences. Perhaps you prefer to work solidly for 45 minutes followed by a 10 minute break for example.

The key is that the work period should be focussed and non-stop work without distractions. Equally, the breaks should be completely away from work, and ideally away from your desk too. This time can be taken to get some fresh air, stretch your legs, get a drink of water or grab a healthy snack.

Another important break away from work is of course the lunch break. If the thought of taking regular short breaks is not for you, then having a decent lunch break is even more important.

Lunch breaks have gotten shorter and shorter over the years, and more and more people are eating lunch at their desks. In fact, research suggests that just one in five workers actually step away from their desks during their lunch break.

If you fall into this trap, you’re not really having a proper rest, as no doubt you will continue to work and reply to emails while you eat.

It is much better for your health and productivity if you take at least 30 minutes to an hour completely away from your work. This will give your brain a chance to rest and recuperate, which can improve your focus and creativity, and make you more productive throughout the afternoon.

For some, the thought of taking a break from work and achieving their daily goals is unimaginable. A waste of valuable time that should be spent working. But thinking this way can not only put your health in jeopardy, but it can also be having a detrimental impact on your productivity.

By thinking of breaks from work as a benefit rather than a hindrance, you can start reaping the benefits of a healthier, happier and more productive life.