Rest Increases Productivity
By: Blathnaid Heaney ’19
It has been believed that the most productive people are the ones who work tirelessly to find a solution; however, that is apparently not the case.
Shorter working days and active rest breaks result in higher levels of productivity according to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, researcher at the Institute for the Future, a Silicon Valley think tank, previous deputy editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.
In an interview with The Guardian, Pang stated, “Overwork in the long run is bad for people and organizations and also bad for productivity. [Overworking is] something that can be sustained for periods of a few weeks but after that you start creating more problems than you solve.”
From his own experience, he noticed how he began to get increasingly tired during his long work days and felt less productive as time went on. Like most people, he thought that by pushing himself to work longer hours and thus accomplish more, his productivity would increase. He later realized this was not the case. Instead of noticing an increase in the number of tasks he accomplished, he saw a similar level.
However, when he began to take breaks between periods of work, he was able to achieve more in a smaller time frame. But, Pang specified the need for active rest as opposed to regular rest breaks.
One study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign corroborates Pang’s belief. They found that taking breaks every hour allows for maximum performance. Moreover, breaks filled with physical movement (active rest) help increase blood flow and allows more oxygen to reach the brain.
In active rest, instead of just turning off the computer and taking a nap, your mind remains active. This can be done through small amounts of activity like a brief stroll.
For students, this would likely mean taking 10-15 minutes worth of breaks every hour, or whenever your mind is unfocused, while studying or doing homework. Taking brief walks around your neighborhood, or a short stroll through the kitchen if studying at night, stretching and jumping-jacks are strongly suggested during periods of heavy studying. Even the act of making a snack can help with brain function.
Alex Gaytan ‘19 said, “I’ve always found that studying, over a long period of time without breaks, causes me to get tired. I do my best to stay focused and I find that taking breaks really does help. My dog benefits from my breaks too.”
So, when studying for an upcoming exam or working on homework, remember that breaks, especially those involving active rest, help sustain brain function and may help you get a full night of sleep.