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Productivity and Breaks

You've heard it before - you can't just study all day, you need to take breaks. While it is very good advice, most people don't know how long to study or how long to break.

If I think back to my high school days it was probably study for half an hour and break for 2 hours ;-)

Apart from that, many people stop taking regular breaks when they start working. You might get up for a short coffee/tea break and lunch, but other than that people generally stick to working, probably because they think their boss or co-workers will think they are slacking when they get up too often.

The truth is that we all need breaks, even adults. Children go to school and have short breaks between classes and longer breaks during recess and are reminded at home to break when they are studying. Tertiary students overall do take breaks, but they are prone to studying for hours on end or late into the night which isn't very productive at all.

Generally we have recommended primary school children work or study for around 20 minutes and break for 5-10 minutes before resuming homework while high school students should be able to push this up to 30 minutes and by Grade 12 they should be able to concentrate for 45 minutes before taking a break. Adults should also take a break every 45 minutes.

Well, I just read an interesting study that have scientifically proven exactly how long we should work and break for optimal productivity. This study was done on working adults, so I would assume that children would still need shorter concentration periods that gradually increase until they reach 18 years of age.

They recommend working for 52 minutes and taking a 17 minute break. That's pretty close to the 45 minutes we have been recommending! They also advocate a physical break which means that you should get up, take a walk, do something other than sitting and concentrating. Reading a book, watching TV or browsing Facebook does not count as a good break.

For children we recommend going outside if at all possible, run around the house, shoot some hoops, play with the dog or even jog around the block.

Doing a physical activity when you are taking a break will refresh your mind and you'll be ready for another session of work or studying. If you are stressed or frustrated, physical activity is also the quickest way to get back to normal, so making active breaks part of your daily routine is also great for managing stress.

An active lifestyle is also important for managing anxiety and stress. I'm not talking about advanced bootcamp, spinning, and marathon running every day - a brisk walk a few times a week will do wonders for beginners.

There you go! Set those timers for 52 minutes and 17 minute breaks and your productivity will soar!

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