Take Restful Breaks

The essence of achieving more by doing less

The groundbreaking invention of the Internet, then the smartphone, helped us do things faster and stay connected more easily. At the same time, however, they made us work more since most of us are working with our desktop and mobile devices nowadays.

I used to check my phone first thing first in the morning and last thing last before bed. It's ridiculous to think about it, but I was the guy who stayed connected (to the Internet for work) all the time—from family dinners to getaway trips.

Working faster and longer doesn't always translate into higher outputs. And most of us forget about the importance of rest, the crucial role of taking breaks, and all the benefits of a good night's sleep.

To increase productivity and output, you must take proper breaks and rests. In this article, I will share a few tips on how to do just that.

Completely switching off

You never tolerate half work, so don't tolerate half break. Spending your breaks on work-related activities leads to higher physical and emotional exhaustion.

We check our emails while working out; we go for a lunch break and think about the morning meeting; we wake up and can't wait to see if we receive any Slack notifications.

Information is the new drug.

When our brain receives new information, it fires up like we're on drugs. It's toxic, and it's addictive. With time, we are wired to the need to stay alerted and connected with everything, especially information related to our work, because work is the most significant piece of our life for most of us.

It's not easy to switch off completely when we become heavily habitual to half-break and when hustling becomes the sub-definition of success. Some willpower is required during the early stage. The best way is by starting with something small and simple and slowly breaking the habit of half-break completely.

  • Be present when you're with others. Listen to your colleagues during the lunch break, your spouse during dinner, and yourself during meditation.
  • Leave your phone behind during non-work activities such as working out and cooking.
  • Don’t start and end your day with work-related routines and activities.

Only by completely switching off from work you're truly taking a restful break. It turns out to be essential for tasks that take creativity and critical thinking because only by stopping our conscious mind from constantly analyzing can our subconscious mind connects the dots.

The Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique is a popular technique for boosting productivity because it works. It was invented by an engineer Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break work down into intervals that encourage regular breaks and reduce the impact of both internal and external interruptions. If you haven't heard of it before, here is how you do it:

  1. Set 30 minutes as a time block.
  2. In a single time block, fully immerse into the task and avoid all distractions for 25 minutes.
  3. Then, you're allowed to take a 5-minute short break. During this break, you can do whatever you like except work.
  4. Continue your work with another time block if it's not done yet.
  5. Start a new task with a new time block if the previous one is completed.

Depending on your work, you can adjust the length of your time block. For example, I usually work on a 60-minute time block with 50 minutes of focused work and 10 minutes of focused break.

The Pomodoro technique works because it lets you immerse yourself fully in both working and resting. It also reduces the time spent on multitasking, where you get nothing done at the end of the day but feel exhausted without any periodical breaks. By reducing multitasking, your brain spends less time and energy switching from one task to another.

Notes: I cover more of the Pomodoro Technique and four more time management strategies that will change your work and life here.

Repurpose your working space

Just like how we shape our environment, our environment shapes us too. Other than setting a time block, you can also develop a work space that encourages focused work sessions and periodical short breaks too.

That being said, it should be comfortable enough to help you concentrate but not too convenient that glues your eyes on the screen and butt on the seat for hours. For example:

  • Use index cards or notebooks for quick capture, but always keep your work desk neat and tidy, so you're not distracted by them.
  • Have a small glass of water by your side, so you're not distracted when you're thirsty, but don't place a 2L bottle of water on your desk.
  • Download work apps on your phone in case you need them, but don't make it a habit to work on your mobile devices everywhere you go.

There are many more small tweaks you can make to your work space to promote both focus and short breaks. You can spend some time and a tiny ounce of creativity to experiment with some of your own ideas and see how they work out.

You're more than your work

In today’s fast-paced environment, we're so bounded to more tasks, more work, and more hustle. The truth is you and your life are more than your work.

Not only you get to become more productive with proper breaks and shutdowns, you also gain better clarity and energy for what truly matters over the long run.


  1. Information addiction doesn’t happen only to human. It’s a series of biology reactions closely tied with the brain and the hormones. Scientists and researchers have designed experiments to observe how animals develop the addiction to information. Click here to read more about the research. In other words, information addiction can’t be cured by simply stopping information consumptions, but by working on the behavioral psychology and the environment architecture.
  2. The Pomodoro Technique was invented in the early 90s by a developer, entrepreneur, and author Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo named the system "Pomodoro" after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student.

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