Over the last few months, there has been a significant increase in the amount of time we spend in front of a screen, be it a computer, phone, or TV. With the increased time we spend indoors while social distancing, the use of technology has increased significantly. Between online schooling, telecommuting to work, balancing social gatherings with friends via Zoom, or catching up on our favourite show, we spend the majority of our days with our eyes glued to the screen, something that can leave us feeling more exhausted than relaxed. After all, too much of anything, no matter how enjoyable, can damage our mental and physical well-being.
The answer to this socially constructed problem should be simple enough, take a break from the screens.
Only it isn’t as simple as it seems. It is pretty impossible to take time away from the screen, given that it is the primary source of work, education, and entertainment. So, until the balance between on- and off-screen interactions can be returned to normal, we must find an alternative solution to take a break from technology and screen time without actually taking a break from the screen.
We want to introduce you to a concept coined as strategic screen breaks and how we can implement them in our daily routines to reap the benefits of unplugging while remaining plugged in.
What Are Strategic Breaks?
A strategic break is a healthy distraction from the task you are currently working on without sacrificing screen time or productivity. While it may be impossible to escape from technology entirely, your brain can still get the benefits of a screen break without the guilt of missing work or school by implementing one or a few of the below suggestions.
Take Your Work Outside
There are a couple of factors that go into play when it comes to leaving your typical work environment and taking your work outdoors. The first important factor is that switching your surroundings to a place that your brain does not typically associate with work allows the brain to rest and recharge.
The novel workspace will be especially beneficial if it is located outdoors. Spending time in nature brings peace and calm to the mind. Studies show that simply spending time outdoors can help alleviate fatigue and mental stress, resulting in increased productivity and performance. Besides, breathing fresh air and getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D will not only make your brain feel rested but make your body feel overall healthier.
Call a Friend
There is a heavy emphasis on belongingness and social interaction on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for an excellent reason. As humans, we need the emotional security that friendships and relationships provide. Increased screen time and social distancing we have been put under in the light of recent events can take a heavy toll on our emotional health. By taking a short break to call a family member or friend, you can feel belongingness and emotional fulfillment without unplugging.
Get To Thinking
It can be challenging to switch off your brain from the task at hand, especially if you are working under strict deadlines. Your brain, however, needs distractions to keep up the focus. In a study about cognition, it has been determined that our brains stop registering sights, sounds, and feelings if they remain consistent for a longer time. Meaning, the longer you focus on that task, the less your brain will work on it. You need to bring your attention to something else, to think clearly and with a sharp focus upon your return to the task.
Exercising your brain could be a great way to distract yourself from the task you are working so intensely on. There are a wide variety of great brain exercises available right on your phone. Playing games such as solitaire or word hunt can be just as beneficial as specifically designed brain games available in the app stores.
There is no denying the valuable benefits of exercise for both our brain and bodies. However, you do not have to implement a whole gym routine to reap the benefits that exercise has on your productivity and performance. Studies show that just 10 minutes of exercise is enough to boost performance and attention throughout the day.
If you can fit in a walk or an exercise regimen into your daily routine, you are well on your way to better work and school performance. However, exercising does not mean you must disconnect from your devices. You can opt-in for a YouTube workout or an online fitness class.
So get your body moving in between your meetings and classes, or invest in a treadmill desk so that you could exercise without sacrificing precious work time.
How Often Should We Take a Break?
When implementing breaks into your routine, we suggest applying a time management system that will keep you accountable for the amount of time you distribute between work and play. This will aid in preventing both extremes of the spectrum, procrastination as well as burnout.
Our recent favourite time management technique has its roots in the kitchen timer. Named after a common household tool, the Pomodoro technique comprises 25-minute intervals focused on a single task followed by a 5-minute break to help you clear your mind. After 4 repetitions of those, they are followed by a longer 20 or 30-minute break.
The Pomodoro technique allows you to take short breaks while remaining focused on a single task until its completion. This prevents you from spiralling down the endless rabbit hole of multitasking. Once a task is complete, you then move on to the second task at hand while following the same technique.
An important reminder is that the 5-minute break should be dedicated to an activity that will help you clear your mind, not spent reviewing remaining tasks or working on anything else.
Although this is just one of our recommendations, there is no ideal solution for time management, and it varies from person to person. You should take into account your work style to determine what the best solution for you would be. Trial and error allow you to explore multiple techniques until you find the one that works best for you.
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