When you have so much to get done in a single day, you may think constant work is the only way to get it all done. But taking some well-placed breaks throughout the day can actually help you be more productive. How do you squeeze in breaks when your to-do list is so long?
Pick your favorites and invite your kids to join in with you. They may especially like ideas 12, 15, and 18.
1. Stand near a window for 5 minutes
Sometimes you only have five minutes to spare. Use the time to stretch your legs, head over to a window, and take a look outside. When your view changes, your perspective can, too. A problem suddenly seems easier to solve, or a tedious task becomes more manageable.
2. Take a 12 minute color walk
When you have a few more minutes available, don’t just look outside, actually go outside. Walking can clear the mind, making room for greater productivity when you get back to work, especially if you leave your work inside. To help you clear your thinking, consider focusing on finding a particular color on your walk. Or leave yourself open to discover what colors surprise you in unexpected places. Brighten your time outside searching for certain colors.
3. Grab your cape!
Inject a little imagination into your day. Think about a problem you have. Then think how you would solve it if you were a super hero. Puzzling out a problem in a purely fanciful way can lead to a little laughter and brighten up your day.
4. Read a short Psalm
God’s Word is Refreshing. Thoughtfully reading even a small portion of Scripture can bring renewed motivation in your work. Choose to pray the verses, too, and you will find yourself in a fruitful two-way conversation with God that increases your trust in Him and lowers your stress about your work.
5. Work part of a search-a-word puzzle
Let your mind work in a way that it hasn’t the rest of the day.
6. Listen to 10 minutes of an audiobook or podcast
When I was younger and riding in the front seat of my parents’ car, I used to love to be in charge of the radio. Patiently, my mother allowed me to change the station to suit my whim. Do the same thing yourself during your work day. “Change the station” from the stress at hand by tuning into a book that makes you laugh or a podcast that lifts your spirits.
7. Pray for someone besides yourself
If you are like me, you lift up many silent prayers for understanding, wisdom, and guidance throughout the day. Let me suggest that you pray for other people, too. It’s a good way to serve and love others. And doing so usually leads to step out of your own worries and into a concern for others. Not sure who to pray for? Ask God. He will bring people to mind. Be faithful to pray for them.
8. Make a cup of tea
The simple act of making a cup of tea is an act of self-love. Choose a blend that is tasty and serves your health needs. Allow your mind to drift to pleasant places while you wait for the water to come to a boil. Bob and bounce your tea bag into your favorite mug. Then take the tea back to your work station. Sip as you work. This is the break that keeps on giving.
9. Stretch (gently) for 7 minutes
Consider stretches that open your chest and elongate your neck after being hunched over a screen. Carefully, stretch your low back and hips after sitting for a long time. Watch your breath while you stretch. Take the time to fill your lungs from bottom to top and exhale slowly. Your body will appreciate the extra oxygen.
10. Read a chapter of proverbs
Looking for a straightforward, no-nonsense word on how to live? Proverbs is your book of the Bible. Pick a chapter, any chapter, and reframe your thoughts on how to conduct yourself.
11. Work part of a sudoku puzzle
Give yourself a break from computer work or physical work. Take out a pencil and a sudoku puzzle and work on arranging numbers for a few minutes. This is a break that can give you a sense of accomplishment, give your eyes a break from a screen, and allow you to use your muscles in a different way for a few minutes.
12. Dance to a favorite song
Choose a song (or two!) from an upbeat playlist. Start to weave and bob and bounce and swing until the rhythm overtakes you! Make your motions big and fun and free. Get your blood moving. For an added bonus, sing along to your upbeat song.
13. Text someone
Think of someone you love. Text to say hello. Think of someone who needs encouragement. Text a kind word or an uplifting GIF. Think of someone who texted you, but you haven’t texted back. Take a minute to respond. Texting can be a neighborly way to take quick break from your work.
Start with your fingers. Move to your toes. Let your whole body gyrate and jiggle!
15. Call someone you love
Leave an encouraging message. Make plans to get together soon. Ask about a problem that person is facing, but don’t give advice! Just listen. Step outside of yourself to step into another person’s life for a few minutes, and you’ll have a fresh perspective when you step back into your own.
16. Read a devotional
Devotional writers can be so encouraging in a few lines. Meditating on words that bring our focus back to God or that reorient our thoughts away from worry toward truth can make the return to work less fearful or frustrating.
17. Work on a coloring page for 15 minutes
Ah! Bring some color into your day by bringing color onto a page.
18. Eat a healthy snack
If you feel yourself slowing down, you made need a little fuel. Pick a balanced snack. Contrast crunch with smooth. Choose something that is as tasty as it is healthy, and you’ll be giving yourself a treat as well as refueling your tank.
19. Look in the mirror and smile at yourself
Love you. You’re beautiful. Look full on in the mirror and acknowledge the fact. No judgmental words allowed! Not in your head and not out loud. Simply smile at your lovely reflection. 🙂
20. Repeat an affirmation 100 times
Crank up the self-love to an even higher level. Pick something truly affirming to say about yourself. Maybe it will be a phrase that would help you in your work, if you truly believed it. Then grab a pencil and a notepad. Use tally marks to record yourself saying the affirmation out loud 100 times. Help yourself believe the truth about how capable you are.
21. Make a gratitude list
Quickly jot down 10 things you are grateful for. Then pray your list to God.
22. Stand in the sun
Stand in the sun and soak up its warmth, appreciate its light, and make a little vitamin D.
23. Edit your to-do list
Spend a few minutes thinking of all the things that you have done so far today but that were NOT on your to-do list at the beginning of the day. Add those to your list and check them off with a celebration! Think through the time you have left in the day and change your list to be more realistic. You will feel more accomplished if you set realistic goals. So go ahead and move a few items to later into the week. Also . . . Don’t forget to schedule in some breaks!
24. Work a portion of a crossword
Can you tell I like puzzles? You could also spend a few minutes putting together a 100 piece puzzle. They don’t take up too much room, and it can be very gratifying seeing a puzzle you put together take shape at each of your breaks.
25. Take a musical walk
Pop in your earbuds or put on your headphones, then head outside for a blood pumping, weather enjoying, breath of fresh air kind of walk. Choose inspirational music if you are struggling. Worship music to praise God. Smooth jazz to accompany a stroll. Or some hip hop to dance your way around the block.
26. Listen to spa music for 10-15 minutes
Pick a soothing song while stretching. Choose a relaxing melody while reclining. Try a meditative rhythm while thinking good thoughts. Playing the kind of music your massage therapist plays when you are in for a session can take you to that deeply restful place in your mind so that you emerge ready to return to work with a tranquil perspective.
27. Watch 20 minutes of a favorite funny movie
Recently, I watched The Parent Trap for the 800th time. The first 799 times were doing my childhood and adolescence. So it was really nice to see the movie again, but I didn’t watch it all at once. During a couple of days that I knew were going to be very demanding for me, I carved out 10 – 20 minute breaks to watch the very talented Hayley Mills play two people, Maureen O’Hara transform from a dowdy stay-at-home mom to a really hip chick, and Brian Keith make me laugh just by being in a scene.
It was like giggling with an old friend every so often, throughout a very hectic couple of days. I have warm memories right now, just thinking about it.
Be careful how you break
The last couple of ideas lead me to a brief word of warning. Be careful not to let your breaks squeeze out your work. Don’t get so relaxed that you’re not motivated to get back to the task at hand. And don’t spend so much time with a video, podcast, or a friend that you lose an hour or more of work!
Make time for breaks. Just don’t let the breaks take the place of work.
What did I leave off the list? What are your favorite ways to squeeze breaks into your days?