The U.S. Army released their new guidelines for optimal soldier performance, and the list includes “strategic and aggressive napping.” The first update to the manual in eight years reflects the growing science linking sleep and peak performance — something we know to be true beyond the military and across industries. Soldiers are now encouraged to take time for regular naps, in hopes of improving their mental and physical well-being, and the update is a much-needed reminder that we should all be taking time for breaks during the day.
We asked our Thrive community to share with us the small ways they incorporate strategic breaks during the day. Which of these will you try?
Take a real lunch break
“I’ve been working from home for seven months now, and even though I’m not in a physical office setting, I make sure to carve out time for a real lunch break each day. These breaks don’t just include nourishment for my body, but also time away from my work tasks of the day. I usually try to squeeze in some self-care ritual, whether it’s a walk, a meditation, or just listening to music. My lunch break allows me to take physical and mental space from the nitty-gritty of my workday, whether I’m in lots of meetings or tying up loose ends on a project. I always find that I’m not as drained at the end of the day.”
—Sarah Rudman, healthcare manager, Boston, MA
Schedule hourly “get up” reminders
“I know that all of the time we spend sitting still while working from home has a downside — it reduces blood flow to the brain and affects our metabolism. So I love finding little ways to move, even if it’s a walk around the house. I have my watch set for hourly ‘get ups’ where I stand up from my desk and intentionally move for two or three minutes. It makes a profound difference. Even if I’m in the middle of something, I know that taking the small break will go a long way for my productivity and my health.”
—Nicki Anderson, director of Benedictine University Women’s Leadership Program, Lisle, IL
Change your hour-long calls to 45 minutes
“I never book my meetings or calls too close to each other, and I always reserve time slots of 45 minutes for Zoom calls, as it’s rarely necessary to need the full hour. You can always simplify things, and that way you give yourself time for small breaks in between meetings and appointments.”
—Marcio Delgado, content producer and influencer marketing manager, London, U.K.
Sync up with your kids’ breaks
“We’ve decided to get in sync with our six-year-old’s virtual schooling day. He gets a 15-minute break in the morning and another one in the afternoon, so we take that time to walk around the block together or ride our bikes as a family. It feels good to get up and move together at a time that works for all of us.”
—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Ancaster, ON, Canada
Switch up your environment
“To carve out a mental reset in my day, I make sure to change my environment to differentiate tasks. For example, I will move outside to my patio when I need to do more creative and thinking work. Being in nature brings a different pace, and I often take a walk around the garden to focus on the beautiful colors of the flowers. The point is to disrupt the thinking mind with its racing thoughts and appreciate the small things.”
—Lori Milner, author, trainer and coach, Johannesburg, South Africa
Take a power nap
“I recently separated from my work to have cancer treatment on a daily basis for seven weeks. But now, I feel like I have even more of a workload than ever before.The daily grind of talking to multiple doctors and having telemedicine appointments is more fatigue-inducing than any customer service or tutoring work I have done in the past. Today is actually the first time I have been able to take a ‘power nap’ since working from home at the start of COVID. I am so grateful for my recent guidance in mindfulness as well as my past habit of napping during the day while tutoring or teaching full-time. These naps are a game-changer for me.”
—Cara Lembo, MBA, tutor, New York, N.Y.
Incorporate small bursts of movement
“For me, incorporating motion throughout the day has been amazing in enhancing my focus and performance. Before I even start my work day, I do breathing exercises and light yoga movements. Even if I only have a 30-minute lunch break, I walk or bike around the block before I start eating. And to avoid the mid-afternoon slump, I carve out a quick break for a workout on my phone. The quick burst of movement always stimulates and strengthens my body in a short amount of time.”
—Isabelle Bart, marketing consultant, Orange County, CA
Block “transition time” in your calendar
“About a month ago, I started doing more outreach for my business than normal to adjust to industry changes during COVID. This meant back-to-back-to-back meetings were a part of my daily schedule. I quickly realized that was the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done, so I started booking transition time between each meeting to give a buffer. All of that scheduled break time makes the rest of my productive time that much more productive.”
—Craig Inzana, marketing consultant, Omaha, NE
Play with your pet
“I take a strategic break each afternoon to brush my cat and give him a treat. I find that taking a pause during a busy day to spend time with our pets can offer a calming, quick break with instant gratification. I seem to get back to work after the break with lower blood pressure and a little smile. I also see others during the pandemic appreciating the power of animals in our lives.”
—Donna Peters, podcast host, career coach, Atlanta GA
Use your snooze time for meditation
“My first strategic break starts the moment that I hear my alarm in the morning. It has taken some time and awareness to create the habit, but It’s been one that has lasted. I press ‘snooze’ and immediately begin to meditate. I start with breathing and gratitude, then shift to goal-setting. If my alarm goes off again and I’m not done, I continue meditating. It helps me to start the day with a good mindset, and it makes me feel emotionally and mentally refreshed. I continue these little meditation breaks throughout the work day.”
—Andy Blasquez, high school teacher, Los Angeles, CA
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