One thing I miss about working in downtown Minneapolis is the bus ride. The non-stop ride from Shakopee into the city on a super comfortable bus was relaxing. I’d close my eyes and rest on the morning ride, and typically took a nap on the commute home.

Several times a week, I’d take a break at lunch to walk through the skyway.

I’ve been working from home for six years now, and I’ve gotten out of the habit of taking breaks. I’m pretty much glued to my computer the entire day to the point that I eat lunch at my laptop. It’s not a good practice.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to take breaks during the day. The fact that I’m recovering from a concussion makes this even more practical and necessary. Several people I work with have also made this a resolution. Some are taking breaks to meditate. Others for yoga. And others to walk their dogs, go for a run, or take time to read.

I use my time to sit in silence on the couch with my eyes closed. I set my phone timer for 18 minutes, which is a totally arbitrary number that just happened to be on my timer from when I baked a frozen pizza, so I went with it. It seems like a good amount of time for a couple breaks during the day. Sometimes I fall into a light sleep, which feels wonderful. It’s amazing how rejuvenating an 18 minute break can be.

Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve read some articles that talk about the benefits of short breaks during the day, or even micro-breaks that last just a minute or two. Benefits include improving productivity, focus and energy level.

While everyone is different, research shows that employees who work non-stop are not the most productive or the highest performers. Instead, short breaks during the day are credited with helping people think more creatively, reducing stress and anxiety, being more innovative, and feeling more optimistic. It makes sense. I can’t say that I’ve noticed all of these advantageous since I’ve started taking regular breaks, but I certainly do feel more relaxed during the day, which has to be good mentally and physically.

I’ve also noticed that taking breaks does not put me behind at work. I don’t have to spend an extra 18 minutes working at the end of the day for every break I take. I seem to produce the same amount of work per day whether I take breaks or not, so that’s a compelling enough reason to take them.

According to studies I’ve seen, only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions for the entire year. Maybe that’s because many resolutions require major lifestyle changes, like switching diets, starting new exercise habits, changing spending patterns, or ending vices cold turkey. Those are hard to carry out over a long period of time, even when people have the best of intentions.

Taking breaks is the opposite. They make me feel better and rejuvenated, and without any of the cravings that come with giving up food or bad habits. I think I can be one of the 8% who can see their resolution through to the end of the year.

Brett Martin is a columnist who’s been a Shakopee resident for over 15 years.

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