Want to improve your productivity? Do less.

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Busy day? Let me guess, busy week. Okay, you’ve been flat out for three weeks, but it’s all good – you’ve got a two hour block of free time, between four and six next Saturday. You’re going to catch up on your washing, shopping, cleaning, sleeping; and call your parents.

We’ve all had periods of total mayhem. For some of us, this feels like a permanent way of life. We are busy, our days are full. With a never-ending to do list, it’s easy to get caught up on trying to tick them all off. But believe it or not, taking a break at work will actually increase your productivity, not the other way around. Pushing through lunch might seem like a good idea at the time, but our brains are similar to our bodies – we need sustenance to keep moving. A break doesn’t have to be long – even a short gear change, after a period of high concentration, is beneficial.

This starts at work, but it doesn’t end when we head home for the day. More than ever before, our work lives are slipping into our home lives. And in a world of wellness, we are not only pushing ourselves at work, but there is additional pressure to meet diet and workout goals. It’s also important, to many of us, that we put time and effort into our relationships and social circles. All of these areas will benefit from the incorporation of rest into our regular routines.

Both physical and mental rest are essential for us to perform at our best. You might have heard of a ‘rest day’ in reference to working out. This is the principle that having at least one day a week where you don’t exercise allows your body to recover, and, importantly, to rebuild the inevitable tissue damage that comes with a good workout.

So, rest is important all round. Try the below to start working a little bit of rest into your routine, and you’ll soon see the physical and mental benefits.

  1. Take a lunch break. It might not always happen, and that’s okay, but even a ten minute stroll to pick up a coffee or a chai will do you a world of good
  2. Can’t get out of the office? Try some breathing exercises. There are lots of to try, but I find something super simple perfect for the office. I sit comfortably – crossed legs is ideal for me – and close my eyes. I breathe in for a count of two, and out for the same. After a few breaths, I increase this count to three, and then four. It takes under 30 seconds, and I immediately feel calmer
  3. Try a meditation app. Lots of new apps have super short meditations and visualisations that you can slot into your commute or lunch break. And even better, many have free versions that you can experiment with before committing to a purchase

Schedule a rest day. You can tailor it to suit you. Maybe it’s only feasible once a month, or once every six weeks. I like to use it to catch up on urgent things I can do from home, such as washing and personal projects. Don’t whittle away the entire day on busy work though, make room for restorative activities – sleep, a long walk, some yin yoga, or just chilling on the couch. Treat it like it’s an event, and don’t accept social invites that day. You can take it a step further and make these an untouchable day.