In the mid-90s, McDonald’s ran a catchy ad campaign with the tagline: “Have You Had Your Break Today?” It featured people living busy lives and stopping to take a bite of a McDonald’s meal as a reprieve. I loved the well-arranged choral McDonald’s jingle — and it takes me back to my youth!
(Bonus: Here is another very catchy McDonald’s ad from 1971, “You Deserve A Break Today.”)
Today’s post is not an endorsement of any fast-food establishment; instead, the concept of breaks is on my mind, and I can’t stop hearing that jingle!
Do any of you struggle with taking breaks in your workday? I know I do. Take today, for example. I had the opportunity to either pick up lunch, come back, and eat it at my desk while concurrently working … or spend a work-free lunch at a restaurant with a friend. I felt guilty for wanting to take that lunch break, but ultimately the thought of eating with a friend sounded so much better than being in a room in an office without moving from my desk for the whole day. So I took a break. When I take a break, I’m able to refresh my mind.
A 2017 Tork “Take Back the Lunch Break” survey was conducted in 2017 among 1,600 North American employees across the United States and Canada. Participants were asked questions about breaks at work, employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction. The results showed that breaks have numerous benefits, including:
- raising job satisfaction
- restoring focus and attention
- expanding creativity
- fostering healthy habits
- improving productivity
- enhancing mental health and well-being
- increasing employee feeling of value by organizations and supervisors who promote taking breaks
You can also build breaks into your day. Here are some easy ways to take a break.
- Stand up every hour. For those sitting behind a desk, take a break to stand up, stretch, and walk around once every hour. This is also a great time to hydrate.
- Leave for lunch. I don’t mean you have to go out to eat lunch every day. Even if you bring your lunch, get out of your workspace. If you work in an office, leave and go to the break room. If you work at home, get up and go to another space. Sit on a bench outside if you don’t live in the arctic tundra (but it’s also OK if you like eating in the cold). Whatever you do, make an effort to go out of your workspace and eat lunch without interruption. It doesn’t have to be an hour — even 30 minutes away will suffice.
- Treat yourself. Do something fun and ultimately work-unrelated. Wordle comes to mind for me, as do knitting or breathing exercises. Whatever you consider a work-appropriate treat, do that.
I like to use the Pomodoro Method, a time management method to separate work into intervals. Typically you do a task for 25 minutes and separate the following task with short breaks. You don’t have to stick with 25-minute intervals. My sessions range from 25 to 50 minutes, depending on my time and task. I sometimes plan my breaks around a Pomodoro browser plug-in or an app called Groove, where I work for 50 minutes, take 10 minutes off, and then work for another 50 minutes and take another 10 minutes off (rinse and repeat).
Let me know if you resonate with any of this advice. We can all learn to build a break into our day. I always look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iffy Ibekwe is an estate planning attorney and evangelist for intergenerational wealth transfer with effective wills and trusts. Iffy is a prolific speaker and she is writing her first book on culturally competent estate planning, available in 2024 (prayers up!). She graduated from The University of Texas School of Law and has practiced law for over 16 years. Iffy can be reached by email at email@example.com, on her website, and on Instagram at @iffyibekweesq.