It’s like trying to fill your car up with gas while driving if you don’t take mental breaks throughout the day. According to Julie Fratantoni, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth, “You must stop and turn off the engine to refuel.” The human brain concentrates on higher-order thinking for roughly 90 to 120 minutes at a time, with ideally 20 minutes of rest in between. We must safeguard attention because it is a limited resource, she explains. How? Read on.
First Day:Look at something different
Our biology has us wired to freeze, flee, or fight when the brain’s sympathetic nervous system is stressed by protracted discussions or demanding deadlines. Your brain will understand it is safe to resume normal functioning if you look out the window or even at a picture of a landscape, according to Fratantoni. Mid-meeting? Look to the side to relax your nervous system and use your peripheral vision.
Tomorrow: Take a five minute break—five times
Take brief breaks frequently; according to Fratantoni, “it’s amazing how quickly our brains can recharge.” No, using social media or checking your email don’t count because they both involve your brain’s information processing and filters.
The Day After Tomorrow: Plan your time into smaller portions.
Try the Pomodoro Technique from time management expert Francesco Cirillo if you find yourself running low on energy during 90-minute work sessions: Timers should be set for 25 to 50 minutes, followed by a brief break. After four repetitions, pause for a while. According to Kristin Schneider, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, “you’ll be more productive than if you’re continuously “on.” Help your busy brain out!