Be More Productive by Taking More Active Breaks… Outside

I have a job where I sit at a desk and type on a computer all day. Luckily, I have a nice window in my office where I’m able to see the beauty of some trees and a portion of the sky. I get to see the wind blow the limbs of the trees and I get to utilize the natural light of the sun. But, I still have to sit at my desk and work.

I am a very focused worker. I am almost extreme and obsessive. I have a huge to-do list that I can’t possibly get done in one day, yet, I try to get it all done in one day! For the last few weeks, I have been feeling extra burnt out and unmotivated. After some introspection, I determined I was feeling this way because I had been skipping all breaks except for a quick lunch stop.

This doesn’t mean I was being productive during my long work sessions. In fact, I may have been less productive. Why? When I was feeling burnt out, I would tell myself, “I will just check Facebook for a minute and then I’ll get back to work, instead of taking a long 15-20 minute outside break.” Well, a minute on Facebook would often turn into 20 minutes on Facebook and 15 minutes on YouTube.

Worse, I didn’t feel rejuvenated after my little online excursion. I know that I am not the only one who has experienced this. Consider the following a rule of productivity: taking a break by browsing the Internet is not a break if you are working at your computer.

I know it seems counterproductive to get up and do something else for a little while in order to be more productive, but, that is really how it works. In the scientific journal Cognition, a team of researchers from the University of Illinois published their research pertaining to “brief diversions” from work and how they “vastly” improve focus.  Commenting on the research, the lead scientist said the following:

“We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!” – Professor Alejandro Lleras

I can confirm the professor’s words because of my own recent experiences. When I realized I was hurting myself by not taking breaks, I started using a count down timer that beeped after a two hour work session. I promised myself that I would take a 15-20 minute break when the timer went off.

I would then take my break inside. Sometimes, I would do some stretching. Other times, I would chat with other people. I felt better. But, I didn’t feel all the way rejuvenated. So, I decided to do some research on how to improve my breaks.

I found that I wasn’t being active enough during my breaks. I then took my 15-20 minute work break outside and went on a nice, relaxing walk. I found real power and rejuvenation. Something about seeing the birds fly by, looking up at the clouds, feeling the wind against my face, and walking to the nearby creek has really given me the productivity boost that I was searching for.

I have found that I am more focused after my 15-20 minute walk. I feel happier. I feel less boxed in and trapped in my job.

I run a website that features cool things to buy. So, if you like cool gadgets, you should check it out. I like to march to the beat of my own drum. I want to live a better, different life than others. I want true happiness and peace. Good luck on your journey!


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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