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The Perfect Break Is 17 Minutes Long, According to This Experiment


Want to be more productive? Work for 52 minutes, and then take a 17-minute break, says the Draugiem Group, a social networking company that recently conducted an experiment with the time-tracking app DeskTime to determine exactly how long their most productive workers toil before taking a rest.


(Photo Credit: avlxyz/Flickr)

“What they found was that the 10 percent of employees with the highest productivity surprisingly didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else,” writes Lisa Evans at Fast Company. “In fact, they didn’t even work full eight-hour days. What they did do was take regular breaks.”

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The most productive workers treated their work day as a series of sprints — 52 minutes of dedicated work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. The nature of the rest was also important, according to the Draugiem Group’s Julia Gifford.

“Working with purpose can also be called the 100 percent dedication theory — the notion that whatever you do, you do it full-on,” writes Gifford at The Muse. “Therefore, during the 52 minutes of work, you’re dedicated to accomplishing tasks, getting things done, and making progress. Whereas, during the 17 minutes of break, you’re completely removed from the work you’re doing –you’re entirely resting, not peeking at your email every five minutes or just ‘quickly checking Facebook.'”

What constitutes a real rest? Well, ideally, it involves leaving your computer completely, and getting up and moving around a bit. Gifford suggests doing some exercises in your office, or talking to co-workers about non-work-related subjects.

You could even use this time to tackle a quick errand or two, if the boss will allow it and you work in an area when dropping by the bank or the dry cleaners is a relatively quick undertaking. That way, you’re killing three birds with one stone: improving productivity, offsetting the health effects of sitting, and contributing to your work-life balance.

Finally, if you can’t find exactly 17 minutes to rest for every 52 minutes of work, don’t despair: the real takeaway from this experiment is probably that we concentrate too much on putting in long hours, and not enough on making the hours we do put in more productive. Work when you’re working, rest when you’re resting — and make time for plenty of both.

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Is there a method behind your breaks? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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