How To Take Break-Break Taking Methods

Four break methods to try

Ready to try breaks at work but not sure how to implement your schedule? Here are a few methods you might consider.

1. Pomodoro method

One of the most common ways to implement a schedule with breaks—especially when you’re busy—is to work in small bursts. The Pomodoro Technique is perfect for this. Just set a timer for 25 minutes, and when it goes off, take a short break for 5 minutes. Stretch your legs, grab a drink, or just sit back and relax. After you’ve done four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break of 30 minutes or so.

pomodoro cycle

Working in such compact time periods helps you get rid of distractions and focus more intently. I found that having a finite beginning and end to each chunk of work gave me a little edge of urgency–I closed out tasks more quickly and made the “little decisions” faster because I knew the clock was counting down.

2. 90-minute work blocks

Want more time to dig in? Working in 90-minute intervals has long been a favorite method of maximizing productivity because it works with our bodies’ natural rhythms.

Sleep researchers William Dement and Nathan Kleitman first discovered the 90-minute patternwhile studying the cycles by which we progress into sleep—but it persists when we’re awake, too, as we move from higher to lower levels of alertness.  Other researchers have dubbed this the ultradian rhythm.


When Professor K. Anders Ericsson studied elite performers like violinists, athletes, actors and chess players, he found that the best performers practiced in focused sessions of no more than 90 minutes.

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”

3. The 52-17 method

A third option: split the difference between Pomodoro and 90-minute blocks with what recent research indicates could be the most productive schedule of all.

Using time-tracking and productivity app DeskTime, the Draugiem Group studied the habits of the most productive employees and learned that the most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time, then break for 17 minutes before getting back to it. The bottom line, they discovered, was working with purpose:

The reason the most productive 10% of our users are able to get the most done during the comparatively short periods of working time is that their working times are treated as sprints. They make the most of those 52 minutes by working with intense purpose, but then rest up to be ready for the next burst. In other words, they work with purpose.

Pro tip: For any of these timed methods, I like to add Focus Booster, an unobtrusive and handy timer app, to keep me on track.

4. Two 15-minute breaks per day

If a time-blocked day doesn’t appeal to you or work with your job, consider a simpler but still quite effective solution: blocking out two planned, 15-minute intermissions in your day—one in the mid-morning and the other in the mid-afternoon. Around 3 p.m. is the least productive time of day, so definitely don’t skip that break!

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