Q: How can I be more productive?
For far too long, I clung to the belief that productivity and nonstop work went hand in hand. “The more I work, the more I will achieve,” I told myself. It turns out that pressing pause is a far more effective way to enhance your ability to get things done and learn new skills. A study titled “Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance” shows that taking time to reflect on work rather than immediately switching to a new task can improve job performance. As lead researcher and Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino sums up: “Now more than ever we seem to be living lives where we’re busy and overworked, and our research shows that if we’d take some time out for reflection, we might be better off.”
Taking a break might seem like the last thing in the world you have time for, but it’s actually one of the most effective ways to boost productivity. Keep in mind that not all breaks are created equal. For example, taking a break early in the day is more restorative than waiting until later in the afternoon. Seeming “time wasters” like a walk around the block, chatting with a colleague, and going on a coffee run will recharge you and enhance focus.
If you want to get more done, ignore the ever-growing supply of “productivity porn”—apps, books, and wearable devices designed to help you cram more into each day—and just take better and more breaks.
Dr. Samantha Boardman is a clinical instructor in psychiatry and an assistant attending psychiatrist at Weil Cornell Medical College in New York and the the founder of positiveprescription.com.
This story originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Marie Claire.