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When and How Long Should Your Work Breaks Be?

When you work somewhere like a retail store or restaurant, when you take breaks and for how long are often dictated by your employer. When you work at a desk at an office, your breaks are a little more up to you. So, when should you take breaks when you set them yourself?

Speaking with Fast Company, Robert Pozen, senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management says that rather than thinking of how many breaks you should take in a day you should instead decide “what is the appropriate time period of concentrated work you can do before taking [a] break?”

His suggestion is to take a break every 75 to 90 minutes. That’s the time frame of most college classes as well as how long many professional musicians will practice in a single sitting. The idea is that during that time period we’ll be able to focus on a task. Afterwards, a 15-minute break can help your brain consolidate that information so you can retain it better.

If you can’t quite work in chunks like that, another option is to work for 52 minutes and then break for 17. The 52-minute work periods function as “sprints” of sorts, allowing you to power through work more efficiently.

And finally, the Pomodoro Technique suggests taking a 5-minute break every 25 minutes. That technique comes particularly in handy when a specific task requires your attention. Focusing on something for just 25-minute bursts at a time makes it easier to not get distracted, and ultimately will help you complete your task more efficiently.