Here’s Exactly How Often the Most Productive People Take Breaks

If you're looking to get more done, you may want to consider working less.

coffee-shopbaranq/ShutterstockWe can’t all be productivity superhumans, so if you’ve tried everything from clearing out your workspace to cutting off your Wi-Fi, and you still find yourself pounding at your keyboard after hours, there may be one trick that you have yet to put to the test.

Turns out that the secret to getting more done is actually working less. At least, that’s the concept behind the rule of 52 and 17. Never heard of it? It’s simpler than it sounds, and the basis is probably something you’re already doing—just perhaps not enough.

The idea is to take long breaks…a lot of long breaks. To be precise, 17-minute breaks after every 52 minutes of intense work. It sounds like a lot of downtime, and let’s be real, if you’re working the average nine-to-five day, it kind of is. But this very specific time ratio was proven to pump up your productivity through an experiment by the Draugiem Group, using time tracking app DeskTime. They found that the top 10 percent of their most highly productive employees adhere to a similar stop-and-go workflow.

Here’s the logic behind it: Employees who fully recuperate through the day are better able to dedicate themselves and accomplish tasks with a greater sense of purpose during the shorter amount of time they actually spend working. Opposed to the “let me check Facebook for 5-ish-minutes” type of break, 17 minutes of completely disconnecting from office affairs will allow you to return refreshed and ready to take on the next 52-minute burst. Think of it as a HIIT workout for your productivity, but instead of sweating buckets, you’re sprinting through spreadsheets.

For those of us who can’t manage to break from our desks quite as frequently, the strategy is comparable to the Pomodoro Method, which lends to a similar form of work cycle. Employees devote themselves to work for 25 minutes and then rest for 5, taking a longer 15-minute break after every four intervals.

So whether you have 5 minutes or 17, consider freeing yourself from the confines of your cubicle and trying one of these quick break time ideas:

  • Call a loved one. Whether you call to say hello or vent about a coworker, hearing their voice will instantly better your mood.
  • Make plans. Scour some local calendars to find a great food festival, look into flights for an upcoming trip, or finally make reservations for that new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Finalizing plans will give you something to look forward to.
  • Clear out your purse/wallet. Because you don’t need to hold onto an extra two pounds of 6-month-old gum wrappers, lint-covered sticky notes, and receipts. Enough said.
  • Update your software. Perhaps another essential you’ve been putting off. Bonus points if the update forces you to give your computer a break.
  • Draw. No, really. Forget how horrible your sketch skills are, and take a moment to release some creativity.
  • Try one of these 14 weird brain exercises that help you get smarter.

Next, learn how habit stacking trains your brain to make good habits last.