Take a break

A recent study by the University of Sydney has found that a simple five-miute break from thinking is all you need to get your concentration back.

The concept is not exactly new.

In the late ’80s university student Francesco Cirillo developed the Pomodoro Technique using a kitchen or tomato timer (hence pomodoro) to break work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

It’s long being documented that taking a break – whether it’s for a few minutes, or a week’s holiday – helps us all to recharge.

But this latest study set out to discover which of these various attention hacks works best – and it seems a five-minute break will do.

The key thing is – you do have to take a break.

That means, not looking at your phone, social media etc.

“If you want your work or study to be more productive, you need to build in simple five-minute breaks of doing nothing,” says Associate Professor Paul Ginns, an expert in educational psychology.

Doing. Nothing.

That’s hard. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs – my preferred way to look at this is ‘not doing’.

You’re not actively trying to do something.

“Do some breathing or just sit quietly to rest your brain from the task,” Ginns suggests.

I thought the line ‘do some breathing’ was quite interesting.

Felt board with the wrod Breathe on it
Breathe… Photo by Ann Lund

It’s not like we have to ‘do’ this to make it happen: “Oh excuse me for a minute, I’m going to breathe.”

It’s an automatic process that our body does for us, we barely and rarely even think about it.

But giving yourself sometime to stop and focus on your breathing…

Listening to your breath…

Feeling the air move in and out – and observing the movement within your body…

Staying with this for a few minutes…

Now that’s really taking a break.

You’ll probably notice your heart rate actively slowing and feel a sense of calm afterwards.

There are so many benefits from just stopping, and focusing on your breath.

As Associate Professor Ginns says: “Other hacks, such as deep breathing or finding a sense of stillness are centuries old. Whatever you choose to do, offer your brain a total break for just five minutes and see how your attention improves.”

You can’t argue with science!


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