Ever stumbled on an unplanned 10-minute break? I have always faced confusion about dealing with sudden breaks during the work day. So let’s try and break down the break optimization protocol!
There are more than ten reasons for such breaks like video uploading, meeting getting over early, code just worked in the first shot, long build running, slow build, system update, and so on!
Working in remote teams is enough to have a variable schedule. Hence it makes sense to have a backup plan to optimize such breaks productively.
Breaks are imminent. Getting distracted is optional
10 ways to utilize breaks without using social media
- Clean Inbox
- RSS reader
- Instrumental playlist
- TODO list
- Grocery list
- Organize desk
- Step away from the desk
- Clean bookmarks
- Clean calendar and reminders
- Close your eyes and just let time pass
Leave your desk, if possible. Break the digital
For me, the biggest perk of working from the office is the access to pantries. Sudden breaks mean not letting the mind wander. I used to utilize such gaps in the office to do a “utility lap.” Refill the water bottle, visit the washroom and get a tea or coffee. Leave empty bottled and return with the moolah of necessities!
Another favorite of mine is cleaning or organizing desks. Office desk drawer printouts are like Instagram feed. You never know why you are looking at them but can’t stop since that’s equivalent to denying reality. I always gauge my ideas by the cleanliness of my desk. The desk is messiest after I have finished with my best effort, and the code still sucks.
Schedule pruning break
Inbox purging is the most unexpected yet productive way to stay focused. Having a zero unread inbox is a great time saver. You save space in the cloud with zero unread emails and always have your top priorities accessible. In addition, some unnecessary emails like OPTs, promotions, and login alerts are useless within a minute of you seeing them.
Eventually, the free inbox sizes are going to be insufficient. With Photos storage getting added to the free quota of GMail, the days of thousands of unread emails are numbered. Start before important emails start bouncing. Doing a purge in a single shot in a rush is bound to lose important data. Instead, use breaks to chip away at the end goal.
Another option for similar cleanup is organizing the calendar. I use the calendar for trivial reminders as well. Some actions are no longer needed but remain dangling in the calendar. For example, I had a monthly reminder to check the balance of a bank account serving the home loan EMI. Once I had settled the loan, I didn’t need the reminder. I deleted it after three months!
Cleaning browser bookmarks is another way I use them. I bookmark a lot of information. It is helpful in the context of a few weeks while working on a problem. Cleanup, as usual, happens lazily.
RSS Reader interval
I have been plodding to use data on my phone — as late as 2018! So, how staying up to date with the world?
RSS Feeds. No social media accounts till 2021. I used to get my news exclusively from sources I trusted. Yes, it was a bubble of 127 feeds, but isn’t that enough? The sources covered global politics, finance, sports, technology, webcomics, blogs, and updates about new distro releases. Scanning imageless headlines prove to be more effective for me.
Many times you don’t have the luxury of leaving your desk. Closing eyes and tuning into something soothing or familiar has worked for me since college. However, programming can sometimes get you into transcendental modes. Leaving the desk is as good as walking back into the chaotic universe. It would help if you had a break without leaving the realm of logic. So change the immediate sense from vision to audio.
Instrumentals and podcasts are different media. Instrumentals will suspend the passing time and allow your train of thought to continue. Podcasts will reboot your thoughts. The key to podcasts is to pick the one you were already listening to. Don’t ever start a new one; it’s as distracting as social media. I started a short episode podcast for such breaks. Do try it out!
Breaking down lists
Creating TODO lists and grocery lists in such short intervals is helpful. Of course, the lists are always overpopulated, but you rarely miss the necessary!