A recent study has found that taking a short mental break from work (like to read my blog, check Facebook, or update your Amazon wishlist) actually helps productivity. Of course this isn’t true if you spend three hours on the internet at a time, but if you can look at one thing for a couple of minutes, then return to work, it will make you more productive.
My husband mentioned a similar phenomenon the other day. He said that, as a trainer, he was taught that people can only engage their brains for 15 minutes before they start shutting down from information overload. So, if he’s in a training class, he lectures for 15 minutes and then has people do a hands-on activity or takes a break for questions. This allows people to lock in what they’ve learned and once the interlude is over, they’re ready for 15 more minutes of lecture.
One could reasonably assume this same thing applies to work environment. You can probably only concentrate on a task for about 15 minutes before your work quality begins to degrade as you get bored and your mind starts to wander. Taking a quick look at the internet (or getting up to get a cup of coffee, if you are so pedestrian) gives your mind a break, and then you’ll be ready to hit it for another 15 minutes.
Now that you’ve read this, go do 15 minutes of work!