Taking lots of breaks might not sound like the route to incredible productivity, but according to tons of research, giving yourself regular breathers is a sure-fire way to get more done. One study showed 20 minutes of yoga could significantly improve brain functioning, another that a quick nap would seriously boost memory, while a third suggested that just shy of an hour of work followed by around a 15-minute pause was the ideal work pattern.
But what if you don't have 40 minutes to nap or even 15 minutes to kick back and reset? If that sounds like you, don't worry. Science has an alternative that even the most maniacally busy entrepreneur can take advantage of. According to a recent study out of Australia, even 40 seconds is enough to refresh your brain, as long as you do the right thing with those seconds.
The incredible power of nature
So what's this magic 40-second intervention? Something so simple you don't even have to get out of your chair to do it--just look out the window at something green.
That's one recent insight from a study looking at the impact of so-called green roofs--such as the nine-acre one Facebook is installing at its headquarters--not on the environment (which they definitely benefit) but on workers in the vicinity. To test the effects of having a green roof in your line of sight, the research team showed study participants pictures of either your average concrete roof or a plant-covered one and then tested their ability to complete a boring, attention-sapping task.
Just a quick glimpse of a green landscape, the team found, had a measurable impact on productivity. "This study showed us that looking at an image of nature for less than a minute was all it took to help people perform better on our task," explained lead researcher Kate Lee. "It's really important to have micro-breaks. It's something that a lot of us do naturally when we're stressed or mentally fatigued. There's a reason you look out the window and seek nature; it can help you concentrate on your work and maintain performance across the workday."
Time to hit the garden center?
It's a simple finding (and one that jives with lots of previous studies) that's obviously useful for stressed office workers looking for an easy way to refresh, but it's clearly actionable for business owners, too. While it would be ideal if the company next door got cracking on building a green roof, until that happens bosses can help keep their teams' brains at their most productive by simply ensuring they can easily view nature in some form or another.
Rethinking your office layout, your view-blocking window coverings, your wall art, or the number of potted plants in your space might just be enough to help your team get more done and be happier doing it. Even opting for natural materials like unpainted wood could help.
Isn't it time you made a trip to the garden center?