It sounds counterintuitive but the key to getting more done might actually be working less. Why? Because of the incredible power of breaks.

A host of experts attest that taking multiple short breaks throughout the day not only saves you from the horror-show health effects of too much sitting, but also mentally refreshes you, leading to more productivity in the long-run.

Great, you might reply, let me fire YouTube right now then. There's a few kitten videos I've been dying to see all day. But if scrolling through your feeds and checking out silly videos on your phone seems like the ideal break, science has some bad news for you. According to a new study you can play with phone for awhile or you can actually recharge your brain -- but you can't do both.

Not all breaks are created equal.

This latest research asked more than 4,000 Korean workers to report on their breaks, what activities they engaged in during them, and how they felt both during and after their period of relaxation. The scientists discovered that while your smartphone might seem like the ideal way to detach, breaks that involved playing with gadgets actually provided less benefit than stepping away from screens entirely.

"The results also showed that phone use during lunch was associated with higher levels of emotional exhaustion during the afternoon," reports the British Psychological Society Research Digest blog. "This seems to be because phone-based distraction just isn't as rejuvenating." The bottom line seems to be that while fiddling with your phone might be fun, it's still taxing for your brain and unlikely to give you the performance boost of, say, taking a short walk in your neighborhood park or chatting with a colleague.

Apparently, the Swedish already knew this.

While this might come as a surprise to many phone-addicted Americans, apparently some cultures have long understood the value of truly refreshing breaks. For example, on Quartz recently, Anne Quito explained the Swedish tradition of fika -- two quick breaks taken around 10am and 3pm where workers brew up a nice cup of coffee and chat over their mugs and perhaps a pastry.

A complete change of pace like this sounds lovely, but Quito insists it also helps workers get more done. "Linkoping University professor Viveka Adelsward has studied the history of Swedish social rituals and says breaks like fika may actually boost productivity," writes Quito, who goes on to quote Adelsward's blog: "Studies show that people who take a break from their work do not do less. It's actually the opposite; efficiency at work can benefit from these kinds of get-togethers."

When your next break roles around, should you swap yet another Facebook check or cute animal video for a Swedish-style fika?

Published on: Mar 18, 2016
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