Smoke breakWhen I was in high school, we had an interesting schedule layout. Instead of the regular 45-50 minute class periods, we had 90 minutes of class and only 3 to 4 classes a day. It was called a block schedule, and at the time, I thought it was a system devised solely to mess with the freshman. As it turns out, there was some scientific benefit to the system, which Jeff Stibel’s article this morning shed some light on. 

Once I got past the title “Bring Back the Smoke Break” and realized that Mr. Stibel was not, in fact, advocating that we all become chain smokers, I found the argument extremely compelling. He explains that as a culture, when employees stopped smoking, they also stopped taking regular work breaks, which in turn decreased levels of productivity. While the whole not smoking thing was great for the employees’ physical health, their mental health suffers when they do not take frequent breaks. Mr. Stibel explains that our brains work best in 90 minute increments of focused work with a 10 minute break.

Not only did this revelation make my high school administration seem less crazy, it also made a lot of sense in my daily life. While in school, I found I could really only focus on homework for about 90 minutes at a time, and after 90 minutes into a test I was ready for a nap. But as soon as I took a break and focused on something else for a little while, I was ready to be productive again. I find it interesting that we don’t all naturally apply this rule to ourselves at work, as it would lead us to be more productive. To put this idea to use, Mr. Stibel suggests separating your work day into four 90 minute increments, with a break in between. For this to be truly effective, he suggests that you have absolutely no distractions while working. No email, no Twitter, nothing but the task at hand. Then take a break, and start your next task. This allows for the brain to be more productive than when we work continuously for 8 hours. I know personally, I would rather work with Mr. Stibel’s strategy than move sluggishly along for 8 hours. 

So in conclusion: let’s Bring Back the Smoke Break! 

To see more our of CEO’s great ideas check out these articles: 

Photo Cred: Brice Ambrosiak, Flickr