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KEY POINTS:

1. The Work-Rest Principle is a structured approach to living and working that embeds sufficient recovery into your schedule.

2. Encourage employees to chunk their day into blocks of time that they are working at 100%, followed by a period of complete rest.

3. This will allow everyone to improve the quality of their work, even if they’re actually taking more breaks throughout the day.

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The work-rest principle is a practice whereby you alternate periods of focused intense work with periods of deliberate rest, recovery, and regeneration. An example would be Tony Schwartz’s 90-Minute Solution from The Energy Project, in which people work in ninety-minute increments followed by thirty-minute breaks. Or Robin Sharma advocates sixty-minute work blocks followed by a ten-minute break. You can create whatever timetable works best for you, but we recommend a maximum work interval should be ninety minutes or less with minimum rest period of ten minutes.

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The important thing is to incorporate regular breaks into your workday. This is likely a new concept for many people who, for most of their careers, have been cramming in as much work to as many hours as they can, day in and day out. Allowing for periods of rest within your day will move you toward a different way of working, the aforementioned Power Work. This can mean working for sixty minutes with fifteen off, working for ninety minutes with thirty off, or whatever works for you.

The key is to find a cadence that allows you to up your game, improve the quality of your work, and improve your physical and mental health. And when you take breaks, really take a break—go for a walk, get away from the office, step away from work completely.

The goal is to create a situation where employees know that they’ve got a stretch of time when they can really focus, be as undistracted as possible, be hyper-productive, but then take a break to recover and regenerate. Now, instead of operating constantly at 80 percent, people can work at 100 percent and then commit 100 percent to their thirty-minute recovery and regeneration period. The result is improved performance and better health, as breaks are key to eliminating symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety.

It is often the norm in a corporate setting for downtime to be viewed as slacking off or a lack of a work ethic. You can help to change that by assisting everyone in understanding the role that deliberate downtime plays in amplifying the productivity of work.