Be Happier and Healthier and Get More Work Done in Less Time

This month our Beyond Health Journey to become stronger and healthier has been all about taking time and space to relax, regroup and renew yourself. Whether that’s the traditional two weeks of vacation or taking time out of your day to have a “mindful cup to tea,” a bike ride, or simply a few minutes to sit outside in the sun (preferably barefoot), it all counts as a deposit in your health bank account.

One more way you can build up your health savings account is by pacing yourself at work. You’ll also improve your productivity.  Who wouldn’t want to get more work done in less time, and feel healthier and happier to boot!

Many of you know that sitting for prolonged periods of time isn’t healthy, and, based on the science, at Beyond Health we’ve recommended getting up and moving around a bit every fifteen minutes or so.

But the mind needs a break too also. Over time, the quality of our attention diminishes unless we take short rest breaks.

A 1999 study by Cornell University found that workers reminded by a computer program to take short breaks were 13% more accurate than co-workers who worked straight through the day.

One company, the Draugiem Group, used a time-tracking and productivity app called DeskTime to determine the exact formula required for balancing work and rest to maximize performance.  By monitoring the most productive 10% of their employees, they found these workers had something common—their “ability to take effective breaks.”

The group determined the ideal formula for such breaks was working for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break.

The most effective breaks involved completely disengaging from work, whether by taking a walk, reading a book, getting something to eat, or socializing with co-workers.

Socializing is thought to be a particularly good way to use break time. Research has shown that socializing with co-workers (not about work) makes employees happier AND despite working considerably less, they wind up accomplishing just as much or more than their non-socializing, co-workers who don’t take breaks.

Bosses everywhere, take note!

Another tip: stick to the 5-day, 40-hour work week. While more and more overworked Americans are putting in 50 and 60 hours per week, in the 1920’s, no less than auto magnate Henry Ford did his own productivity studies and discovered that after 5 days and 40 hours, worker productivity declined steadily.

He improved productivity by reducing his company’s work week from 6 days/48 hours to 5 days/40 hours, and reported, “We know from our experience in changing from six to five days and back again that we can get at least as great production in five days as we can in six. Just as the eight-hour day opened our way to prosperity, so the five-day week will open our way to a still greater prosperity.”

So . . . give yourself a break – and, if your circumstances permit it, numerous breaks throughout the day!



  1. Gifford J. The rule of 52 and 17: it’s random, but it ups your productivity. Accessed July 22, 2017.
  2. Ariga A. Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements. Cognition. March 2011;118(3):439-443.
  3. Lang SS. When workers heed computer’s reminder to take a break, their productivity jumps, Cornell study finds. Cornell Chronicle, September 23, 1999. Accessed online July 22, 2017.
  4. Thompson D. A formula for perfect productivity: work for 52 minutes, break for 17. The Atlantic. September 17, 2014. Accessed online July 22, 2017.


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