31 Days

Day 6

a Break

No one does their best work if they’ve got to be “on” all the time. Even the hardest working company men lose their enthusiasm if they feel like they're constantly working. And while there are a lot of benefits to working from home, one of the most common downsides is that the stress of the workday blends into the evenings and off-time, eating up precious time that could be spent resting or on leisure and personal projects.

Man overworking illustration

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You've got a growing to-do list and suddenly, it feels like you're trying to do a hundred different things at once. Little by little, some progress is made but then a distraction pulls you off course. By the time you get back to the task at hand, you feel way too behind to call it quits. So it feels like you're never getting ahead and you're constantly working past the point of optimal productivity.

Sabine Sonnentag, a professor at Germany's University of Mannheim, found that people who do not know how to detach from work experience increased exhaustion over the course of one year and are less resilient in the face of stressful work conditions. Sonnentag stresses how critical it is to learn to consciously detach from work and take time for yourself. The easiest way to get some time back? Reward yourself with breaks.

The Pomodoro Technique is a popular method among lifehackers and productivity gurus because it's all but guaranteed to work. Developed in the 1980s by then-university student Francesco Cirillo, he confronted his procrastination demons by committing to just 10 minutes of focused study time. The challenge proved so successful, he eventually started using a tomato shaped kitchen timer to track his workflow and breaks. He went on to write several books on the subject, but the concept's biggest strength is its simplicity:

Pomodoro Technique timer illustration
Pomodoro Technique timer illustration


Decide on the task to be done.


Set a timer to 25 minutes. (This is the length of one Pomodoro, or pom.)


Work on said task until the timer rings. If a distraction pops into your head, just write it down so you don't forget it, but then immediately get back on task.


After the timer rings, give yourself a five-minute break. (You can also note, that's one pom down.)


After four Pomodoros, take a longer break (15-30 minutes). It's a good idea to get away from your workspace during this break.

Not only does it allow you to feel like you've gotten some time to yourself, but it's been proven to help your subconscious efficiently problem solve. That's because, Cirillo says, your brain will use this time to assimilate new information and rest before the next round of Pomodoros.

Desk Timers

Of course you could use an app on your phone or simply Google “25 Minute Timer.” But there's something nice about the tactical quality of these.

TimeCube Bamboo Easy-Set Timer

Bamboo easy-set timer,
$25.99 by TimeCube

Design Within Reach 30-Minute Hour Glass

30-minute hour glass,
$30 by Design Within Reach