Use breaks to manage your mental and physical state during the day to help optimize your performance and avoid costly mistakes.

According to Anders Ericsson a psychologist internationally recognized for expertise on human performance and author of Peak, top performers are as disciplined about taking breaks as they are about their practice. Reportedly top performers focus intensely for 45 – 90 minutes and then take a small break.

Breaks act like a reboot for their brain which is why they are an important part of optimizing human performance. Everyone has a low period of performance in their day referred to as a trough. For most, the trough occurs at 2-3 p.m. Studies of performance during the trough have proven the negative impact of trying to power through it without a break. Test scores dropped, infection rates at hospitals increased, medical procedure outcomes were worse and verdicts were less favorable. No one is exempt from the trough or need for regular breaks.

Leading edge companies encourage their employees to take breaks whether to play a quick game of tennis table or to take a short nap. Naps are one of the best ways to overcome the trough. According to Daniel Pink author of When, a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage followed by a 10-20 minute nap is one of the best elixirs for the daily trough. The caffeine will kick in by the time you wake and give you an extra boost for the rest of the day.

Breaks don’t have to be long to be effective.  As you plan your day, schedule different types of breaks throughout your day to optimize your performance.

1/ Micro-breaks: Do the breathing break if you wear the iWatch, walk to the water fountain for a refill or wiggle around in your chair for a few minutes. Whatever you do, take your eyes off the screen.

2/ Moving breaks: Take a little walk around the office, do some chair yoga or do a few exercises.

3/ Nature breaks: Take a walk around the block or take a little nap on the grass or park bench for the added restorative qualities of nature.

4/ Social breaks: Take a coffee break with a friend, play a game of table tennis or call someone to have a nice chat.