Fuzzy Math for Mini Breaks

Posted on July 22nd, 2015 by Seth Nickinson

Often in our lives we say we are “too busy” for something. Too busy to call our Mom. Too busy to put away the dishes. Too busy to organize our junk drawer (hey, that’s why they call it a junk drawer). Too busy in our workday to get up from our desk, or step away from the work station, or get down from the ladder.

But is that really true? Can we really afford not to take a brief respite?


In recent research, almost 8 percent of the total workforce experiences a loss in productive time during a two-week period due to a headache or back pain. More than 3/4 of lost productive time at work from pain is not due to being absent, but being distracted. In fact, this idea of being “at work, but out of it,” has a special name: presenteeism.

Doing Fuzzy Math

Let’s say we commit to taking a 3 minute mini-break every hour in an 8-hour day. In California, legally we have to take a lunch break plus a 10 minute break for every 4 hours worked. So those are 3 hours are already covered. That means we are possibly adding five 3-minute stretch or brain breaks a day. Perhaps even just 4, as we might not take a break at the very beginning or very end of the day.

New Way

3 legally mandated breaks = 50 minutes
5 x 3-minute intentional mini-breaks every hour = 15 minutes
= 65 minutes total breaks in an 8 hour day


Old Way

3 legally mandated breaks = 50 minutes
1 lingering in the bathroom to have a minute of peace = 6 minutes
1 fidgeting with equipment to try to alleviate discomfort of use = 3 minutes

1 extra checking of phone and social media to pass the time = 2 minutes
2 x 2 minutes being totally distracted by temple pressure = 4 minutes
3 x 2 minutes simply being unable to focus and staring at computer or equipment = 6 minutes
5 days a year absent due to back/neck/leg/head pain = 9 minutes
= 80 minutes

So we would potentially gain 15 minutes following the New Way. Plus, we might feel less guilty and be using the time in a healthier way.


What To Do On Your Mini-Breaks

As we’ve discussed in prior posts, you might do a stretch, try some meditative breathing, drink some water, or take a “brain break.”