Coffee works better if you take a break every couple hours.

Coffee works better if you take a break every couple hours. Photo by Zach Inglis / CCBY

Here’s what happened before I typed a word of this post: I scanned the news, opened up the back end of the site, wrote the post’s headline, read some more news, checked email, remembered to check a bank statement, checked the bank statement, grabbed a drink, and then realized that this is exactly how researchers say a person is least productive.

It’s pretty well understood that multitasking is terrible for humans. Unfortunately, numerous factors that we can control (social media use) and can’t (bosses expecting prompt email replies) make us prone to multitasking, which, as Quartz writer Olivia Goldhill explains, makes us less productive and, well, tired.

Attacking multiple complex tasks at once inherently means we’re constantly switching between chores, and that switching uses up a lot of energy. Brains, god bless them, take a lot of juice, and if they aren’t devoted to one task at a time, then all the coffee and doughnuts you consume each morning aren’t doing much good. Instead of preventing an afternoon crash, those calories and that caffeine are diverted to your constantly pivoting brain.

But, lo and behold, there’s a nifty trick — taking a break. Preach, McGill University neuroscientist Daniel Levitin:

“That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing. People eat more, they take more caffeine. Often what you really need in that moment isn’t caffeine, but just a break. If you aren’t taking regular breaks every couple of hours, your brain won’t benefit from that extra cup of coffee.”

Think of work like eating sushi. You don’t nibble one piece, then another, and then return to the original roll. No, you eat a full piece, cleanse the palate with ginger, and then move on to the other nigiri. Breaks are your metaphorical ginger: Start one task, finish it, take a break, and then move on to the next one.

The type of break is important, though. Diverting to Facebook is a no-go; the site’s news feed is a multitasking platform (BuzzFeed, then cousin Holly’s wedding, then panda video, then speedy bacon-wrapped cookie recipe then…). Instead, do something that sustains your attention on one task (see a trend here?) such as reading or taking a walk outside.

Instead of multitasking, take 15-minute breaks every couple hours between tasks. You’ll be happier, more energized, and a better employee.


Last Night Sucked

Four Dallas police officers were killed Thursday night, a terrible end to a terrible week. You’ve likely read the news, and an Eastside-focused business magazine shouldn’t be your go-to source for an analysis of the shootings. That said, you’ll likely hear about three key topics in the coming weeks. Here are some stories that provide some much-needed nuance:

  • Racial bias: It’s real. Numbers back it up.
  • Guns: The political left and right will duke it out. The National Rifle Association will assail and be assailed. Cultural and constitutional norms will be weighed. But never forget that guns are big business in the U.S. Evan Osnos’ story details the commercial success of handguns, why we buy them, and the weird logic (emotions?) we apply to the gun discourse.
  • Police brutality: Many frame body cameras as a critical font of evidence in instances of police violence. Research, however, suggests that the only benefit cameras offer, if any, is influencing the way police act before an incident takes place.

#FYIFV

Somewhere in Redmond, there’s a Microsoft employee whose job is intern communications. This entity was tasked with inviting interns to a party. This entity had no damn idea how to communicate with college kids, so this entity seemingly scoured the internet for all the garbage young people sometimes say and came up with, well, garbage. Bloomberg’s Dina Bass explains:

In the gamut of things Microsoft has had to apologize for lately, including a racist chatbot and sexy dancers, this might be one of the strangest: The company sent an e-mail inviting interns to a party that begins: “Hey Bae Intern! <3” and gets worse from there, offering “lots of dranks” and the ability to “get lit on a Monday night.”

What kind of silly Microsoftie would write this? Wait, didn’t that “racist chatbot” do this kind of thing?

Something good did come of Microsoft’s latest failed attempt to be hip: the resurrection of a Seattle Times story about when Microsoft actually was hip (that was in 1989). The story includes probably my favorite Microsoft tidbit of all time: “Younger employees with stock options apparently wore buttons that read ‘FYIFV,’ which stood for ‘F— You, I’m Fully Vested.'”