It’s virtually impossible to do meaningful work eight hours a day, especially when you’re in a creative field of work like software development. Yet I recommend to avoid all kinds of disruptions in my posts. How do these statements match up?
There’s a significant difference between external and internal causes for breaks. External interruptions are the ones I talked about at length and I still encourage everyone to avoid them. They destroy work flows and the awareness of whether what you’re doing is meaningful work or not. Some examples:
There’s basically just one internal cause: You feel the need for a break. When exactly will this be? You might be totally absorbed by a task and barely notice the time. After a couple of hours you’re done. You look at the results of your work with joy. Now is definitely the time for a break! A contrasting example: After half an hour of work you notice a lack of concentration. You don’t feel like you’ll get anything done today. Well, there’s rarely any sense in staring at a screen for hours. Have a break. It feels wrong to start the first break of the day at 9:30am. Nevertheless, it pays off when you get back to work with a free mind.
The aim of a successful break is to relax and to get a clear head. Depending on your work place there will be various possibilities to spend your time. I highly encourage you to get away from your computer. Go talk to your colleagues - without interrupting them of course :) - or even go for a walk. What ever you like to do, there are a few activities I consider counterproductive:
It depends. I guess you’re expecting a little more detail. Yet I’m serious. It depends. When you’re working for a company in an office your break times will be limited. If you can afford it, I suggest you don’t set any limits for break lengths. Just wait until you feel ready to work again. This might be after ten minutes or the next morning. For me this works very well. How do you spend your breaks? I’d like to read about it in the comments!