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How Neuroscientists Use Brain Breaks to Boost Creativity at Work

Build in physical activity, meditation, and personal time for an optimal day.

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Illustration: Muhammad Fatchurofi for Bloomberg Businessweek

Back-to-back meetings, endless screen time, long hours—the human mind is poorly designed for the typical workday. Neuroscientists take a different approach. “How do I get stuff done?” says Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University. “Well, I’m not killing myself cognitively, and I’m certainly not working 15-hour days.”

To emulate brain experts such as Zak, zero in on your overarching goal: thriving without becoming mentally exhausted or disengaged. For most people, that means doing a mix of deep work, meetings, light tasks, and specialized activities. Fight the urge to hunker down for hours of uninterrupted writing or serial conference calls. “When you have a million different meetings, you will likely go to a place of deluge and get overwhelmed,” says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University.