More Accounting Tomorrow Posts

Taking a brain break

September 24, 2010

Accounting, like any other industry, has evolved throughout the generations in an effort to push productivity thresholds to newer and higher maximums. Technology, systems, processes, and workplace environments have all evolved into what we can simply call The Cubicle Age.

Software and hardware innovations have thrust efficiency to unparalleled levels. Managerial and work flow organization has streamlined processes to create more time for growth. The end result is a workplace that allows for an accountant to spend endless amounts of hours working away without end.

In theory, this system works, but it makes a false assumption about the ability of the human brain to operate efficiently for endless periods of time. As you will see, this is far from true and the endless hours spent in front of computer screens and keyboards could actually hinder productivity.

Brains like to explore

Humans have successfully dominated the globe because they effectively utilized their most effective survival tool: the brain. Humans could not outrun or overpower dangerous predators. Instead they outsmarted them. Their brain development also allowed exploration of new terrains, surviving climate changes, and paved the way for innovations that conquered nature laws.

Yet today, the only environmental stimulation inside the confines of a cubicle occurs when pinned photos on the wall are changed seasonally. Sedentary lifestyles have obvious impacts on the physical health of accountants, but its affect on brain function may be more significant when comes to maximizing productivity.

Information overload

The human brain cannot soak in information hours on end. In fact, the limit is somewhere between 60 to 90 minutes before information retention significantly declines. The brain needs time to review, link, and store the information from a learning session. It doesn’t function like a tape recorder.

Yet, when preparing workpapers, business proposals, or learning new tasks on the job, we try to soak in all of the information in one sitting. The resulting information overload means hardly any of the new information will be retained. Brains simply cannot focus effectively for that long of a time period without hitting an information threshold. Understanding these time limits of the brain’s ability to focus can significantly enhance productivity.

Simple solution: Brain breaks

Every office is full of people who take 10 to 15 minute smoking breaks as often as every hour. Instead of cigarette breaks, proactive accountants can take “brain breaks” and simply take a few minutes to walk outside and let the information acquired in the last 60 to 90 minutes of work set in.

Walking has two added benefits as well. First, the human brain will thrive simply from adding a little movement to its daily regimen. Second, since brains have limited opportunities to explore and absorb external stimuli due to today’s prominent sedentary lifestyles, walking outside during a brain break adds an element of brain stimulation.

Let the brain digest all of the information it has been working on the past hour and at the same time let it experience the world through your five senses, letting the blood flow through your body improving all bodily functions.

Luke Sniewski currently works as a CPA as well as a fitness consultant. He works by weaving the health and wellness world with the business professional world. Working with companies and business professionals, his organization, LEAF, provides CPE courses that aim to improve the overall quality of life through the implementation of proactive lifestyles. Visit for more details.

Comments (2)

Thank you for your post. I think that you may not be alone on this one. Too many people blame themselves for not being able to maintain a robot-like focus for countless hours. We are human. We should enjoy it. Through our enjoyment we will actually learn and retain more information anyway. It's definitely a win-win.

Posted by LukeSniewski | Tuesday, September 28 2010 at 4:11AM ET
This really makes sense! While taking online courses for my Associates in Accounting, quite often, my brain stops comprehending what my eyes are seeing. I thought it was my lack of learning ability, but, to my amazement, my brain needs a break! This is great news!

Posted by StAlice | Monday, September 27 2010 at 11:24AM ET
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