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The New Habit Challenge: Work The Exact Amount Of Time Science Tells Us To

You know you should take regular breaks during the workday, but did you know they should be exactly 17 minutes long?

[Photo: Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker]

It turns out going hard for eight hours straight every day isn't the best way to get work done.

Contrary to the popular convention of working ourselves to exhaustion, researchers from the University of Toronto found that taking regular breaks actually makes you more productive. This is because, according to the study's co-author John Trougakos, once our physical energy is depleted, so too is our pool of psychological energy. Essentially, if we're working ourselves to the point of physical exhaustion, we're not going to get superior work performance and focus in return.

So is there a prescribed amount of time we should allow ourselves to relax and reenergize?

According to researchers from social networking company Draugiem Group, there is—and it's very specific.

For the utmost productivity you can squeeze out of yourself, researchers say you should work for 52 minutes at a time and take 17-minute breaks in between. By analyzing the work habits of a pool of its most productive employees, the company found the most productivity came from workers who stepped away from their computers 17 minutes at a time and went about offline tasks like taking a walk, chatting with coworkers about anything but work, or reading a book.

"Turns out, the secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a workday is not working longer—but working smarter with frequent breaks," wrote Julia Gifford in The Muse when she posted the study’s results.

We're all for working smarter here at Fast Company, so we thought this would be great advice to put to the test. For the next week I will break up my workday every 52 minutes with 17-minute breaks. To achieve this I plan to set pop-up reminders in my calendar. I invite you to join me.

Challenge yourself to take breaks according to the schedule above and tell us what you loved and hated about it, if it worked or totally bombed, and we may feature your response in an upcoming Fast Company story. Responses must be submitted to habits@fastcompany.com by end of day Thursday, September 25, 2014.