With the end of the semester right around the corner, I’m finding that my motivation to study for long periods of time is dwindling, even though the pressure to continue through finals is mounting. I’ll spend countless hours “studying” that really consist of half-heartedly reviewing material and listlessly browsing social media on the side. Then, every once in a while, I’ll get up to take a break that inevitably goes far too long and ends up killing my already low productivity.
Likewise, if I opt to keep studying without breaks for a long period of time, I end up being unproductive for other reasons — because I’ve become too drained and stressed. I know I’m not alone in my cycle of lacking productivity, so instead of continuing on this way I decided to research the science of implementing study breaks, which are godsends if done right and study-mode killers if done wrong. Here are some general tips for mastering this art and getting things done so you can go home for the holidays and pig out (don’t forget the main motivation!).
Before we begin, recent studies recommend that studying in 90-minute bursts and then taking a break is potentially the most ideal method of working to create maximum productivity. So get crackin’ on those books, collegiettes, but after an hour and a half give yourself some mental TLC.
1. Redefine the term “study break” in your mind.
As Brainscape.com puts it, the term “has turned into a euphemism for procrastinating and distractions.” Part of the issue in my own life stems from how I view the term “break”: when I give myself permission to let go and turn my brain off, I get overly lazy and have a hard time turning it on again. Just because you’re taking a break doesn’t mean you’re done. Therefore, try and conceptualize the term in your brain differently so you don’t give yourself permission to completely let go.
2. Set a schedule — and actually follow it.
If you’ve come to the conclusion that studying for an hour and then taking a 10-minute break is the best schedule for your brain, set a timer and actually DO it — don’t approximate. When you start estimating how long it’s been or giving yourself “just a few more minutes,” you make yourself vulnerable to extending that quick break far too long.
3. Actually take a break and do NOT “cyber-loaf.”
For most people, taking a break usually involves some form of social media “loafing,” or mindlessly scrolling through feeds. Although this does technically get you away from your homework, it won’t recharge you the same as other, better methods. If you have the option, try and move around, talk to friends, get a snack, practice mindfulness or meditation, and if you’re really in need of a rest, a quick nap (but remember to set your alarm and wake up!).
4. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself
Studying can be a taxing activity, especially when your grade is riding on the results of your performance, so remember to stop, relax, and continue to practice self-care even during these trying times. If you don’t allow yourself to get enough sleep and eat right, no amount of study breaks will change your situation.