Unless you’re some sort of academic superhuman, you can’t study 24/7. At some point, your head will start hurting, your focus will peter out, your blank wall will become incessantly fascinating, and you’re going to take a break. Guaranteed. Now, that break could be spent aimlessly scrolling through Tumblr, checking your phone “just for five minutes”, or giving in to any other vices that you know you’ll regret later. Or, your break could be carefully scheduled ahead of time and actually increase your productivity and be rejuvenating for your mind/body. This post will teach you how to take breaks that fall under the latter category. You could say these tips could make or break your study session. (*ba dum tss*)
These are the small breaks you would take within one study session or one day. This includes the popular Pomodoro technique, in which you work for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes (1 Pomodoro), and take a longer 15-minute break every 4 Pomodoros. Other variants include work for 50 minutes, break for 10 and even the somewhat random work for 52 minutes, break for 17 method. I suggest starting out with shorter work sessions if you’re having difficulty focusing for an extended period of time. Over time, your focus will increase and you may find that, say, working for 90 minutes and breaking for 30 is ideal for you. But whichever work:break ratio you choose, the gist is the same– take frequent breaks to recharge yourself so you can do better work.
If you don’t know what to do during your short breaks, try mixing and matching the activities below to suit the length of your breaks and your personal preferences:
- stand up and stretch!
- open up a window to get some fresh air
- if you’ve been staring at a digital screen, spend about 30 seconds looking out the window or another faraway object to give your eyes a rest
- refill your water bottle
- eat a healthy snack (fruit, yogurt, veggies with hummus) for more fuel
- perform simple bodyweight exercises (squats, push ups, jumping jacks) to raise energy + get your blood flowing
- take a 10-15 minute power nap
- listen to music
- read a book
- do something fun and creative, like solving a Sudoku puzzle, doodling, sketching, working on a Rubik’s cube, coloring, or playing an instrument
- update your to-do list by crossing off things you’ve completed and adding new tasks
Avoid Tumblr/Instagram/YouTube/Twitter/Snapchat if you can help yourself! It’s really, really easy to get quickly sucked into the Internet. And if used excessively, social media will only harm the quality of your focus and attention. You can catch up with your friends later, but focus on taking care of yourself and your health during these short breaks.
Long breaks are breaks that last an entire day or more, such as weekends, holidays, and summer/winter break. These provide the perfect opportunity to get in some serious rest and fun. Here are some tips for how to spend this time.
Automate your schedule.
If you tend to maintain a relatively consistent schedule throughout the week, consider dedicating certain times to the same repeating tasks. For example, I do all of my tedious, mindless tasks, such as making flashcards, updating my planner, and organizing my workspace, on Friday evenings when I’m too tired to concentrate on more challenging assignments. I try to complete most of my readings/textbook notes for the upcoming week on Saturday afternoons. On Wednesdays, when I don’t have any after school activities, I use the extra time to finish the math problem sets I’m assigned every Monday/Tuesday. Having an “automatic” schedule like this is helpful because it gets me in the habit of doing the same things at the same times. Buckling down to finish your essay on Saturday is much easier when you’ve been devoting Saturday to be your writing day for the past few months.
Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
I talk more in-depth about sleep in this post, but basically, don’t become nocturnal during an extended break. Try to sleep and rise at around the same time each day, and catch up on whatever sleep you missed during your normal hectic school schedule.
Obviously you’ll want to work on your assignments so you’re in good shape when returning to school, but don’t go overboard and stress too much about studying for next year’s classes and all that. Hang out with friends, go on outdoor adventures, read lots of books, binge-watch OITNB, do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for, and just let loose, because burnout is very real and very serious. Play hard so you’re ready to work hard!