Study breaks are proven to boost productivity, but they must be responsibly taken to reap the most benefits. Here’s a look at top tips for when and how to take study breaks.
Staying productive and studying is important, but study breaks are just as important to avoid burnout and create a balanced lifestyle. There are many benefits to study breaks that range from physical, mental and emotional enhancements, but these are best experienced when you take the right kind of study breaks.
While you may consider going on social media or binge eating junk food to feel good during a break, you are not adding value to your routine. Instead, there are healthy habits and helpful tips for how to take study break to prepare you for success!
But First, How Long Should a Break Be?
DeskTime, a productivity app, found that the top 10% of productive users would work for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break away from the computer. While this system could work for you, another option is 20-30 minutes of studying, followed by 5- to 10-minute breaks.
How to Study and Take Breaks?
You want to set yourself up for success from the get go. This means that you have to establish a routine for how and where to study, as well as how to plan for breaks so that you don’t let yourself succumb to bad habits.
First things first, don’t use social media on your study breaks. You risk getting sucked into a rabbit hole and wasting more time than you plan. Additionally, you are not actually giving your brain the rest it needs to reboost with more energy.
When you set yourself up to study, first be aware of the location. Choose a location that is conducive to your style of learning. For example, you may prefer a quiet location like a library over a crowded cafe. Or, you may want to study from the comfort of your own home, but try to avoid studying from your bed as it could affect your sleep and also make you want to stop working to take a nap.
If you set study goals in advance for what you want to accomplish for the day, you are more likely to stay on track. Additionally, if you plan your study and break schedule in advance, you can use time to be your marker to get through your schedule.
While studying, it’s natural to feel distracted by thoughts in your mind or friends sending you messages. Instead of allowing yourself to switch from task-to-task, consider creating a “distraction to-do list” in which you write down everything that comes to mind so that you can revisit it during your breaks or when you’re done studying for the day.
Top Study Break Ideas
Here’s a look at what to do versus what not to do when taking study breaks.
1. Stretch/Go for a Walk
Did you know that sitting too long can actually lead to disease by increasing your chances for type 2 diabetes and can age your cells more quickly? It is scientifically proven that it’s beneficial to your health to get moving when you’ve been studying/sitting too long.
What Not to Do: Leave studying to go for an intense exercise. You should stretch and go for a short walk, such that you energize the cells in your body, rather than work out too hard and become tired and unable to get back into the groove of learning.
2. Tidy and Clean Up
Having a clean space has a rejuvenating effect and causes you to feel uncluttered, physically and mentally. Being able to break to clean up the area in which you’re studying will benefit you during the process as well as after.
What Not To Do: Study in a messy or cluttered space. A crowded location that is too noisy or has too much going on will only create distractions.
A quick shower will make you feel refreshed. Both your body and mind will feel rejuvenated after a quick shower, and if you turn the water on cold enough, you can actually awaken the cells in your body!
What Not to Do: Don’t take a hot bath. That’s something you can consider before bedtime because you don’t want to get too comfortable and fall asleep.
4. Call a Friend
Study breaks are a good time to call a friend and have a quick catch up. Rather than straying too far from your study space, you can still have an invigorating conversation and socialize before getting back to work.
What Not to Do: When breaking and talking to your friends, try to keep the conversation away from the task at hand. The whole point is to take a break from studying, not complain or stress about what you have to get done.
5. Run an Errand
Perhaps a change of scene will be able to help in resetting your mind. If you can walk to get something productive done, you can kill two birds with one stone. If you must get in the car, you can use this time to listen to music, get an errand done, and then come back ready to work again.
What Not to Do: Run an errand that you know will not take too long. For example, pick up your laundry, or go grab a juice nearby. Don’t go to the mall to shop for new clothes.
When studying, your brain can burn up to a calorie and a half per minute. This means you need to refuel! Of course, preparing a healthy meal or snack is a good way to take a study break because you can enjoy the actual process while also reaping the benefits of a tasty meal to refuel yourself.
What Not to Do: Don’t cook unhealthy food that’s high in fat and sugar. This will bog down your body and brain. Go for light and nutrient-dense foods that create a balanced plate, with vegetables, proteins, healthy fats and carbs.
One of the best ways to relax and create a clear headspace is to meditate. By taking a short break, you need nothing more than the awareness of your breath to meditate properly. You can do so lying down or sitting up. Another option is to use a guided meditation or app like HeadSpace.
What Not to Do: Don’t forget to set a timer. If you meditate without any knowledge of how much time has passed, you may disrupt the schedule you had set to break in proper intervals.
8. Get Creative
Why not take your mind off studying by letting your creative juices flow? You can paint, write, draw, write a song, start coding a game, etc. Whatever creative outlet you enjoy to get into a flow state is yours to take!
What Not to Do: Try to avoid technology as much as possible. If you need technology to make your creation, consider turning off the internet or using an app to block certain sites like Facebook so that you don’t get sucked back into social media rather than being creative.
Top Tips for Those Studying Online
Online learners are required to be totally responsible for when and where the study. Unlike traditional on-campus institutions that have set times for classes and often require students to be there for class time, online learners have ultimate flexibility for when and where to learn, study and relax.
For example, at University of the People, students can access degree-granting programs from anywhere in the world with nothing more than an internet connection. As beneficial as this is, it also requires additional self control to manage your time wisely. Since you’re going to be studying online, it may be tempting to switch tasks and start looking at social media or online shopping. But, you can follow these tips to help create a space that is only intended for learning.
Here are some tips for those who study online:
1. Create a Study Space
Make sure you select a designated study space that you can step away from. Try to create a space that is ergonomically designed for good posture, such that your feet touch the ground and your back can be comfortably straight. Experiment with different spaces in terms of noise levels and lighting to find what works best for you. But, when it comes to break time, step away from this space to signal to your brain that you are shutting off learning time for relaxation time.
2. Treat it Like a Job
Like you would have in a job or traditional school setting, create a schedule that you stick to for studying online. Choose to show up fully ready and energized to get the job done, but also give yourself the time to take breaks.
3. Connect with Others
For study breaks and study time, you can still connect and socialize with your peers. Use the online discussion forums to establish friendships with your peers with whom you can build relationships outside of studying.
4. Walk Away
When studying online, you are reliant on your computer to access information. But you need to actively step away from it so that you don’t get distracted during your break time. Try going for a walk, stretch, or move to another room to cook or create something new during your breaks.
5. Eliminate Distractions
While at your computer, it may be hard to stay away from online shopping, checking social media, or googling random thoughts. To combat such enticing distractions, you can install extensions like Block Site, which can be programmed to turn off access to certain sites during certain time periods.
Things to Avoid
Whether you are a traditional learner or online student, there are things you should definitely avoid doing when you take your study breaks. These include:
Eating Junk: The sugar will cause a quick rush and release in your bloodstream, followed by a crash and feeling of sickness and sluggishness.
Napping: When taking a study break, a nap can make you feel more tired and may cause you to avoid going back to learning.
Watching TV: Watching TV is a form of stimulation. When studying, your brain needs a break.
Too Much Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that increases your heart rate and can exacerbate feelings of anxiety. You should try to limit your caffeine intake in the form of coffee, soda, chocolate and tea so that you can stay focused and alert.
Studying Too Late: It’s necessary to get adequate sleep to feel recharged and actually allow your brain to absorb the information you are taking in. If you study too late, not only are you lessening your sleep time, but you are also setting yourself behind for the next day as you’ll be tired.
Studying is a subjective experience in that it is different for everyone and everyone finds their own set-up to be most productive. However, during these bursts of productivity, it’s necessary to take study breaks so that you can recharge and re-energize your body, mind and soul to be more productive in both the short- and long-term.