Study breaks can be a rabbit hole. Sometimes, you take a break and the online labyrinth takes you to the unknown (you start by Googling which Xbox games are coming out next month and end up on Cracked.com). Other times, you don’t take a break and end up in a rut, trying to get the motors going but failing miserably. Well-timed breaks are like pauses in songs: they keep the tempo and a steady pace.
Everyone is different, but here are some surefire ways to get to the end of your study session with a feeling of accomplishment.
1. Plan Your Studying Goals and Break Activities Beforehand
Before you dive into studying, create an action plan. I use OneNote, a Microsoft app that you can use online or on your PC, to organize all of my goals. I have annual, monthly, weekly, and daily goals that are each listed in their own box with bolded titles and check boxes next to them. I look at what needs to get done in the big picture and break it down into smaller and smaller pieces until I know what needs to get done today.
Once I know that, I break everything into increments of a half hour or an hour. So, if I need to write an essay, I’ll write the intro and two body paragraphs in one hour.
For break activities, I may pick something from my list of goals to work on, such as a creative project or leisurely reading. Or, I may chose something relaxing like a short walk around the block.
2. Set Timers
Setting timers is a great psychological trick to get you going. Once you know your study session schedule, set timers accordingly. For a one hour study block, set 60 minutes. Set a timer for your breaks–your breaks shouldn’t exceed 15-20 minutes. Just be honest, any longer and you’re down the rabbit hole. Any shorter, and you might not feel recharged enough. So keep it in this time range, and once the timer goes off, set it again and go right back to studying. This way, you won’t miss a beat!
4. Do Something Entirely Different
It’s usually recommended that you do something physical for your break. Movement increases oxygen to the brain and freshens you up. Sitting down for a long time will do a lot of damage to your back (which is why some people use standing desks). Either way, make sure the activity contrasts with what you’re studying (if you’re doing math, try reading a book, for instance).
5. Know When to Stop for Longer
If you’re feeling fried, you may be mentally depleted. This is actually a good thing and means you’ve completed exhausted for potential for the day. If you have a headache, or you’re going around in circles, it means it’s time to call it quits. You can rest knowing you maximized your super-student potential.