The Study Dude—The Art of Study Breaks

Breaks are vital for studying success.  Two different approaches to study breaks can give us the most mileage.

Approach #1: The Recommended Break:

The first approach, which relies on using timers, is to study for 25 minutes straight and then take a 5-minute break.  Do this two times in a row, totalling 50 minutes of study for a full 10 minutes of breaks.

But here’s the clincher: after the third 25-minute study stint, take a 15-minute break.

Let me sum it up: for every 1 hour and 15 minutes of studies total we take 25 full minutes of breaks.  This break structure will help refresh us, prepping us for greater focus during our next study stint.

My Breaks: A Case Study:

I did something similar during the undergrad, with great success.  I studied for 30 minutes straight and then took a 15-minute break.  Doing this, I achieved a near perfect GPA, although I took only three courses a semester.

But in full-time grad studies, I switched to studying for a full hour and then took only a 5-minute break.  These short breaks left me feeling exhausted and stressed, and my performance suffered.

Approach #2: A Switch Instead of a Break:

Here’s an alternative system for those of us, busier than bees, who don’t have time for breaks.  Study for 30-minute stints, and then, for the next 30 minutes, switch subjects (say from math to English) or switch the activity (say from memorizing notes to writing an essay).  And then, after the thirty minutes, return to the initial subject, and repeat.

A Caveat: Some of Us Don’t Need Breaks:

I know one woman who never took breaks.  She just got focused for hours on studies, only breaking for food and exercise.  And she made it to the PhD level.  But she’s got a spirit and focus like the Energizer Bunny.  Some of us might be able to flourish using her system, if we’ve got the drive.

What to Do on Breaks:

If you want some R&R on our breaks, here are some suggestions:

First, for every break, no matter how long or short the break may be, we should sip a glass of water.  Water is calming and hydrates the body and brain.  Water is nature’s ultimate beverage, and it’s free.

For 5-minute breaks, we at AU could do one of these suggested tasks:

  • Look at a single Lynda.com video clip, preferably one that gives us an academic edge, a career boost, or an insight into an interest.
  • Text loved ones, sending only loving words.
  • Engage in a loving kindness meditation, even prayer, sending out warm thoughts to everyone we’ve encountered, while drumming up thoughts of gratitude toward our studies and tutors.

For 15-minute breaks, we could benefit from doing these next tasks:

  • Eat healthy snacks that boost our energy, especially snacks that help replace the body’s electrolytes. Electrolytes grow depleted when we expend energy.  These snacks might include almonds, avocadoes, bananas, kale, oranges, or beans.
  • Phone a loved one.
  • Read several pages of an enjoyable book.
  • Drink a cup of sugar-free tea or coffee. But if stress or anxiety are issues for us, stay clear of all caffeine, avoiding even decaf.
  • Go outside and soak up the sunshine.

But what happens when we get into the work world, assuming we’re not already there?  Well, that’s when switching subjects, or more appropriately, switching tasks, can add flavor to a break-free day.  If we’re up to the challenge, as AU students, why not try switching tasks instead of breaking?  We may achieve a maximum effort day.  With optimal effort, our potential for academic success has no limits.

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