Do you know the prime cause of procrastination? It is brain fatigue.
When you have been working your brain for too long and without rest, it takes an involuntary pause. That’s why you find yourself thinking about what would happen if you were a character in your favorite anime or TV series when you should be focusing on the book in your hands.
You know the rest of the story. Ultimately, it turns out you have been studying for six hours, but haven’t finished a single chapter.
This is why taking a study break is essential. It gives your brain enough time to recuperate.
You must have noticed that procrastination doesn’t usually happen when you are fully recharged and motivated. This is the ideal state for studying. You can focus and remember better after a break.
Study breaks—how long, how often, what to do, and what not do?
We’ll address each of these questions one by one.
As for how long and how often, it’s subjective. It really depends on two things—your power of concentration and the difficulty of the task.
If you can easily study for 90 minutes, taking short breaks will only impede the momentum.
If you are doing some advanced calculus or reading Machiavelli, going for 90 minutes at a time will be difficult. So, short breaks are the way to go here.
Another deciding factor could be the chronobiology of your brain. It means that our minds have active and passive periods. The energy, focus, and motivation come in waves.
It’s prudent to study during one of those surges, and then take a break during a slump.
We suggest devising a plan that works for you. But, to help you get started, here are some common study break techniques that usually do the trick:
- Pomodoro technique – A 5-minute break every 25 minutes, and a 15-30 minute break every 90 minutes.
- Flowtime technique – Completing one segment of work in a flow and taking a required break
- 52/17 technique – 52 minute study time and 17 minute break time
1. Daydream with starry eyes
Remember what we said about procrastination? Your brain does it involuntarily. So, when you are in one of these phases, there’s no use fighting against it.
It is better to take a break and let the mental movie play out. Lie down, close your eyes, and breathe. Once you are done daydreaming, you can get back to studying.
2. Paint, doodle, color, origami
No, you don’t have to be a naturally gifted artist for this. You know what they say about art—it is for everyone, not merely for those who are good at it.
Get your creative juices flowing and channel them into an art or craft of your choice. It breaks the monotonous rhythm of studying for long stretches.
3. Listen to music and dance
A favorite album, specially curated playlist, white noise, a movie track list— whatever tickles your fancy. A few minutes of music lets your mind drift.
If you’re feeling up for it, you could even move to the grooves, or sing along. It’s not like anyone’s watching, you know. Let off some steam while you can.
4. Walking and light exercise
Do you know just how harmful sitting all day can be for your body?
Apart from your usual weight gain, back problems, and shoulder pain, prolonged sitting also increases your risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Then there is the boredom, anxiety, and depression that come with a lack of activity.
An easy way to balance out those negative impacts of long study hours is brisk walking and light exercising or stretching during your breaks. You will feel a huge upsurge of energy and creativity.
Here’s why physical movement is considered the most effective study break activity:
- It promotes new connections between brain cells
- “Feel good” hormones (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) are released
- It relaxes your eyes from the strain of reading or looking at screens
5. Do some window shopping
You may not be able to buy a massage chair or a $500 dress, but it doesn’t hurt to look, right? In fact, it can be a great boost of serotonin to just look at desirable things you might never actually need.
It takes your mind off of the big brain stuff. If wish-listing apple cutters and coffee tables does that for you, so be it. Your study break activity is supposed to be lighthearted and comforting.
6. Play an instrument
Strum your guitar or bang your drums. If you know how to play any instruments, practicing can be the perfect study break activity. Some music to your ears and a change of rhythm.
If you don’t play any instruments, maybe this is the perfect opportunity to learn. You can buy a small flute or keyboard and try your hand at it. This could be your new breaktime hobby!
7. Tidy up
Put those scattered books in a pile, organize that mess of a cupboard, do the dishes, make the bed, organize your study space, go through your stack of old documents, sanitize that desk with coffee stains on it…
We could go on. If you look around your room, there won’t be a shortage of chores to do.
Shifting your focus while still doing something productive is a great study break activity. Your mind works better when you’re in a cleaner atmosphere, free of clutter.
8. Cook up something tasty
Brew your own coffee. Make your own sandwich. Why rely on packaged junk food all the time?
The process of cooking takes up an entirely different part of your brain than studying, so it can be a fun and welcome relief for you. Besides, the end result is some delicious food, depending on your cooking skills, though.
A word of caution:
- Make sure not to have a heavy meal during your study break. It takes a lot of energy to digest that much food, which induces sleep. You don’t want to be dozing off after your break.
- Avoid excessive caffeine as well. It might give an initial spurt of energy, but it ultimately causes a caffeine crash.
So, light and healthy snacks only.
9. Try laughing
A peal of good, hearty laughter lightens the mood and clears up the mind. When you are stressed about studies, it’s normal to carry that feeling into your breaks. But, that’s the time to rest and relax!
So, what can you do to destress?
- Watch a comedy show on TV
- Catch a stand-up comedy segment on YouTube
- Finish an episode of your favorite comedy series
- Ring up a funny friend and goof off for a while
- Read some jokes or funny stories
10. Play a game
Nothing quite like leveling up in your favorite video game, huh? If gaming is your passion, a study break is a perfect opportunity. It is a recreation you badly need.
Here are some great game recommendations that you can play alone:
- Escape the room
- Mini Putt 3
- Card games
- Little alchemy
- Online bingo
- Google feud
These are just our recommendations. You can always add more to the list.
3 study break activities to avoid
1. A quick power nap
…quickly turns into hours of sleep. It’s true that naps can restore our ability to learn by removing toxins from our brains, but the downside is that we are not in control of our sleep.
You can set an alarm or use an app all you want, but when it’s time to wake up and your inner voice says “five more minutes,” you likely won’t be strong enough to say “no.” Especially when a load of studies is waiting for you.
Next, you enter a deeper stage of sleep, which, when broken, produces a sluggish and irritated state of mind that is not conducive to studying.
2. Episode 295 of the Netflix series you’re addicted to
Because that can quickly turn into episode 296 and then 297. More importantly, when you are extremely interested in something, your brain is less likely to focus on boring tasks, like studying.
Never underestimate the power of obsession. You’ll probably be thinking of your favorite characters and possible plot developments instead of getting on with your reading material and class notes.
3. Some lighthearted social media scrolling
Do you sense a theme here? It’s addiction. Things that are difficult to stop once you start, and are even more challenging to get out of your head hours after you have stopped.
Once you open Instagram or Facebook, there’s no stopping. Social media is engineered to keep you hooked. No amount of self-control can help. The only way to win is to stay away.
That’s the home stretch. We have spilled all the dos and don’ts of study break activities. Now it’s up to you to try them out and decide on what hits the mark for you.
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