Emond Exam Prep: Make Your Study Breaks Productive With These 7 Strategies

How many times have you planned to take a “quick” study break, only to find yourself binge-watching Netflix or cruising Pinterest hours later? Taking a study break doesn’t have to result in endless hours of procrastination. In fact, the right kind of break can have the opposite effect – recharging your brain, refreshing your body, and enhancing your studying. Your brain needs a break from studying every once in a while in order to stay alert and productive. Try these 7 strategies for an effective study break that won’t drag you down the rabbit hole of procrastination:

1. Study in blocks of time.

Take a 5-minute break from studying after a 45-60 minute session. Stand up, stretch, breathe some fresh air, or brew some tea in these intervals. After two or three study sessions (so, once every 1.5-3 hours), take a 30-minute break. When you resume studying after your break, briefly review the material you studied previously to reinforce what you learned.

2. Time your study breaks.

Set a timer at the beginning of your study break and, when it sounds, get back to work. This requires willpower, as small breaks can easily become extended breaks. You don’t want to wind up losing sleep the week before your exam because you took too many long breaks and have to stay up until 3 a.m. cramming.

3. Break down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Large projects are intimidating, which can be overwhelming and increase the temptation to give in to distractions. Divide the large project into small, manageable tasks, and set realistic goals for each study session (study 20 pages; finish studying this section; etc.). Reward yourself when you finish each mini project by taking a short break, making a cup of coffee, or having a small snack. This will help you to build momentum, and keep you going until you are finished studying.

4. Stand up and stretch once every 20 minutes, and move around at least once every hour.

Research has shown that the negative physiological effects of a sedentary routine are largely negated by standing up once every twenty minutes or less. The act of standing flexes muscles in the back and legs, triggering an increase in enzymes that dissolve fat cells in the blood stream. This prompts the body to burn calories, and increases mental engagement and concentration. By stretching and walking once every hour, you amplify these benefits. You should also continue to maintain your exercise regime while studying for your exam, as regular exercise enhances your ability to understand and retain information. After exercising, you will be energized and refreshed, which will improve your academic performance. Even if you cannot take the time out of your study schedule to complete a full workout, a brisk 15-minute walk will help.

5. Turn off your phone.

You may think you are multi-tasking by checking your phone while studying, but in reality it will weaken your focus and you will spend more time trying to finish the same amount of work. At the very least, put your phone on silent mode to ensure that incoming text messages can’t distract you from the task at hand.

6. Incorporate healthy eating into your study schedule.

Resist the temptation to scarf down a bag of Doritos or box of cookies while you are studying. Eating healthy food will help you develop the stamina to remain focused while studying. Take some time during your study break to make yourself a wholesome meal, incorporating vegetables and protein. Try to keep your meals light during your study breaks, because overeating can cause mental and physical fatigue. If you like to snack, make sure you have healthy, tasty snacks on hand, like nuts (almonds, sunflower seeds, and cashews), lightly salted popcorn, Kale chips, whole grain crackers and cheese, berries, or raw veggies.

7. Avoid social media use during your study break.

Particularly if you are studying at a computer, avoid browsing the Internet during your study break. Social media browsing is a low-efficiency diversion that does not refresh or energize you, and will likely have the opposite effect. Going for a walk, having a conversation (on the phone or in person) with someone, and stretching are examples of high-efficiency diversions that will help you feel recharged and energetic afterwards.


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