After what seems like, for many, a term straight out of Hades, we’re finally heading out into the final weeks of term. Stressful, lacking sleep, full of many deadlines—oh, the end is nigh.
Now, what goes hand-in-hand with finals week? Studying! What goes hand-in-hand with studying? Study breaks!
And that answer raises a big question. How do you do them?
While the theories behind study breaks is continually under much debate, the simple reality is most college students cramming for finals or other big exams are going to be taking breaks. The trick here though, is to take the right kind of breaks.
One article will tell you to take brief breaks (think five minutes) every couple hours, then jump right back in. Another will advise longer breaks and shorter study periods. Some might even caution against study breaks at all.
Rather than thinking that one way suits all, I feel that study breaks really depend on the person. However, there are some big mistakes that people (including myself) make when studying.
First of all, be careful not to overdo it. Sometimes the pressure of doing well on finals can push a student into attempting a high-stakes, pressure-heavy studying marathon. This is a bad idea. Now. If you go to take a break, all you’ll be doing is eating some Teddy Grams while thinking about how stressed you feel. The more pressure you put on yourself when you approach a study session, the more likely you are to make yourself sick with worry, and in turn remember nothing you studied when test day comes, only the agonizing sense of worry that you won’t do well on your test.
Second, be wary of setting up a rewards system. You might quickly discover that five minutes of intense focus can lead you to ten or fifteen minutes of internet fun. Then, five hours later, you’ve accomplished next to nothing academic, but have learned five new origami folds and are now well-versed in foreign sex scandals.
Thirdly, a break can linger one. Be careful of doing anything too engrossing during a study break. Turning on the TV during ten minutes of downtime can easily stretch into two or three hours of watching a show you love. One chapter in that engrossing new book can easily turn into four or five. Oh, and look, there are twelve new pages on that photo website you love…
Pre-planning for study breaks can help you avoid all of these mistakes, as I eventually realized after suffering through my second finals week.
If you’re not good at taking short breaks, split your study load into larger chunks, and give yourself longer breaks in between them. Alternatively, if you’re bad at long breaks, settle yourself down somewhere with a nice view, and just give yourself a few minutes every now and then to enjoy the world around you.
Give yourself simple rewards. One gummy bear per page read. Five minutes of knitting per every ten notecards created/memorized.
If you find the Internet too distracting, turn off your wifi (perhaps find a building that doesn’t get it) or give your Ethernet cable to your room mate until you’ve completed your study goals. If TV or movies or books ruin your good intentions, head out of your room to study, and leave the fun things behind.
In short, the mantra for effective practicing of study breaks is simple: Know thyself.
By Bonnie Wells