How to Take an Effective Study Break

Tessa is a third year Biomedicine student. Her favourite hobbies are yoga and walking her dog, but she also tolerates jogging or stroking her cat.

SWOTVAC is upon us. We all start the week with grand plans, but within days (or hours), motivation fades, Game of Thrones beckons, and before you know it Sunday is here and exams are tomorrow and you’ve barely started anything.

Part of the problem is what you do in your study breaks – the ideal break takes you away from the computer, gets you moving, and refreshes your brain. While it’s tempting to spend a short break time scrolling through Facebook, one ‘like’ of someone’s Eiffel Tower photo quickly becomes half an hour analysing their Year 9 selfies.

So what should you do instead in those five and ten minute breaks? Here are a few tried and tested suggestions, rated in order of effort required. I promise they’ll leave you more refreshed than any Facebook stalk, and you might actually stick to the five minute time limit!

Make a cup of tea

Effort rating: 2/10

Last SWOTVAC, I was simultaneously proud and repulsed when I finally cleaned up my desk and had to carry seven used teacups to the kitchen. However, while sitting in the office of one of my lecturers later that day, I realised that professors consume caffeinated beverages faster than their students down vodka shots – I counted twenty coffee-stained cups stacked among piles of papers and books.

I think the academics have found the key to productivity – making a cup of tea! There’s nothing more comforting than the familiar motions of preparing a hot drink to the soothing hiss of the kettle or coffee machine. Furthermore, only your bladder and your caffeine tolerance limit the amount you can consume, so unlike with junk food you can have it at every study break!

Personal hygiene

Effort rating: 3/10

For some of us, long showers and extensive make up routines are a great form of procrastination. But for others, personal hygiene falls by the wayside during SWOTVAC – after all, when else is it socially acceptable to spend a whole week in your pyjamas?

If your beauty standards have deteriorated this week, make sure you freshen up in your next study break. It doesn’t even have to be big – just change into new PJs, or brush your hair or teeth. Bonus points for brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand – it’s said to enhance creativity. Bring on that essay!




Effort rating: 6/10

One of the signs you’re a true grown up now is that your desk and chair are no longer used as substitute wardrobes. In the wonderful world of adulthood, chairs are actually for sitting! Make study more inviting by engaging in some procrasti-cleaning – hang a load of washing out, make your bed, or wash those crusty old dishes. Unlike procastibaking, it can be done it in five minutes!



Effort rating: 9/10

As I’m sure we’ve all been told numerous times, exercise is one of the best ways to stay sane in times of stress. Being active, especially if you’re outside and surrounded by nature, releases endorphins that will boost your mood, and give your body a break from hunching over a screen.

You can even squeeze exercise into a short study break – articles abound exalting the benefits of short, high intensity bursts of exercise. Just google ‘7 minute workout’ to find dozens of apps to guide you – my favourite is Lazy Monster  because the monster is cute and the music is ridiculous. Android users can try the creatively named 7 Minute Workout .

The Nike+ Training Club also offers workouts for every fitness level, from a five-minute workout to a 45-minute training session. If yoga is more your thing, you can throw in a few sun salutations. Or you could just study in your active wear to trick your brain into thinking you exercised. I swear the act of donning a pair of Nikes or 2XUs tires out my muscles.


Effort rating: 12/10

If I believe social media, just five minutes of meditation a day should transform me into a #cleaneating, marathon-running, H1 student who has started several businesses on the side while also volunteering at the local soup kitchen and maintaining a glamorous social life. But every time I’ve tried to meditate, I’ve found it too boring to stick with. Sorry internet – I guess I’ll never reach my full potential.



Give up and go on Facebook

Effort rating: -1/10

Sometimes your willpower just disappears. It’s okay. You deserve to watch those puppy videos.



Good luck for SWOTVAC everyone!

– Tessa

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