Study Break Ideas To Help You Rock Your Exams

How can you make the most of your study break? It’s easier than you think.

By Amanda Keating, 3rd year Arts student

It’s happened to the best of us. You’re in the middle of a study session and you decide to take a well-deserved break. You pull out your phone and open TikTok. You tell yourself “Just for ten minutes…”

Two hours later, you’re lost in the endless abyss that is your For You page. Your textbook remains untouched and your eyes droop shut with exhaustion.

I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me and an innocent study break has quickly escalated into doing nothing—for hours… I condemned my procrastination. I swore to myself I would never do it again. But those were empty promises.

Until I started to ask some questions. What is the actual purpose of a study break? We’re all told that study breaks are good for us. But why are they good for us?

Turns out routine study breaks have many benefits including increased productivity, motivation, and creativity. The catch? You need to take the right kind of study break. Despite how tempting it may sound, “accidentally” binging five episodes of Love Island or aimlessly scrolling through TikTok does not count.

When to take study breaks

Human attention spans aren’t particularly long, and research indicates that the human brain is actually wired for distraction. So how can you combat your own programming and avoid the pitfalls of an unproductive study break? As with many things in life, it’s all about timing.

The sweet spot for productive focus is estimated to be somewhere between 50 and 90 minutes, with the ideal study break length being between 15 and 20 minutes—but you can take longer for meals, of course. 🙂

These days, during study sessions, I typically use the Pomodoro Technique. But feel free to experiment and see what tools, techniques, and time increments work for you. Whatever you choose, the timer on your phone will soon become your best friend.

How to spend your study breaks

So, now we know an effective study break is just 15–20 minutes. What are you going to do with that time?

Importantly, you want to decide ahead of time what to do during your study breaks; otherwise, the moment you touch your phone you know you’re going to slide into that TikTok vortex I warned you about earlier.

With that in mind, here are six effective study break ideas—to help you feel rejuvenated and ready to focus when you return to that textbook, essay, or project.

Remember, set a timer for both your study sessions and your study breaks, so you don’t forget to get back to work!

1. Have a meal or healthy snack

It’s easy to get in the zone while studying and completely forget to eat. If you’re in first year residence, take a walk down to your residence dining room or market and grab something to eat. There are lots of healthy takeaway options! If you’re in upper-year residence or living off-campus, use your study break to make yourself a quick snack or meal. Consider prepping food ahead of time so it’s ready to go!

Need some ideas? UBC Food Services offers some delicious, easy recipes to try out! And don’t miss all the great cooking tips and tricks on @ubcfoodie!

2. Take a walk

Seriously, leave your study space! Although taking a walk in Vancouver’s rainy weather isn’t always ideal, it can be really beneficial to change your environment and move your body during your study break. So grab your umbrella and head outside to give your brain a rest and switch gears for a few minutes, so you can return to your study space refreshed and ready to go!

3. Meditate

This one might sound a bit out there, but hear me out! Taking 15-20 minutes to slow your breathing, quiet your racing mind, and refocus your attention can be super helpful. So if you’re still with me, make sure you sit somewhere that isn’t your desk, and let a podcast or YouTube video guide you through the meditation.

Meditation not your thing? Try some simple breathing exercises! They have similar effects as meditation, and there are many videos on YouTube to help guide you through.

4. Tidy up your room (or study space)

You might have heard the phrase “clear space, clear mind.” It has some truth to it, don’t you think? Take a moment to look around your room. Is it messy? A little bit cluttered? Use your study break to tidy it up! Clear the laundry from the floor, throw your trash away, and make the bed you “forgot” to make in the morning.

5. Visit your friends

(Note: this applies when physical distancing is not in effect! For now, virtual visits are the name of the game.)

Be careful with this one. You go to visit your friend, and what was supposed to be a quick stop-by turns into a two hour hangout. Despite that risk, social interaction can help break you out of your internal monologue and allow you to focus on something other than studying. Plus, tons of research supports the mental health benefits of social interaction. Just make sure you don’t lose track of time!

6. Take a power nap

No, not a three-hour, extended sleep; just a short and sweet power nap. In fact, you only need about 20 minutes to feel the benefits. Just avoid napping for more than 30 minutes, since that can leave you feeling groggy.

Of course, how you spend your study breaks is up to you! The most important things are to set a timer to keep it short and to choose an activity that helps you relax and reset your mind—so you can get back to focused, attentive studying after your well-deserved break. You got this!