The Zeigarnik Effect states that, ‘if you are half way through learning something, and are then interrupted in what you are doing, you will remember what you are doing better than if you had completed whatever the learning task’. So, interrupt yourself, take that break, and become a better learner!
It’s the race to be the best. To be numero uno. To leave everyone else behind. You don’t want to lose. The fear of losing pushes you ahead, the thought of playing second fiddle keeps you from stopping, and the urge to grow makes you hungry for more. Everybody runs the ‘race’. Whether you are a business tycoon trying to overtake a rival brand, or a struggling engineer trying to make it big in life. But it starts when we are young. At school, in colleges, in universities, and in the classroom.
Aspiring students strive hard to excel and stay on the top by putting in countless hours of studies, which include endless cramming and revision sessions. Their complete engrossment in this race results in marathon study sessions devoid of any breaks or intermissions. How productive is this practice? Not very. Studies show that a student who studies for an hour and takes a ten minute break at the end of the session retains more of what is learned throughout the session, than a student who continues studying without taking a break.
Taking breaks while studying contributes to better learning in a number of ways, and creates a major impact on the process of learning. Find out why a study break is essential, and how does it help you score the best.
Scientists conclude that the brain stops registering a constant stimulation over a gradual period of time, and declares it to be unimportant. The brain decodes a monotonous activity and gets habituated to it, no longer stimulating the brain to act in any way. Once this happens, you find yourself unable to concentrate, thereby destroying the purpose of a study session-learning. A ‘break’ does just that, it breaks the monotony for the brain. A change in place, a walk around the block, a cup of coffee; these little things can be incorporated in your study sessions to relax the mind, break the monotony, improve concentration levels, and ultimately assist the learning process.
Alleviates Ability to Focus
The purpose of a study session is to study as much as possible and retain most of what has been learned in it. To be able to achieve this, it is absolutely necessary to continuously stay focused. It is highly likely that long hours of studying can become monotonous and cause you to believe that you are ‘learning’, when you are only just ‘reading’. A short recess eases out your stressed mind, brings you back on track, and allows you to start studying with new-found focus levels.
Enhances Information Retention
Extended study sessions sans any breaks or learning continuously reduces the ability to retain information. An optimum solution to this shortfall is to space out your study sessions in frames of 30 to 60 minutes, and take a short break after each time frame. According to The Primary and Recency Effects, memory improves just before and immediately after you take a break. Study sessions spanning a shorter time frame will thus prove more beneficial, since, very little content at the middle of the session will be taught and will have to be learned or remembered.
With a relaxed mind, improved concentration and focus levels, and a better capacity to retain information, it is obvious that your study session with breaks will turn out to be more productive, and you will derive more benefits than you previously did. Put more such better-yielding study sessions together, and what do you get? Impeccable grades and a winner of the ‘race’.
When Should You Take a Break
Plan a study schedule by spacing out breaks in between. Ideally, for every hour of studying, you should take a ten to fifteen minute break for optimum results. However, this might not work for everyone. Take a break when:
✔ you start feeling restless.
✔ you feel your concentration has gone for a toss.
✔ you are no longer registering or absorbing what you are reading.
✔ you feel that you should take a break.
Practice self-control and know where to draw the line. There is a huge difference between taking study breaks and not wanting to study at all. Limit your breaks to short intervals, and don’t let them turn into an hour-long holiday. Be honest with yourself, and don’t procrastinate your study sessions in the name of ‘study breaks’.
What Should You Do on Your Break
Change of Environment
Make sure that when you take a break, you don’t stay in the same room where you have been studying. A change as simple as an environment switch, like walking from your study room to the drawing room, can lift your spirits and refresh your mind.
Don’t Watch TV
Taking a break does not mean watching television; you could do anything you want in your study break except watching the idiot box. Do anything that excites you, makes you happy, clears your mind, and enables you to focus in a better way in the next round.
Steer Clear from ‘The Subject’
It is extremely important that your break should have nothing to do with the subject you have been studying. If you have been practicing accounts and crunching numbers, don’t go reading finance articles in the newspaper on your break.
Keep Them Short
Study breaks should be long enough to relax your senses and get you back in the groove, but should not extend a certain time limit. Pick up an activity that you know will fit into your break and allow you to get back to your books soon.
Shuffle the Things You Can Do in Breaks
Try to shuffle activities in each break you take. Experiment. If you took a power nap in the last break, listen to your favorite music in the next one, and take a walk in the garden in the one after that. This habit will not only make your study sessions more conducive, but will also make them less monotonous.
Things You Can Do in A Break
✔ Listen to your favorite music
✔ Read the newspaper or a book
✔ Leaf through a magazine
✔ Take a walk
✔ Talk to someone
✔ Engage your mind with a mental exercise
✔ Indulge in a light snack or drink
✔ Take a power nap
✔ Play your favorite instrument
✔ Go on a short drive
Now that you know what it takes to be ahead of everyone, go do it. Who knew ‘taking a break’ could make you a topper in your class! That, and studies, of course! Good luck!