Three Reasons Why You Should Take More Study Breaks 

If knowledge is power, learning is the superpower.”–Jim Kwik; CEO of Kwik Learning and Superhero You. 

Have you ever had those times where you said, “I’m going to study for X amount of hours,” and you head to the library to try and make good on that self-promise? But then you find that after about an hour, your brain feels like mush, and a quick ten-minute trip over to for a few cat memes turns into two hours, or a five minute YouTube break turns into three hours of binge-watching videos from all the channels you subscribe to. 

And then you feel like an even bigger idiot for even going to those sites in the first place, right? You are definitely not alone. Many of us have been there. And if you’re on the actuarial journey, it’s even more of a guilty feeling, because you know you need to—and want to—pass those exams. 

Apart from all those guilty feelings, there are three specific reasons why more studying for extended lengths of time is not necessarily better, and this lesson outlines those reasons. 

Destination of This Journey 

The main destination of this journey is simple: 

  • You’ll learn to put into action three different ways to take more study breaks, thus retain more information and feel more confident. 
  • You’ll also learn to utilize at least one specific strategy to add more breaks to your study schedule. 

How Does This Work? 

When you first get into the habit of taking more breaks, you might be thinking, “I’ll study for two hours then take a break,” or maybe you’ll take regular breaks every hour. It depends on your personal ability to focus, of course, but if you’re completely new to this, you might try something called the “Pomodoro technique.”

It goes like this: you work for 25 minutes straight and then you take a five minute break.  If you use the Firefox or Chrome browsers, there are all kinds of countdown timer extensions you can download and use, or you can use the timer on your cell phone. Whatever works for you is fine.

So what are the reasons for doing this?

  1. Reduce mental fatigue

If you haven’t figured out by now, trying to study for hours on end takes a toll on your mental resources. The brain needs time to rest and recharge. The Pomodoro method actually helps you get more studying done without wasting time.

So, for instance, instead of 90 minutes of studying and thirty minutes of not studying, you can use the Pomodoro method and two hours will have passed: 100 minutes of studying and 20 minutes of not studying. See how that works?

More frequent breaks essentially lead to more time studying with less brain fatigue, but of course, you’ll want to experiment to find the right balance for you.

  1. Celebrate Small Wins

The second reason to take more frequent study breaks, especially with the Pomo method is that you can celebrate small wins in that five minute time frame.

For instance, if you finally grasp a concept or a problem that’s been tripping you up or confusing you, you can maybe do a small dance, or maybe treat yourself to something once you finish a certain practice problem.

The essential trick is to associate something positive with working hard. And the easiest way is for that something to be physical, to create a stronger association.

Ultimately, this will give you the strength needed for when you really need to “keep on truckin’” as it were. Also, by associating a physical movement with both celebrating a small win and taking a break, it will stick out as a unique experience and likely trigger memory recall during the actual exam event.

For example, after a specific problem, you go and get something to drink—maybe a smoothie. It’s associated with that feeling of “man, I’ve got this!” and this is how you “got it.” So when exam time comes, and you see a similar problem, that memory kicks in and bam! You are rock-and-rollin’!

There is another upside to taking that five minutes to do something physical—it gives you the exercise your body—and brain—need to function properly. Physical movement itself provides blood flow and oxygen to the brain, let alone works your muscles, combating the negative effects of sitting around too much—even if that sitting down involves studying.

  1. You Learn More at the Beginning and End of Your Sessions 

Research has often shown that people retain more information at the beginning and end of a specific event. So, going back to the two scenarios of two hours of studying, let’s apply this.

The first scenario was 90 minutes of studying with one beginning and one end. You can imagine how much information you likely won’t retain in that time, right? 

Try the second scenario, with the Pomodoro technique. In that session, there are three starts and three endings, so think of the learning impact that would have. Not only are you keeping your brain fresh, but you’re retaining more because there are more starts and finishes within that two hours.

Also, combine that with the celebration of small wins by doing something both positive and physical, and you’re really building up the memory potential. 

You Have Reached Your Destination 

All right, so we’re ready to recap the three reasons why taking more study breaks is definitely a good idea:

1) Reduce your mental fatigue and give your brain a rest.

2) Celebrate small wins—you’re establishing a positive feeling with the result of working hard.

3) You’re going to retain more at the beginning and end of your study sessions. More frequent breaks = greater information retention.

Also, the other goal here at your destination is to utilize one specific strategy—such as the Pomodoro technique given here—to add more breaks to your schedule. But ultimately, the more you save your brain by taking frequent breaks, the more information you will retain and you’ll ultimately be more confident in nailing your exams.


Want more help with your journey?

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Let us know in the comments below – Which one of these principles do you think would be the best for you to focus on for the next month?