The phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ may be true, but too much practice – especially when in the form of long stretches of studying or homework sessions – can cause more harm than good. In fact, not taking a break can lead to burnout, otherwise known as a state of mental and physical exhaustion combined with self-doubt, according to The Mayo Clinic. As the school year starts to pick up, students may be tempted to “hunker down” and get all their homework done in one sitting. However, there may be a more productive method.
The benefits of downtime
According to Harvard Business Review, taking a break from a task can provide a mini reset and give individuals a chance to reassess the goals they want to reach. The publication refers to it as “goal reactivation.” For the student who finds himself knee-deep in a large project, this mental break may give him the chance to ask Why am I doing this? How is this helping me accomplish my ultimate goal?
Another benefit of taking a short mental break is to avoid mental overexertion, Scientific American reported. The journal cited research suggesting that it is difficult for individuals – even those considered experts in their field – to work for stretches of time longer than one hour. If they work past that hour mark, their productivity may drop, as they have drained their mental reserves.
What tools should parents and students use to ensure they have downtime?
Study tips students can borrow
Here are some actionable items that students can use to manage their workload and carve out downtime.
Prioritize what needs to get done: Before jumping into a task, it’s essential that students create a plan. They can use a weekly or daily organizer to break down tasks they need to complete. Students can choose to prioritize tasks by impending deadlines, difficulty level, or items that will take the most time.
Chunk materials to create manageable goals: Breaking down homework assignments or long reading passages into manageable “chunks” may help students systematically tackle assignments without feeling overwhelmed. In addition, these smaller tasks may be easier to accomplish when working in shorter bursts, instead of longer homework sessions.
Time breaks to maintain productivity: The key to downtime, researchers suggested, was scheduling it in advance, and fitting it in between work sessions. For instance, parents and students can use their smartphones to set 10-minute timers after completing 30 minutes of work. Students can run around outdoors for a few minutes or switch to a non-homework related task. They can then return to their homework feeling mentally refreshed and refocused.
Taking a break is necessary to avoid burnout or frustration during the school year. To learn more about these strategies and additional tools that will work best for your child, please contact us here and schedule an appointment.