It is really important to think about how you are going to manage your energy levels during busy or stressful periods. Base your study plan around your natural energy cycles – attempt to work on more difficult tasks when you are more fresh, and plan regular breaks. In the short term, remember to bring snacks to maintain your energy levels while studying. Sugar can give you a short term energy boost but it is not advisable to rely on it as it will inevitably cause you to crash.
When deciding when to take breaks, remember that it takes up to 15 minutes to become fully immersed in an exercise – taking breaks too frequently can affect your work flow. If you find that you struggle to concentrate after spending a certain amount of time working, your break schedule should reflect this.
Some examples of appropriate work/break ratios:
|25||5||This is the known as the Pomodoro technique.|
|45||10||This is the ratio recommended by Survive Law.|
|52||17||This strangely specific set of times was derived from research by the creators of office time-tracking app DeskTime, who found that the most productive workers spend (on average) 52 minutes working, and then 17 minutes on break – during which they typically leave their desks.|
|90||20||90 minutes appears to be the longest period that a person can work effectively at the same task.*|
* It is possible to work on less cognitively challenging tasks for longer periods, however if you are struggling or find yourself constantly getting distracted it may be because you have reached your limit. Try timing yourself to see how long you typically work before becoming distracted.
Your body has a natural energy cycle called a circadian rhythm that dictates (amongst other things) your sleep cycle and your energy fluctuations throughout the day. Being conscious of your circadian rhythm is very important when planning your study schedule. Although everyone’s circadian rhythm is different, it tends to fluctuate in a predictable way. In the first couple of hours after waking up, your body has a natural spike of alertness – this is the best time to do the hardest jobs. Energy levels naturally tend to spike at around 9am, 1pm and 6pm – which is why it is actually not advisable to drink coffee at these times, as it will not have much appreciable effect. Conversely, just before lunch and between 3-5pm, your energy tends to drop, meaning that you will struggle with cognitively challenging tasks. During these times it is a good idea to move onto more repetitive or menial tasks, or creative work.
- The Legal Academic Skills Centre website has some useful resources for managing stress
- Getting enough sleep is very important both to productivity and wellbeing
- Avoiding procrastination –
- This poster contains some general advice on how to reduce procrastination – http://alexvermeer.com/wp-content/uploads/howtogetmotivated-7100×5000.png
- It is based on the book Piers Steel, The Procrastination Equation (Random House, 2010), which provides a psychologist’s account of the causes of procrastination and how to avoid them: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9514605-the-procrastination-equation?from_search=true
- The book is effectively summarised by several websites:
- The Conversation | HSC Exam Guide: What to Eat to Help Your Brain
- Harvard Business Review | The Ideal Work Schedule, as Determined by Circadian Rhythms
- Psychology Today | Be Creative When You’re Sleepy