Taking Effective Study Breaks – Without Feeling Guilty About It!

By Sarah Phillips, EAGLE facilitator


We’ve all been there. Sitting at your desk staring at your extensive to-do list, the pile of readings to do, or the Canvas page of lectures to watch. Studying law can feel overwhelming at times, especially heading in to exams. One way to combat the feeling of drowning in subject materials is taking study breaks. Even better, taking effective study breaks so you return to your books feeling refreshed and ready to dive back in.


Many of us feel guilty about taking breaks, even when we are exhausted and overloaded. I know I do at times! In this post I will share some techniques that have helped me not feel guilty about taking a break. I will also briefly outline some of my favourite tips for making study breaks more effective. As always, discovering what works for you will involve continual trial and error, and it will likely change over time. I hope you will find some of these points helpful, and that they give you some ideas to try in your own routine


Techniques to Avoid Feeling Guilty:

  • Focus on how taking a break now will make you more effective later.
    • To not to feel guilty about taking a break, I focus on how important the break is in enabling me to study more effectively in the future. I note that if I take a break now, a proper break, when I come back to my work I will be more productive. I will absorb more information and I will be in a more positive mood.
  • Plan your breaks like you plan your study.
    • Some people prefer the Pomodoro technique, others like a 45 minutes on, 15 minutes off. Whatever your preferred style, rather than focusing on the tasks I will do during the “study” block, I try to focus on what I will do in the “rest” time. Will I go for a quick walk? Cook lunch? Call a friend to chat? Focusing on the break usually means I will do something that is a true break, rather than sitting around, wasting the time thinking about what I will do during the next “study” block. It also makes getting through the study block easier when I have something to look forward to at the end of it.
  • Focus on taking an effective break.
    • By utilising some of the tips below, I focus on making my break effective. If I spend hours procrastinating or watching mindless television, I end up feeling worse after my break then before it!
  • Set a time limit for your breaks.
    • If I plan a specific activity or set a specific time limit, I feel I can enjoy my study breaks more. It allows me to relax, as well as not feel guilty, because I know when I will go back to study. I tell myself I don’t need to worry about anything study related until that specific time.
  • Remember you have earned it!
    • I remind myself I have worked hard attending class, watching lectures, and doing readings. Even if I haven’t done everything I hoped to do in a particular week (we all know that sometimes life gets in the way) I remind myself I have done my best. Whether I decide to take a break for an hour or a day, I remind myself have earned it.


Quick Tips for Taking Effective Breaks:

  • Don’t plan to study for hours without a break.
    • It is well established that studying for a longer time does not make you more effective. Remember the importance of scheduling breaks.
  • Make a plan and stick to it.
    • If you plan to watch one episode of Elementary, don’t binge watch 4 hours of it. It tends to make you feel guilty, rather than relaxed, trust me.
    • Setting an alarm can be helpful if you occasionally fall into the trap of endlessly scrolling on social media.
  • Most importantly, plan an enjoyable break! Some of my favourites are:
    • Going for a walk, a run or going to the gym.
    • Cooking delicious food or trying an experimental recipe.
    • Watching a movie or TV show.
    • Calling a friend.
    • Listening to an audiobook or podcast.
    • Having a nap.
    • Meeting a friend for a drink or a meal.
    • Meditating or practicing mindfulness.
      • The University allows access to Headspace for free, which is a great place to start if you are interested.

Additional Resources



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