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Master Time Management

What are the benefits of breaks and rewards?

  • They help to reduce stress, sustain motivation, and increase productivity.
  • They allow time for your brain to digest and process information.
  • They can play a significant role in improving concentration.
  • They provide a transition period when switching between subjects or tasks within a long study period.

How can I use breaks effectively?

  • Set a time limit and stick to it. Use a signal to tell you to get back to work. The timer on your phone is a good choice.
  • Give yourself a two minute warning if you struggle with ending breaks.
  • Make the length of your break appropriate to the amount of time you spend working. Ten minutes for an hour of work is the rule of thumb, but it all depends on your concentration at the time.
  • Realize and plan that the longer you've been working, the longer break you need and the more frequently you will need to take breaks.
  • Do things that are physically stimulating during your break, as unlike studying as possible: 
    • stretch
    • jog on the spot
    • walk some stairs
    • splash water on your face
    • get fresh air
  • Avoid activities during breaks that can be too engaging or have the potential to expand in the amount of time they'll take up, like texting, social media, games, watching Netflix, or talking to a friend. It's a good idea to turn off your phone and computer during your break.

How can I use rewards effectively?

Consider carefully whether rewards really help motivate you, or just backā€fire by making you feel worse when you don't accomplish what you wanted to.  If rewards work for you, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make the reward fit the accomplishment.
    • Giving yourself something major for completing something small will soon become meaningless.
    • Giving yourself something small for a big accomplishment will decrease the reward’s ability to motivate and satisfy.
  • Make it realistic: don’t plan something that you can’t afford, or that hinges on someone else agreeing to do something.
  • Make it immediate: it’s not very motivating right now to promise yourself something that is weeks away.
  • Make it healthy: use caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate in moderation.
  • Make it meaningful: cleaning out the refrigerator or doing the dishes is not a reward. Unless, of course, you really like doing that.
  • Make it positive: don’t set up a punishment if you don’t do something rather than a reward if you do.
  • Make it specific: “I’ll watch the first episode of this new series on Netflix” is better than “I’ll watch something.”

Rewards that work for some people include enjoying a favourite food, contacting a friend, listening to a favourite song, exercising and napping. Some people simply like sharing an accomplishment with a friend or family member ("I finally finished reading that textbook chapter!") or crossing an item off their to-do list.

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