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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. Five minutes of break after 25 minutes of work is a general guideline, 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 that can last much longer than intended, such as playing online games, watching Netflix, or going on social media. When you have a 5- or 10-minute break, try to avoid going on your phone or computer. 

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 suggestions  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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