Concentrate More With This Surprising Approach To Taking Breaks

By Ameen at Seera Masters | Student Life

Listen to the audio version: on iTunes or stream below.

The other day someone approached me after Friday Prayer.

I told him a bit about Seera Masters and he said:

“No way! I downloaded your concentration toolkit yesterday!”

What a coincidence! SubhanAllah!

He went on to ask me how he can relax but maximise the amount of time he spends on his studies. This blog post is the advice I gave him.

Why Do We Take Breaks?

Ok I know, it may seem obvious. We just don’t want to/can’t work non-stop. There are some specific benefits to keep in mind too though:

  1. They help us stay focused. University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras explains: “From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”
  2. They help us learn and remember. Our brain has 2 gears. One gear which is when we’re focused and actively learning or writing, and another gear which is more relaxed and passive. We need both for the best results! Some areas of our brain even become more active when we’re in the relaxed gear. In summary, we need to switch between the 2 gears for maximum benefits.
  3. They help us see the bigger picture. Stepping back from revision or working on an essay can help us reevaluate what needs to be done and how we might want to change hoe we’re approaching the work. Sometimes we can get so into writing on one section of the essay only to remember that it was only a sub-sub point and won’t get us too many marks anyway.

Real, Satisfying Breaks vs. Distraction

Have you ever played PlayStation or a computer game for hours and hours only to want more time to play as soon as you stop? You get that buzz of fun while you play but as soon as you finish you feel unsatisfied and want more.

That’s because distractions like video games aren’t satisfying! When you finish playing you haven’t accomplished anything.

“Playing isn’t supposed to be an accomplishment!”

I hear you…

BUT in order to relax and feel charged up for your next session of hard study you do need to feel accomplished and more importantly satisfied.

How To Have Real Fun (Satisfaction)

If playing video games doesn’t give you the satisfaction you need to go on and tackle your studies then what does?

I’d suggest:

  • Drinking a cup of tea while you do your athkaar
  • Going for a walk
  • Going for a gym session
  • Taking a nap (20 mins)
  • Watching an educational video (like TED or an interview with an expert)
  • Reading something you find interesting
  • Sharing a study tip with friends via Snapchat or Facebook
  • Reading your daily portion of Quran
  • Dropping 2 rakat
  • Going outside and taking some great looking photos
  • Having a meal
  • Taking 5 mins out to make some powerful dua

What do all these have in common?

Simple. They fill up your bank of satisfaction.

When you’ve done any of the above you can tick it off your to-do list, you feel a sense of accomplishment and you feel more productive.

Notice how they aren’t mentally draining things to do but they aren’t brain-dead things to do either. A balance of accomplishing something whilst not spending a lot of brain power on it.

How long should a break be?

It depends.

I recommend 5-15 minute breaks between study sessions and longer breaks for meals and in the evening. Also I’d suggest leaving an hour or two free after sunset to do some of the above activities to give you a sense of satisfaction for the next day.

It’s important to feel accomplished in your studies and in other parts of your life for optimum focus and productivity.

Drop me a comment below with some of the things you’ll get up to during your breaks to fill that satisfaction bank! I read every single one.


About the Author

Founder of Seera Masters, a blog that helps Muslims design their mindset and lifestyle to reach their goals. Massively passionate about Quran, travelling, technology and life-long learning!