Does this scenario sound familiar? You have a big exam coming up, but with all of your other obligations, you only have one five-hour block to devote to studying. Five hours seems like plenty of time, right? But an hour into your studying, you find yourself picking up your phone to check your Instagram feed, wandering to the kitchen to grab a snack, and completely unable to focus. Study burnout happens to the best of us, but there are some simple strategies to help you get back on track.
What Is Study Burnout?
Burnout can happen on a small scale, like in the example above, or on a larger scale. Often, study burnout for one particular exam or class can snowball into burnout that extends to all of your coursework. When you’re experiencing burnout, you feel overwhelmed by everything on your proverbial plate; you’re exhausted mentally and physically, and your academic performance begins to decline. You procrastinate because you’re only able to focus when forced to do so under the pressure of a deadline. Other times, you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start—so you don’t start at all.
Strategies to Beat Burnout
If your feelings of burnout are pervasive and causing you anxiety and depression, it’s a good idea to seek counseling. Assuming your study burnout is limited to a few classes or a particularly stressful period of time, here are some ways to cope:
That plan to study for five hours straight might sound like a good idea at the time, but it’s never going to work in practice. Why? Well, first of all, you’re a human being, not a robot! While it’s possible to stay focused on a single task for quite a while, studying is not one of those tasks—cramming for exams simply isn’t as effective as breaking your studying into smaller one- or two-hour blocks of time over several days. This allows your brain to make connections and properly digest information, rather than overloading it with more than it can possibly remember.
When you have breaks that are planned and timed, it can help you fight the temptation to check your phone or have a snack during study time. Even if you only plan to send a quick text to your friend, phones have the ability to completely derail us. That quick text may lead to a long conversation and an hour later, you haven’t studied at all and you’re not in the mindset to get started. Plan 15-minute breaks for every one or two hours spent studying; set a timer so you don’t exceed 15 minutes.
If you’re not living a balanced life, it’s easier to feel burnt out by your studies. Balance means incorporating movement into your day, whether it’s time at the gym or simply a walk in the park, eating a healthy diet, and not over-extending yourself academically or socially. Get the sleep you need each night—that means at least eight hours—and give yourself time each day to decompress, no matter how jam-packed your schedule might be.