Welcome to Five on Friday, a round-up of views on a theme. We take a look at what happens when people get bored… and five non-study things you could be doing instead to improve your learning ability.
The weekend is upon us! Do you know what that means? No, not a bar crawl and a hangover. If you are one of the thousands of busy people who are studying for a qualification, some hours of your weekend will probably be spent plonked in front of a <insert screen here> putting in some quality time to complete your course.
I’m going to assume for a moment that you love your course, or at least understand what its outcomes will mean for your future. Even with these as motivation it is still difficult to see a chunk of your weekend disappear into study, especially if you haven’t kept up with a few hours during the week and you need to tackle up to 12 hours of study on your precious days off.
When you’re bored of studying you say ‘yes’ to almost any distraction: friends inviting you out, another episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, a quick swipe at Candy Crush. In moderation, these activities all have value as a way to break up the monotony of study but in excess can become poisonous to your ability to learn. Instead, here are five alternate non-study activities that might go some way to assisting your learning capabilities.
1. Have a snack
You take a break, go to the kitchen and grab a snack. What do you grab? Too many people opt for convenience: food full of saturated fat, sugar or salt. Take a little time to choose and prepare foods that will help you concentrate, something with nutritional value. This Study Diet might help, though if you have food intolerances or preferences you will need to be careful to include suitable substitutes.
2. Shake it all about
Exercise can do everything from reset your posture to reset your thinking. A change of task is a good way to prevent study from becoming a stale, sedentary activity and something as simple as a walk around the block will also give you some fresh air. New studies also indicate that exercise boosts memory, so if you’ve hit a wall get up and go somewhere for a while.
3. Take a nap
Your learning ability takes a hit if you’re tired; never fear, it can be restored in just 20 minutes with a nap. Naps increase alertness and productivity according to the Sleep Foundation and contribute to your learning capacity. The key is to make sure you don’t oversleep, so here’s a guide to the perfect nap.
4. Do some chores
… and let your mind wander. If you’re going to get distracted, you may as well get distracted by doing something you need to do. Something mundane like housework also allows your mind to wander, which corresponds with an improvement in problem-solving ability and creativity. Just the thing you need to push through a tough assignment—and look, the bathroom is clean too.
5. Engage in philosophy
Too often we look at the outcomes of study—a qualification, a job, a career—and forget that the process of learning is a benefit in itself. According to Thomas William Nielsen, associate professor at the University of Canberra, Australia has adopted a US/UK approach to education, one that’s “centred around individualism, narrow academic achievement, and a rationalistic-economic view to life that is completely self-destructive in the long run”.
Instead he advocates the Scandinavian model, which has “social and whole person-centred values embedded in their societal and educational structures”. Find the purpose of education and the learning will take care of itself.
If you were hoping this list would be more elaborate, I’m sorry to say there are no scientific studies on how swimming with dolphins can aid study. (Wait, let me check that. No, not yet.) As with most study advice the easiest things to do are usually the best because they are achievable. Keep it simple, stupid.
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