One of the effective strategies regarding study skills is time limitation.  If students are working on an assignment that will take them several hours, they should  break up the work into forty-five minutes segments, interspersing the work with short breaks (about five minutes). They should get a drink of water or a snack, and generally walk away from the task for a brief time. Working for a longer period is less effective because repetitive tasks there may be a decline in performance.

This recommendation has its basis in neuroscience. Dr. Leonard Cohen, from the National Institute of Health reports, “We found that resting, early and often, may be just as critical to learning as practice.” His research study indicates that spreading out learning, also known as distributed practice, with better breaks between sessions, is known to be a better approach to learning. Another researcher in the same lab, Marlene Bönstrup, M.D. commented: I noticed that participants’ brain waves seemed to change much more during the rest periods than during the typing sessions.

The brain likes change, so providing a break or switching tasks allows for more effective work time. According to Alejandro Lleras, Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brief diversion from a task can dramatically improve a student’s ability to focus.  

The same holds true to workers. Taking regular short breaks can increase attention and productivity.  Participants working on a difficult task will report a higher need for recovery compared to individuals working on an easy task, and participants working on a difficult task will experience a greater gain in performance following a short 6- minute break than participants working on an easy task.”  So, instead of working relentlessly on a difficult or monotonous task, factor in some brief breaks.