How to Make Most of Your At-Home Study Breaks

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Short activities you can do at home to keep yourself productive in your down-time.


By now, many universities have switched to an online format in an effort to keep their students on track with their courses, while remaining safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. Lectures have transferred to Zoom, conversations moved to online discussion boards, and bedroom desks now substitute for former classroom settings.

On the one hand, staying home is convenient; morning routines get starkly simplified and there’s no fear left of rushing to the dreaded 8:00 AM lecture, only to find that your beloved unassigned-assigned seat has been taken. However, learning online actually poses a whole new set of challenges.

In my experience so far, I’ve struggled the most with productivity. Suddenly, I have all the time in the world at home. This should allow me to finish all my work in a heartbeat, and yet, no one would know it if I burnt a few hours binging reruns of Chopped.

When it comes to boosting productivity, what has helped me the most has been budgeting my time. It’s common advice to suggest working for shorter periods of time and squeezing in study breaks in between, but I’ll admit this was never something I’d tried out. I normally would be the type to write out a paper in the school library in one (long) sitting and move on.

But now, this is an approach that really works for me. And I’ve found that by doing the most to be “productive” during my breaks, this makes it easier for me to jump back into my assignments, like maintaining somewhat of a “work equilibrium” during what can so easily be a wholly sedentary working day.

Here are some of the activities that help to keep me ‘in motion’ during my study breaks:

Tidying up

For most people, it’s hard to take on spring cleaning in one sitting, but by breaking it up into small tasks, it makes tackling it more manageable. Consider running a load of laundry or sorting through the pile of papers that have been accumulating on your desk for a quick break: a tidier room leads to a tidier mind.

Doing a quick exercise

Commuting or walking to class likely made it much easier to hit 10,000 steps each day than staying home does now. Exercising helps release any extra energy you have and makes it easier to relax and focus on other tasks afterward. If you can, try following a YouTube workout video or (safely) take a walk outside during one of your breaks.

Taking on a side project

If you’ve ever wanted to create something, but didn’t have the time to (and perhaps still don’t completely have the time to during the semester), a study break might be the perfect time to get a start. Write out plot points to a story, sketch an image, or map out the perfect lair in Minecraft. Once you have the time to fully take on these projects later their foundations will already be there to help you get started.

Calling a friend

Chances are that your friends are also finding difficulties in transitioning to a remote learning environment. Taking the time to check-in with them is a great way to provide support and stay social during a break. Sometimes, I also stay on Facetime with a friend while doing my homework to have the company of working together.

Switching tasks

Although switching from one mandatory assignment to another is not a true break, it’s a great way to keep focused while you do your work. If you find you’re getting tired of staring at derivatives or quarks, consider taking a break and looking at another task to get into a different way of thinking.

During this challenging time, moving to an online study situation may not be ideal for those who are new to it, but changing the way I approach my study breaks has really allowed me to jump into my assignments and complete them much faster than I had done before. And really, I can’t ask for much more than that!


Addie Joseph
Baruch College in Manhattan

After earning her ears at Disney, Addie moved on to study Journalism, Creative Writing, and Photography at Baruch College in Manhattan. She is interning for Macmillan Learning as a Student Ambassador, but in her spare time, you can find her tucked away in a café, crafting stories or editing photos and videos, with earbuds fixed firmly in her ears. Don’t be afraid to interrupt and say hello; she always enjoys meeting new friends (and perhaps indulging them with music recommendations too)!