3 Ways to Make Breaks Between Classes More Productive

We all know how awkward it can be to figure out how to use your breaks between classes.

But let’s be honest about something.

Everybody always wants to know:

  • How can I be more productive?
  • How can I study more in less time?
  • How do I get time back so that I can do things that I want to do, outside of school?

But how many of us use that time between classes (one hour here… two hours there…) as effectively as we could?

That’s what I’ll cover in today’s video.

Click here to download the free “Make Breaks More Productive” PDF Quick Reference Guide you can take with you

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you…

From collegeconfidential.com

breaks between classes image 1

Okay, yes, everybody kind of hates those one hour gaps in between classes. You’re either bored, or you’re exhausted, or you’re anxious, and you end up dithering that time away.

From reddit/r/umd

breaks between classes image 2

Think about this: when you’re in the thick of it, and you’re cramming on Sunday night, the day before your test, how much would one extra hour of studying mean to you?

One more hour of learning might mean the difference between a C, and a B…

One more hour of sleep might make it so that you’re not walking around like a zombie the next day…

And one more hour of studying during the week might mean one less hour studying on the weekend, when your friends are out having fun without you…

What are we supposed to do with these one hour gaps?

Here I tackle how to increase productivity during the week, by making these breaks work for you. And these are three ways that you can do that.

Thing #1: Self-Testing

Do you ever feel like you really know how to do a problem, but then when you get to the test, and you see it, you completely draw a blank?

breaks between classes image 3

Research shows that self testing is an amazing way to train your ability to recall information when you need it most, like we need to on exams. In a study of over three thousand students, researcher Herbert Spitzer concluded,

“Immediate recall in the form of a test is an effective method of aiding the retention of learning, and should, therefore, be employed more frequently.”

On top of that, you don’t have to come anywhere near the right answer, the first time you’re testing yourself on something to see this benefit!

Okay, so you’re walking into your break… Take a couple of problems from the class you just came out of that are a good representation of what you just covered, and then test yourself on it, like you’re doing it for a grade. Don’t look at your textbook, or use any supporting materials, and just do it from scratch (here’s how to do this).

Now, you can kill two birds with one stone here, and do your homework problems at the same time, but just keep in time that you’re probably not going to get the right answer the first time, so make sure you go back and correct yourself later.

Thing #2: Reverse Learning on Other Subjects

The second thing that you can do is Reverse Learning on other subjects that you haven’t had yet that day.

During your break time, don’t simply just review the notes or concepts of the material that you’ve just covered. That’s not going to do much for you because repetition of things that are already fresh in your memory doesn’t improve your ability to recall those things later on.

breaks between classes image 4

Instead, put in a Reverse Learning session on a set of problems or concepts that you maybe learned the day before, or the week before. By doing this, you’re going to help yourself develop that high quality understanding of how to apply the concepts that you’re learning to solving actual problems. This is the number one thing that you need, in order to do well on difficult exams.

By studying a subject that’s different than what you’ve already learned, you’ll also benefit from something called interleaving, which is basically the idea that by switching up what you’re studying, and refocusing yourself on something else, your strengthening your ability to recall that information from memory.

Thing #3: Actually Relax

There aint nothin’ wrong with taking a break…

And the research shows that, actually, taking short breaks throughout the day in order to recuperate extends your productivity longer than if you just work straight through. But if you do take breaks, you want to make sure that you’re actually relaxing and recovering.

Getting involved in commenting on Facebook statuses, or getting in weird arguments on Reddit about the design of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber in the new Star Wars movie, are typically not good ways of getting yourself into this decompressed, relaxed mode.

From Wookieepedia

breaks between classes image 5

Instead you want to downshift to things that promote restfulness.

These are typically things that don’t involve any tough cognitive work.

This might mean going out to lunch with friends, without interruptions, or might mean sitting down with a book that you’ve been interested in reading.

It might mean taking a nap on a bench, or just simply taking a walk.

Whatever it is for you, just make sure that it’s promoting rest and recovery.

If you do this, then when you jump back into work, you’ll be more focused, you’ll be more engaged, and you’ll get more out of the time that you’re actually spending working.

Click here to download the free “Make Breaks More Productive” PDF Quick Reference Guide you can take with you


Do any of these three things and you’ll start to accumulate more productive hours throughout the week, without having to adjust your schedule, or sacrifice any of your other activities.

  • Kahmali Rose November 5, 2015, 3:21 pm

    Great article, Tom! Lots of solid tips in there. Thought I’d return the favor and offer one of my own: If you add some social share buttons (Twitter, Facebook) to your articles it would make it easier for folks like myself to disseminate this awesome information. Keep up the great work! Love what you’re doing!

    • Tom November 5, 2015, 5:14 pm

      Thanks Kahmali – yup been meaning to do that at some point.

Leave a Comment