WORK, REST & PLAY
At University, many students believe they only have time for study. However, a lot of evidence
suggests that academic performance will be improved (and also your mental, physical and social
health) if you take a holistic approach, and pay attention to how you juggle the vital ingredients of
work, rest and play.
Engage all parts of the brain: Studying (especially the production of essays) is a
creative process. Any creative process has an ebb and fl ow, which you will need to harness
rather than force. Leaving your work zone and going into another one (eg rest or play) allows
a completely new idea to emerge, your unconscious, rather than conscious mind, has been
given a “go”. Albert Einstein said “I never came upon any of my discoveries through the
process of rational thinking.”
Balance: Study is a solitary, cerebrally active task. We can make our study experience
more sustainable and healthy by balancing it with activities that are polar opposites. For
example, engaging with other people in activities that are physically active, or, at other times,
Mindfulness and Meditation: A break from unrelenting mental activity can be
achieved through a variety of mindfulness and meditation techniques. For some more
information you may wish to visit the audio
downloads section of our website.
Physical activity: Exercise can also be a break from constant mental activity. Many
studies have shown that exercise improves cognitive abilities such as problem solving,
learning, concentration and memory.
Clear boundaries: Set up clear boundaries around your tasks to more effectively utilize
your time for work, rest and play. In this way you can prevent worrying about study day and
night, and then not studying effectively during allocated study time. Allocated study time is
used for studying and allocated play time is used for times when you really do need to escape.
Watch out for perfectionism: University is full of very talented students, often
with a strong work ethic and more than their fair share of perfectionism. If you fi nd that there
is never enough time to get something right and the only hours that count are the ones spent
studying, remember that such intense engagement may make you unable to see a task with
Not always focussing on an outcome: A feature of the academic lifestyle is
that it can be very competitive, everything is done in the service of the goal and the future.
It can be very liberating to fi nd an experience which doesn’t fi t this mould, which you don’t
need to be good at but which promotes a focus on joy and experience in the moment. Full
engagement in the moment is like a form of active meditation, and provides an escape from
the unrelenting mental activity which often plagues students (“I just can’t stop thinking”).
Being in harmony with yourself: Become aware of your energy cycles
throughout the day. Use optimal times for the activities of work and study, rest and play, eating
and sleeping. Being aware of these cycles allows us to live our lives in greater rhythm and be
more productive and healthy.