The next piece of advice we have to maximize efficiency when studying online is not to let yourself get too tired.
This is something that should be incorporated into any study routine, whether you are studying online or not, since the health of your mind goes hand in hand with the health of your body. However, this is particularly important for students who use the internet as their primary learning vehicle. The reason is simple: a tired student is likely to find it harder to resist the internet’s propensity to distract. A tired student studying online is more likely to start texting, opening up social media, watching videos on Youtube, and allowing his or her working memory to be flooded with stimuli.
There are a few steps you should take to stop yourself from getting too tired.
First, set a timer for thirty minutes or an hour (find a rhythm that suits your needs), and when it goes off, stretch, walk around for a few minutes, even do a few pushups or sit-ups. You should do this even if you don’t feel like you need a break. Indeed, if you wait to take a break once you feel you need one, you have probably already left it for too long.
If you want to check your email or text messages, this is the time to check it, but ideally your break should be a time to give your brain a rest and not to tax your working memory with more stimuli.
In addition to regular short breaks like this, you should also schedule longer breaks into your study routine to walk outside, preferably in nature. When you go on a walk in nature, consider leaving any hand-held internet decides at home.
A growing body of research shows that the sights and sounds of nature are key to rejuvenating the brain and preventing mental overload. (See “Coffee Break? Walk in the Park? Why Unwinding Is Hard” and “The rewards of ‘nearby nature”.)
Your breaks should occur before experiencing the type of “digital fog” described by Small and Vorgan in their book iBrain:
“…the endless hours of unrelenting digital connectivity can create a unique type of brain strain. Many people who have been working on the Internet for several hours without a break report making frequent errors in their work. Upon signing off, they notice feeling spaced out, fatigued, irritable, and distracted, as if they are in a ‘digital fog.’ This new form of mental stress, what I have term[ed] techno-brain burnout, is threatening to become an epidemic…. Chronic and prolonged techno-brain burnout can even reshape the underlying brain structure.”