We all know how it goes: you sit down to finally get some serious work done on that term paper when *bling*, your phone screen lights up. You think, “I’ll just check it real quick, what if it’s something important?”, and before you know it, you’ve been scrolling Twitter for an hour and haven’t written a word of that essay.
This is an all too common experience that many of us have grappled with since high school. An often proposed solution is to cut off social media–or any kind of media–completely. Deactivate your facebook, cancel your Netflix subscription, delete your twitter app, throw out your PlayStation 4. But is that all there is to it? Can media usage also be beneficial to our study habits and academic lifestyle?
Research has found that media intake has a significant effect on our mood and we selectively intake certain media to regulate our moods . Consider the last time you listened to your favorite happy song to cheer yourself up after a tough day. A more recent study done by Leonard Reinecke and Wilhem Hofmann suggests that media use might also help us to recover and recharge. This study found that selective media intake can contribute to mental “recovery” from work, school, etc., sometimes beyond what resting without using media can do. Media use was found to allow subjects to mentally disconnect from the everyday stress of work or school and be able to truly rest and recover. I think we all know how it feels to totally zone out on a TV show or movie and finally not have to think about that big test we have coming up next week. There is a growing body of research showing these recovery effects. Use of media in moderation was found to go beyond just the subjective experience of “feeling better” too. It was actually linked to increased vitality and cognitive performance. This means that binge watching Grey’s Anatomy for six hours is always good for us right?! Not quite.
There are some pretty significant differences between using media to recharge and using it to procrastinate. Using it to recharge can help to replenish “mental resources” that were “used up” throughout your busy day at school or during an intense bout of studying. Though this type of media usage can sometimes still result in delaying a task, it’s done for a functional reason that will actually help facilitate your completion of the task later. For example, you’ve just come home from the library at 11pm after a rigorous group study session and your brain feels fried. You know you have to study a little more to be prepared for your exam in the morning, but you choose to watch your favorite cartoon for an hour before you continue studying. When you go back to studying, you have a fresh mind to look at the material with.
Conversely, when we use media to procrastinate, we are delaying a task for a non-functional reason that might have negative consequences for completing the task later3. For example, you are absolutely dreading writing your term paper for American Lit 201, so instead of beginning to form your outline, you watch 3 hours of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, wasting all the time you had to work on the essay. Are you starting to see the difference? One results in a rested mind ready to take on that difficult task, and the other results in a stressed out student with no time left.
So before you decide to cancel your Netflix subscription or destroy your copy of Call of Duty, you may want to ask yourself how you’ve been using that media and what consequences it has on your study habits. For many these types of media intake, in moderation, can restore some mental resources and ready the mind and body to take on difficult tasks. The keywords there being “in moderation”. For a lot of us it may be difficult to practice this type of moderation so below I’ve put together my top 5 tips for using media in moderation:
The Netflix One and Done
Go into your Netflix session with an episode limit in mind. Tell yourself you are allowing yourself to rest and recharge for one episode, and then return to the task at hand with a fresh mind. It can help to turn off autoplay on Netflix, so that you don’t get swept up in the next episode as it automatically starts.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Place your phone in a different room during study time. Turn your phone on vibrate and leave it in the kitchen or bathroom for an hour at a time while you get some serious work done. When you need a moment to recharge your brain after studying, go spend five minutes on your phone. You can even set a timer for five or ten minutes that signals you to put the phone down and head back to your study space after your media-recharge break.
If you’re working on something that doesn’t require internet research, turn the wifi off on your laptop, tablet, and phone. If you get distracted and try to click over to facebook, the webpage not being able to connect can remind you that you’re supposed to be focusing on your offline work.
Stay Focused With StayFocusd
If you’re working on something that does require internet and you can’t resist opening facebook in the next tab: use a Chrome extension like StayFocusd, which allows you to block certain sites from yourself for a chosen amount of time. Using this extension, you can block Facebook, Twitter, or any other site for an hour or more at a time, allowing you to stay focused on whatever you need to work on. The extension also has a function where you can allow yourself only a certain amount of time on a particular site. For example, you can set it up to only allow 60 minutes on Netflix before it blocks the site, stopping your binge-watch session in its tracks.
The Tight Schedule
Set up a study schedule before a cram session with short breaks and rewards strategically placed throughout. Know going into the session that you will need breaks, and that’s ok, and that media can provide restful breaks if used carefully. Write out that the first hour will be used to study, followed by a fifteen-minute media break (of your preferred media type), followed by another hour of studying, and another fifteen-minute media break, and so on. You can also place small rewards throughout, like a “treat break” after a solid three hours of studying where you get to snack on your favorite treat.
If you can stick to a schedule like this, and use some of the other 5 tips to help yourself do so, you’ll be on your way to an effective study session that won’t leave your brain totally fried without needing to totally renounce your favorite media.
— – —
Want more law school tips? Sign up for our free mailing list today.
And check out these helpful posts:
- How to Stick to Your Goals in Law School
- Best Apps for Goal Setting
- Do You Need a Sponsor to Stay Productive in Law School
- How to Stay Productive and Remember Everything in Law School
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Looking for some help to do your best in law school? Find out about our law school tutoring options.