Continuous work breaks interrupt obligations


Photo Illustration by Moy Zhong

Ann Fitzmaurice

Arriving home from school around 6:15 p.m., sophomore Piper Page sits down and takes out her homework. Immediately she fights the desire to set her homework aside and call it a night, she flips through pages of her history textbook, zoning in and out. Finally, she decides a break is necessary and takes out her phone.
This break occurs less than 10 minutes into homework time.
Page said her homework unfortunately takes hours to complete because of the breaks and phone usage. In fact, Nicole Torres of Harvard Business Review said that just hearing a phone notification can distract from learning because of the knowledge the alert is there and the curiosity of what’s behind the buzzing. Page’s breaks are also detrimental to her time as takes her a little longer to comprehend what she’s reading. With the 30-40 textbook pages she has to read each week, treating herself to these breaks with the thoroughness and pace of her working habits may just be detrimental.
“I feel helpless and like I’ve failed if I don’t get [my work] done,” Page said. “My goal is to have all A’s and be a good student, but there are times where I realize that may not be possible with the pace I learn at in comparison to the classes I want to take.”
With all honors and advanced placement (AP) classes as well as participating in show choir, Page finds it difficult to manage her time in order to excel in everything she wants to. Allowing herself these small breaks is needed, but sets her up for feeling helpless.
“If I could just keep going without taking any breaks, I surely could get everything done,” Page said. “Unfortunately, that only seems possible for machines. I treat myself because I do work hard; I can’t just go non-stop.”
Page isn’t the only one who takes well needed breaks while studying. In fact, professor Gary G. Johnson of Southeast Missouri State University recommends the average high school student takes a 10 minute break after studying for 40 to 90 minutes. Of course, it’s easier said than done.
“Students need breaks, especially with the workload they’re given in this day and age,” time management specialist and career therapist Kimberly Stanton said. “They deserve the breaks after they do significant learning, like when they finish a chapter in a textbook or a worksheet. It’s up to their own judgement, there is no formula.”
Freshman Sami Alexander tries to follow her own judgment in order to do well in school. She is an exemplary student in all of her classes, but even she convinces herself to treat herself for what she does. As a member of the volleyball team and another club team, Alexander uses the sport as an outlet to let off steam and take a break from academics.
“If I didn’t have volleyball, I’d probably go crazy,” Alexander said. “I need something that makes me happy like that because school just doesn’t cut it. With the workload I’m given and the stress of keeping my grades up, I don’t see a way school could make me as happy as volleyball does.”
When it comes to putting health and happiness over school, for example, only 29 percent of students get the adequate amount of sleep needed for a teen during the school year, according to Ph.D. Christine Carter of Greater Good, the Science of a Meaningful Life. Treating themselves to a sport or various breaks, Page and Alexander try to sneak some aspect of relief into their lives.
“Even with the breaks, schoolwork always comes first,” Page said. “I’ll take care of myself some other time.”
Although shooting for a high GPA over health is a bad idea. The workload students receive persuades them to push seemingly lazy and selfish thoughts aside. Despite due dates just around the corner, the call of relaxation is too loud to ignore.
“I convince myself I work hard enough to deserve an extra hour of sleep, [so I] usually just fall asleep doing homework then have to rush to get it done…20 minutes before class starts,” Page said. “Of course this stress would go away for the most part if I didn’t take as many breaks, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop.”