Opinion: Don’t forget to rest during exam season

Posted on Apr 18 2018 - 5:28am by Daniel Payne

The steady approach of finals week can be seen both in the dread-filled eyes of students around campus and in the dark bags under their eyes.

The weeks leading up to finals usually mean finishing a few more tests and projects before final exams themselves. This is stressful enough, but it must be coupled with studying months’ worth of material for huge tests that are quickly approaching.

For many students, this means a lot of work. Hours of caffeine-fueled work with breaks only long enough to change locations overtake the normal flow of student life. There is little time for socializing and even less time for sleep.

Is this the right approach, though? What if rest is actually the key to productivity?

That is Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s theory in his book “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.” Pang, a sociologist and historian, states that the technological age’s promise of less work through more efficiency has actually been replaced by the nightmare of never leaving work behind.

This is especially true for college students. Most work is done in dorms, apartments and coffee shops. There is almost no physical or temporal separation between work and the rest of life.

Under the guise of convenience and comfort, working from any place and at any time has caused students to work long, distracted hours. These hours often replace healthy sleep schedules and free time.

Resting entails more than just sleeping, according to research. Walking, meditating, traveling or spending time with friends can all give the brain much-needed space to decompress and enjoy other aspects of life.

This is why the Harvard Business Review concluded that giving employees vacation time offered a positive return on investment 94 percent of the time, given the vacation was moderately relaxing.

The same can be said for the relationship between an individual’s rest and productivity, according to Pang.

A short walk in the middle of studying, for example, may give the brain new surroundings and stimuli, allowing it to explore new ideas and solutions to problems that previously seemed impossible. This boost in creativity is a notable advantage for any student.

Meditation, though it takes a different approach, is also a beneficial form of rest. Psychologist Marc Wittmann has even shown that higher rates of meditation correlate positively with a person’s perception of time. In other words, stopping to focus deeply on the present moment can make your day seem longer.

Enjoying life in a way that does not pertain to normal work can be considered rest in itself. Spending time with friends or family or taking time to experience something new can both make exam weeks more bearable and help improve one’s performance.

It seems counterintuitive to spend valuable work time relaxing to gain more creativity or presence, but research supports the claim that people’s rest is valuable to their productivity.

However, rest can be more than just a tool to increase productivity. It can also be a part of enjoying life as it happens instead of always looking to the next goal or accomplishment.

Feeling that there is more to life than tests or one’s GPA and enjoying the journey itself as much as one’s successes can lead to more life satisfaction. This exam season, don’t forget to rest up.

Daniel Payne is a sophomore journalism major from Collierville, Tennessee.