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Be Your Future blogging series graphic showing two people playing on a games console.

Exams. Who doesn’t dread the thought of long, painful hours of back-to-back, last-minute revision in the library? Worst of all is the guilt you feel when you’re doing anything else other than staring at reams of sloppily written class notes, waiting for inspiration to hit. It’s in our best interest as students to learn when we need to take a break. Not only to relax, but to improve our focus and concentration. As we’re now well into the new year, let’s take a look at the importance of scheduling much-needed study breaks for the upcoming exam period, and believe it or not, how a game of FIFA may actually help improve your performance.

The importance of taking study breaks

Now, I’ll start off by saying I’m not recommending bringing your TV and Xbox to the library (however fun that may sound). You should instead focus on creating an effective schedule which allows for recreational downtime and enhances your productivity.

Since joining Microsoft in July 2018 and starting my career, I’ve discovered that this mentality is just as applicable in the workplace. According to a 2015 Bupa study, less than 29 percent of workers take a lunch break. However, 52 percent say that skipping a lunch break puts them in a bad mood, with 40 percent saying it makes them feel unproductive in the afternoon.

My colleagues have really helped me to understand why it’s so important to take a break. Take a walk through the Microsoft Campus and you’ll find Xbox consoles, collaborative areas, and multiple coffee shops. The importance of downtime and getting that much-needed head space has certainly been considered and incorporated into our whole working environment.

Two female and one male student on the go walking outdoors

Make time for yourself

I’ve discovered that, where possible, a schedule of 9-5.30pm with intermittent ten minute breaks throughout the day works best for me to be as productive as possible. Many studies have found that just pausing from the daily hustle for brief periods of time leads to increased productivity, success, and the development of a positive mindset. I also try my best to not work through lunch, choosing to take a walk around the campus instead to clear my head.

Making sure I get out of the office at a decent time means that I’m still left with plenty of time in the evening to relax and unwind after a long day at work. For me, I use this time to immerse myself into a new world by playing a few games. But everybody is different. You might find reading a book or listening to a podcast is better suited to you. It’s all about finding the most effective way for you to improve your work-life balance.

Be part of a team

When revising you may often find that having a revision partner will encourage both of you to stay focused. It helps having somebody who’s working towards the same goal as you. The same can be said about gaming. Working for Microsoft has meant that I have had to move far away from home. Being able to catch up with friends or millions of other players most nights, across a multitude of different media types helps me reconnect and wind down after a long day. Without an online community to rely on, we must be careful to avoid isolating ourselves, particularly during stressful exam periods.

In recent years we’ve seen a trend towards games with ‘clans’ or ‘squads’. Everyone working together to achieve a combined goal. Often, these teams are made up of a variety of roles whereby every player is important to the end goal. I would always recommend you get involved with teamwork and being online will provide you with a contrasting experience to feeling alone with your text books. Granted, having time alone to reflect is equally as important and something that we need to make time for in our daily schedule too.

Schedule time to have fun

Studies have found that just pausing from the daily hustle for brief periods of time leads to increased productivity and the development of a positive mindset. The immersion generated from surrounding yourself in a lifelike 3D game, the creation of a character, and the ability to dive into this ethereal world promotes enjoyment, and a sense of relaxation whilst ushering in a sense of escape from the daily struggles of revision.

Razer Blade Stealth with Xbox Controller

The absolute best way to help get out of a revision slump is to schedule a study break and have fun. Gaming offers us this platform. You may find Minecraft as a means to relax by building your own world; FIFA will let you take control of your favourite football teams, and Halo may be the perfect title for you to explore outside of your world, visiting planets and galaxies far away in an immersive, futuristic game. Don’t let the stress of exams lead to an imbalance of work compared to time to relax. Look after yourself, put yourself first, and enjoy the technology built to encourage good mental health.

It may sound ridiculous to some, but not only have I found games beneficial to get myself back ‘into the zone’ after a few low energy, demotivating days in the university library, but I’m also having fun and catching up with friends whilst doing so. These games are really starting to change real-world perceptions beyond the sofa.

Find out more

8 tips for a less stressful work-life balance

Headshot of Craig MassieAbout the author

Craig Massie is an intern in the Specialist Team Unit, working closely with start-ups, Fortune 500 companies and software vendors to help them take advantage of technical solutions so they can achieve more. Craig is a big advocate of time management and maintaining a positive work-life balance.