Watching the NHL All-Star game yesterday was a nail-biter to say the least. Down 4-0 in the first period, Team Lidtrom rallied to beat Team Staal 11-10.
As I watched the best of the best in the NHL duke it out for bragging rights, I was reminded of the importance of taking breaks. I was watching the game and couldn’t help but notice how often the players switched on and off the ice. After clocking it a few times, the longest a forward stayed on the ice for about 40s – longer if they were on a power play. On top of that, everyone got a 15 minute break after every 20 minutes of play (for the record – I knew about the 3 period thing in hockey and didn’t have to time that. Just wanted to clarify…)
I asked my hockey-loving friends about why the breaks were so frequent and they were incredulous that I dare even ask. “Those guys are skating at 30 mph and shooting pucks at 120 mph – don’t you think they need a break?!?”
Having phrased it that way – I certainly agreed! But I was also stunned. How was it, I wondered, that NHL All-Stars, the best of the best in their field, took breaks after 40s of work, and after 20 minutes of total play, and I expected myself to study for two hours on end? Granted, I wasn’t skating at up to 30 mph or shooting pucks 120, but I’m sure my brain was working equivalently hard trying to puzzle through debits, credits, and international market entry strategies.
Convinced I was on to an easier way of structuring my study time, I researched the issue of break taking further and discovered that the maximum human attention span is about 30 minutes. After that, it declines rapidly until bottoming out at 50 minutes when no one can really pay attention anymore. To deal with this, Learning Strategies recommends taking a 10 minute break to recharge your mental muscle before tackling the next set of puzzling pushups.
With that – I was sold. From now on I’m going to study like an all-star with frequent breaks. After all, if we don’t expect top hockey players to play without rest – why should we expect that of ourselves?