In the first part of this series, we spoke about different ways in which employees can have a productive lunch break at work. However, many of our loyal readers may not yet be in employment, but still working their way through high school, college or other educational institutes. Although many of our productive tips in the first part of the series are interchangeable, a student’s break can be used in a few other ways.
While many employees are able to separate their work life from their lives outside of work, mornings and nights for students can easily merge to become one. Studying many subjects requires a large amount of time and commitment and each day of the week could have a different schedule with different priorities and tasks. Lunch breaks could be as short as 30 minutes to a few hours depending on your class schedule. This is why any spare time found in the day should be utilized in the best way; if the daytime is used efficiently and productively, there will be time for hobbies, volunteering, and other enjoyable activities away from studying. Additionally, taking a break from “school life” is a key component to success as a student – a life consisting of just studies is draining and can damage your motivation.
With intense concentration and focus, we need to use breaks to stop and recharge. In sha Allah, this article will give you some ideas on how to efficiently use your lunch break. Try to give yourself some variety during every break, perhaps to match the amount of time you have to spare; find what works best for you. Always remember that your time is precious and wasting it on idle chitchat, games and mindless web surfing only makes it harder to succeed in our ultimate goal of attaining jannah in sha Allah.
1. Perform your Salah
Prophet Muhammad said, “The best of the deeds is the observance of prayer at its proper time.” [Sahih Muslim]
This first advice may be obvious for some people; however, many students can be easily distracted during their breaks and forget or not find the time to pray. As students, we always want the best outcome for our studies, by working hard until the early hours of the morning and putting our studies before everything. This demonstrates willpower and determination – these same characteristics should be applied to the desire and need to pray our salah on time. By doing so, not only are we fulfilling the commandment of Allah , but we are also releasing ourselves from the hectic lives we lead and reminding ourselves that there is in fact something greater and more important than studying. Make it a habit to make wudu and pray before you do anything else in your break. Use this time to make dua for yourself, your studies, and everything else in your life.
2. Nourish your body properly
Students are notorious for either eating too little, or too much of the wrong foods. Many students gain weight in college by indulging on coffee and endlessly snacking between their classes, or skip meals altogether. Do not neglect your body, especially when you are studying for exams or completing assignments. Our food is the key to giving our brain the energy it needs in order to function properly. Use this time to enjoy a healthy, balanced meal and relax before your next class.
3. Plan your upcoming tasks
Instead of wasting this spare time, a break can be the perfect time to schedule your meetings with professors, plan upcoming essays and your studying time for the next few days, weeks or even months. By having a plan of what needs to be covered, you are using your time much more efficiently and reducing the level of stress you are likely to go through in the lead up to exams. One lunch break at the start of the week can help create a clear outlook for the days to come. Humans can’t help being forgetful sometimes. Have a designated notebook, a diary, an app on your phone, or whatever works best for you to keep track of your tasks and responsibilities. As a result of having your tasks scheduled, you will be better focused on a specific task. The Prophet Muhammad is our greatest model to follow as he led many roles throughout his life: a Prophet of Allah , a husband, father, grandfather, friend and so much more. He was always busy, but he focused on each of his roles individually and efficiently. We can learn a lot from how Prophet Muhammad was able to perfect his responsibilities.
4. Catch up on school work
Try and allocate a few of your breaks during the week for study. Have a glance over the notes or lecture slides to prepare for your next classes as this will increase the amount of information you are able to remember after the session. We can often become really lost in lectures and lose our attention if we lack understanding for what is being said. By reading beforehand, you can make yourself more familiar with words or concepts enabling you to reduce the amount of time you have to spend on that content in the future. Similarly, you can also go over notes straight after your classes so that the information becomes fixed in your mind. Students can also use this time to get some tutoring from peers on concepts they don’t understand or an essay that needs revising. Lastly, visit your professors during office hours. In my experience, professors like students who try and form a relationship with them and aren’t afraid to speak with them outside of class.
5. Do a good deed
Prophet Muhammad said, “Faith has seventy-odd branches, the most virtuous of which is La ilaha illallah and the least of which is removing something harmful from the road. And modesty is a branch of faith.” [Sunan an-Nasa’i]
As students, we can often be in our own little world, oblivious to the world around us. Even with 10 to 15 minutes for your break, you can do good deeds to boost your imaan. Try these simple acts:
- Put a smile on someone’s face
- Teach your peers concepts they may be struggling with
- Send a message to an ill friend
- Buy coffee for the school janitors
- Volunteer with local charities
- Visit a sick person in a nearby hospital
Never underestimate how much you can give to others in a small amount of time. These small acts could help you with your studies by allowing you to refocus and remind you that there is more to life than chemistry, mathematics, psychology and so on, reminding you to appreciate and cherish the opportunities you have.
6. Go for a workout
Many educational establishments have gyms or leisure facilities on site that are usually much cheaper for students. Wake yourself up by taking a 30-45 minute workout during your breaks. Exercise is essential in reducing stress, which many students can struggle with, especially close to their exams. If there are no gyms, do a quick home workout in your dorm or go for a walk or jog. A change of scenery can do wonders to refresh you before the next lecture. In the whirlwind of a busy life, we neglect our health and fitness by eating more and moving less. Our body is a trust given to us by Allah and it has rights upon us. Using the break we have to attend to our body’s needs allows us to look after the vessel that enables us to do all the great things we do – including performing salah – in the best way as described by the Prophet .
7. Call a family member
Prophet Muhammad said, “Kinship (rahim) is derived from Allah . If anyone maintains ties of kinship Allah maintains ties with him. If anyone cuts them off, Allah cuts him off.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]
If you are living away from home, use your lunch break to contact your parents, siblings or other family members to see how they are doing. This could be a pleasant surprise for them if you normally do not call them during the day. Sometimes, when we are focused on studying, we neglect those who love us. Try your best to ensure you are maintaining family ties with your relatives as this is a highly rewardable act.
8. Hold halaqas
Gather other Muslims in the prayer room after salah and have a short halaqa to give reminders to one another. You will actively be doing something that will help protect, develop and strengthen your imaan as well as spending time with your Muslim sisters and brothers. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad advised us to keep good company as the people we spend the most time with are a reflection of who we are. Halaqas can be great places to discuss, reflect and support others in improving themselves in all aspects of life. Pick a different topic to learn each week; seerah is a brilliant topic to split up into many short parts – each week, reflect on one event from the life of the Prophet .
9. And here is what “NOT” to do
In a post discussing what we should do with our break, it is important to mention also a few “don’ts” to help us protect ourselves from using our time idly or being in situations that do not benefit our iman. For example:
- Do not open your social media apps. A few minutes scrolling can quickly become half an hour. Often, you learn things about people’s lives that do not concern you. This also paves way for gossiping, which we should all try our best to eliminate from our character.
- Do not head to the social spots. While these may be the places everyone is hanging out, your intention of just saying salaam to a few friends may end up with you spending the whole break socializing. Though there are benefits to seeing how your friends are doing, these social environments often lead to useless talk and little productivity.
- Do not forget to plan. Starting a break with no idea what you need or want to complete leads to the above two situations. Have an idea of what you want to achieve in this particular break to give yourself a sense of direction to commit to.
- Do not skip lunch. While we have spoken greatly about things to do to increase productivity, do not forget to eat! Our nutrition plays a key role in our ability to be productive, so ensure that you have a healthy, balanced meal. Skipping lunch to perform a task will only leave you lethargic and lacking energy for the afternoon lectures or classes.
Think about which actions you can incorporate in your breaks at school. How else do you spend your lunch break? Comment below and share your insights with your fellow readers!