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Almost all things that I have read on internet about studying, are just tips about how to improve concentration, performance, and other stuff you probably already read. But, I stumble on a difficulty very often...

Every time that I'm going through a non-stop studying, after some time (I didn't measure it, but is around a hour and a half), my brain seems unable to keep on learning any subject, independent on how much effort I could put.

Is there any scientific study on how much we can endure studying before taking a break (and how much this break should be)?

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Try the Pomodoro Technique. :) – ben Feb 16 at 19:17

There's a very nice book on how the brain works: Thinking, Fast and Slow. If you intend to get only one book on psychology in your life, get that one.

Basically, there's two types of thinking, which the book refers to as System 1 and System 2. System 1 is 'fast' thinking, it's what happens when you calculate 2+2, if someone asks you the capital of France, or how you react when someone throws a ball at you. It's reflexive, intuitive, doesn't have to be 'turned on'.

System 2 is slower thinking. It's always conscious. It's mentally tiring. It's the part of your body that supresses your urge to swear or punch someone who angers you. It's what you use when you try to calculate 41512/3 or learn new things.

You can only store a certain amount of information in your brain at any one time. Everyone has a similar limit. The difference between a professional mathematician and a teenager is that the mathematician can do long formulas effortlessly without feeling any mental fatigue at all.

The key to studying without fatigue is to limit the number of things you're storing in your head. That's why engineers and scientists put a lot of focus in telling people to write everything down on paper. And try not to study in distracting environments.

Eventually, the things you learn will go into the fast access part of your brain, and no longer tire you as much, and you'll learn methods to do things without overloading your brain with information.

I don't think there's really any hard facts to how long you can study. It's just based on how familiar you are with the things you're studying and how much distractions are present.

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Maybe you can work longer and better if you can "cool" your brain.

Working properly

The brain uses a lot energy, so drink regularly, water if possible, when you learn or think a lot. You can eat something as well.


I don't know about studies, but you seem to know it yourself: when you feel you're not productive anymore, take a break of 5 to 10 minutes. You could more around, outside if possible, do some gym, because sitting a long time is not confortable. Refresh your face with water or jump in the swimming-pool if you have one. Lie down somewhere, close your eyes, and take a 1 minute nap. Breathe slowly and listen to your breath. Be sure to keep a good mood to avoid headaches, by watching a humoristic video or whatever.

The following is a little off-topic.

Learning method

I don't know how you learn, but reading alone is generally not effective on the long term. Many studies proved that. Don't read a book straight, split each chapter, or page, or paragraph, depending on how much there is to learn. Write the important things you read in your own way, work around it to be sure you understand, repeat it.


If you're trying to learn about one subject for, say, 4 hours, not necessarily straight, and feel exhausted, try to learn something else. For example:

  • Physics
  • Drawing
  • Physics
  • Drawing
  • ...

You can put more subjects.

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