I tried TikTok’s candlelight study challenge to see if it *actually* helped me write my diss

I’m down for trying anything at this point

It’s scarily close to the end of term and for me, like most final year students, that means only one thing: panic-attack inducing deadlines. The diss is looming, other essays are being ignored, and I’m coming close to an 100 per cent track record of cancelling plans. Despite heading to campus every day and almost coming into a fist fight over getting an actual seat in the library, my motivation is still flatlining.

Coming across the TikTok candlelight study challenge, I thought it may well be the answer. It’s basically where you light a candle and study until it extinguishes. No phones or distractions, harking back to the days of blackboards and hand-written assessments – think Kim K pilgrim core. If you can’t tell, desperation levels have hit intergalactic levels right now, so I’m pretty much down to try anything.

Deciding it would probably be safer to carry out this experiment at home rather on campus for fear of setting off the smoke alarms, and campus being evacuated, I decided to whip out a couple of our house’s IKEA’s finest candles – tenancy agreement be damned. Whilst setting up the scene it’s fair to say my housemates were a little confused, their first thoughts were that I was holding a seance rather than anything else – and yes, I spent the first half an hour of my candlelight study trying to unpack what that said about me.

6.45 – Setting up

Maybe I should have done it in my bedroom rather than the kitchen but my reasoning was as follows: firstly, it is much much warmer in our kitchen (and ambient temperature = productivity – just call me a woman in stem), and secondly, if I accidentally knocked over one of said candles, I would be infinitely closer to a water source. As a former woman in stem (GCSE Biology) I decided to have multiple candles from two different sources (IKEA and Accessorize – all the Christmas presents are debuting tonight) as a control group. Partly to ensure a fair test, but mainly because I’d forgotten how chonky the IKEA ones were and feared they wouldn’t burn out until the next series of Love Island starts.



All devices are on Do Not Disturb mode – I would have thoroughly recommended this had BeReal not gone off during and I missed it. Realising I probably shouldn’t have picked the kitchen at peak dinner time, I use the distraction of my chef housemate whipping up a stir fry as a challenge to knuckle down and study harder.


*Googles how long the average burn time is for a candle.* (PSA: It’s about eight hours).


Stare at candles burning and decide that it’s actually quite meditative. Wonder if this could be made into some kind of wellness programme or retreat. Subsequently wondering if I should have done a business degree instead. Google if it’s too late to switch degrees (yes).


I’ve been working quite productively but quickly realise this is because I have been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race – but it counts as dissertation work I remind myself plus I’m making notes as I go (yes, I am writing part of my dissertation on Drag Race – would thoroughly recommend).


The hair has slowly fallen into a depressed low bun, my coat is on as it is freezing (despite the candles), and tears have been shed (although that may have partly been caused by Drag Race). My long-suffering housemate walks in to find me staring at my screen with a glazed-over dead-behind-the-eyes look she hasn’t seen since the Wine Soc event which my liver and dignity still haven’t entirely recovered from.


My housemate has returned to make a cup of tea before going to bed and asks how it’s going. In response I happily hold up the unburnt candle and hold it up against the burning candle to show her how much it’s gone down. Looking back at the photos I realise it’s not gone down as much as I had thought, but at the time it felt massive.


The candle is nearly out, the amount of work completed is about average – or maybe slightly under, and I think the best thing to come out of it was the time spent admiring my kitchen.

Overall, it was an interesting experience – I’m not convinced it’s the saviour of productivity (although at this point I think only caffeine is), but it’s definitely a good strategy to help you be intensely focused for a three hour burst. I’d say its success probably comes down to the kind of person you are – if you’re someone who gets easily distracted and goes on random tangents of thought (*guiltily raises hand*), it’s probably not a great idea to be adding in elements of fire, pretty aesthetics, and a challenge into your studying routine. However, if you need a bit of structure using the candle method may be a good way to eliminate distraction and give you a time-frame to keep within. Oh, and whatever you do – don’t try this in the library.

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