The end of semester is almost here, the finish line in sight. You’re probably fatigued, burned out and more than ready to take a nice, long break. You’ve worked hard and you deserve it, but with just a little bit of thought, you can get more out of your time off than a video game marathon or Netflix and couch binge.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do those things! They’re important, and I recommend you do them first! After finals are done, stop, take a deep breath, and start getting some space in your head.
Take a day, take a weekend or a few days, to give yourself room and start shaking all the school things out of your head. Space is important, and right now your brain is cluttered like a hoarder’s garage. Do some fun things, hang out with your friends and laugh a lot, do some laundry and clean out the fridge.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to think more clearly. Don’t stop doing those things, though – dial it back, but don’t shut it down. Fun and play and space are always important. Work-life balance plays a vital role in our growth and development, and in productivity and creativity.
The next step is to review the past semester and evaluate your progress. Are you on track, or do you need to retake a class, see difficulty ahead and perhaps need to get a head start, or reconsidering your long-term goals altogether?
What about your systems and routines for getting things done? Are they working for you, or does something need improvement? If you have trouble keeping track of assignments or staying on top of everything, a break is a good time to consider using a planner system, because you have time to establish the habit before failure is critical, and a good system – like Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal – is easy to maintain when you need to use it.
Take a week or so to look back, giving yourself time and space to unfold. Our brains actually do a lot of work under the surface of our awareness, and it takes time, like a slow simmer on a back burner. So don’t forget to dance, daydream, doodle, drum, dig in the dirt or whatever you do that lets your mind unwind. Trust me, it’s important.
Now look to the future. You’ve likely already registered for next semester’s classes, so consider what you’ll be learning there and what may be required of you. Taking Audio Production and Performance? You WILL be talking on the radio. Are you prepared for that? Maybe some practice would be helpful. Know nothing about the topic of the class? Maybe look it up on Wikipedia or even download a book about it. Find ways to set yourself up for success.
Revisit your long term goals. Is that still where you want to be? Sometimes we learn things that lead us to change course, often slightly but sometimes dramatically. If you don’t really want to go to where you’re headed, it makes sense to alter your course now rather than spend more time going in the wrong direction.
Also in the course of learning new things, we tend to narrow our focus on where we want to be from the broad picture to a narrower slice. “I want to be a writer” becomes “I want to write for mass media” and later “I want to help return integrity to journalism” and so on. You get the idea. The space between semesters, where you have room to breathe and think, is a good place to consider how you can refine your focus moving forward.
Don’t forget to make space in your life. Let go of what isn’t serving you. Get up and move, because if you’re not an athlete, it’s likely you aren’t moving enough. Write not because you have to but just because you have something to say, or to help you figure something out. Reconnect with friends and family who have been neglected for study. Read a book not because it’s required but because it’s a great story and you can’t put it down.
Take the time to do these things while you have it, because it’s harder to keep it up when your life fills up with lectures and labs and homework and practice and Greek life and everything else we’ll jump back into in January. Establish the habits while you have the space, and they’ll be easier to carry forward when you don’t.
When classes resume in January, you’ll come back rested and refreshed, clear, focused and prepared. You’ll also be caught up on plenty of Netflix and have logged a bunch of hours in World of Warcraft. Mission accomplished. Happy Holidays!