So much reading, so little week? It’s getting close to the end of most Ontario university students’ mini break from school, but that doesn’t have to mean choosing between homework and fun and (maybe) a little relaxation. All it takes is some strategic planning time-wise. Here’s a few of my tips for maximizing the amount of work you can get done while still enjoying a break from the grind.
Sometimes the best ideas come when you’re feeling well rested, without a sense of urgency to complete the project. If you have a school project due in the near future, or even if you’re stressed out applying for summer work, the hardest part can be finding your footing and beginning to look into it. What I like to do is get a blank sheet of paper, and literally just write down some beginning thoughts or points of where I think I will start. Point form scribbling, everything that comes to my mind goes down on that sheet of paper. For instance when looking for summer work in the past, I have written down my skill sets, what I’m good at, what I have experience with, and what credentials I have. Then I make a list of ideas of the places I could apply to in the area I’m living in for the summer. Exhaustive lists are best, because it’s always good to have too many options than too little. I may take a look at my resume and see who I can count on as references, and from there I start to do some research into available job opportunities.
But I don’t do all this work in one sitting. I’ll take several moments during the course of a few days when I’m as calm and in as best of a mood as possible to jot down a few thoughts, and add to my brainstorming list over time so that when it comes to actually completing the stressful task, I have quite a bit prepared. Not every thought will be useful but it will make you feel good in the sense that you haven’t procrastinated and have even potentially been doing some unconscious thinking about it, which brings me to my next point…
Leave Yourself ALOT of Time
It may seem like a no brainer but this is possibly the way in which I’m most successful in meeting any sort of deadline. Start a project before anyone else is even thinking about it, I’m talking like a month or so in advance. This way, there is absolutely no pressure to complete it and you have thorough knowledge of what exactly the project entails, and over time you will become even more familiar with what is expected of you. There will also be no need to even work on it everyday, and as you work on it overtime you will gain new perspective and new ideas. In this case, if you have a certain assignment on your mind, you will start to incorporate it into your everyday life and thoughts; you will be more cognizant of the project and perhaps new experiences and moods that you have from day to day will influence the direction of your work or inspire new ways to research or write about something. I always personally find too that when I know I can stop working on something at any time because I am ahead, I have more motivation to continue to work because I am in a calm state. All of my energy becomes focused on the task at hand instead of also worrying and beating myself up for not leaving myself enough time.
Do Work at Unexpected Times
This one works really well for me because I’m the type of person who needs to constantly be doing something. A good example of this is when my boyfriend and I sleep in: he is content to lie in bed and look up articles and videos on his iPhone whereas once I’m awake, I feel an incessant need to get out of bed, get my coffee and look at things sitting at my desk. My point? He’s doing it better because he is technically multi-tasking, allowing himself time to relax and wake up while still reading and gaining knowledge.
While some people may look down upon the idea of multi-tasking because it has the potential to be distracting, I think it is one of the best ways to maximize your efficiency, especially if you are doing two different sets of work at the same time. I’ll do some of my readings while I’m working out on the treadmill or eliptical. I like to go to work–I work as a cashier part time while I’m in school–and then do my homework at work. While I may not necessarily have the time to do readings I will brainstorm for upcoming assignments or make my grocery lists and mealplans for the week. I’ll also journal and write down interesting things that are happening in my day. When you keep your brain constantly tuned in and turned on it’ll help when you actually have to sit down and have an intense homework session because it’s not a shock to the system.
I did a post on this during mid-term season but I will say it again. Find strategies to keep calm and be kind to yourself. Recently when I was giving my little brother advice on how to budget for when he goes off to college, I told him to include a “junk food fund”, maybe $10-20 per week for little daily treats that will keep you happy. My biggest thing is coffee, I’ll switch it up and make/buy myself all kinds of fancy ones–an Americano one day, a vanilla latte the next. My boyfriend’s thing is juice, one of my friend’s is chocolate. Whatever it is in moderation that will add a little bit of joy to your life while you are fulfilling obligations will make you that much more motivated to work because you are being kind to yourself. It’s something about that dopamine that I find inspires a certain level of creativity and ingenuity.
Take a Mental Break
I find working with my hands or doing something mindless really calming because it gives me that break from too much mental stimulation. Sometimes it’s necessary for your brain to just veg out. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be a lazy slug and lay in bed watching trash TV (but if it’s your thing then go for it!). If you’re going for efficiency, take a break from the books to do something else that you have to but may not want to. Sometimes cleaning or cooking yourself an extravagant meal is the best way to get yourself back on track because it’s relatively mindless and allows you an appreciation of mental tasks separate from any physical exertion.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a starting point of ideas that you can draw from to maintain your work ethic while reading week is coming to a close. I promise it’s possible to work and have fun at the same time, life’s biggest challenge after all is maintaining a balance!