How to stay productive during the holidays

During the summer break, it’s easy to completely unwind, forget about uni, and enjoy the time away. Well, with the heat we’ve had, trying to make yourself do some work is nigh-on impossible, at least in my experience. But, as the summer nears its end, and we start to think about getting back to uni, there’s always that lingering fear – have I wasted the break? How do you get back into the swing of things after months of unwinding? I’m here with some advice that I hope may be of use.

However you relax, make sure to do it!

My first piece of advice is ensuring that you do actually use the time away to relax. I’m not saying you should shun work completely, but we have a break for a reason, so take advantage of it – go see some friends and family, sit in the garden, watch a film, or whatever else you do to unwind. I’m quite partial to long walks, because they give me a space to clear my mind and think while getting in a bit of exercise. However you relax, make sure to do it, because it’s better to have a bit of rest and be a little underprepared than arrive back at uni already fatigued and fed up.

Take a look at your modules and their reading lists, and see if you can make a head start

If you want to start getting preparing for your next year’s modules and work, summer is the perfect space to do so. Take a look at your modules and their reading lists, and see if you can make a head start. If there are books to read or films to watch, try and get through them a little in advance. You may not remember all the details when you actually get to that particular week, but your mind will already have processed the text and you’ll be so much more prepared when you address the text. Often, there are general introduction books too (recommended on module pages), which can be handy summer reads. If they aren’t there, ask the tutor what you could do to prepare – they’ll be happy to help, and no doubt be impressed by your enthusiasm.

Similarly, have a look at all the secondary readings. I’m not suggesting actually doing them (although run with it if you have the time and the inclination), but just familiarize yourself with the stuff you’ll be expected to look at. One tip that’s super useful is printing out the module guideline, and then finding the library numbers for all the books, nice and ready for the respective week – it’s a little thing, but it made me feel really prepared, and it was so handy to just be able to go and pick up materials easily ahead of each session. If they’re online, download some of them now, so they’re there and ready.

You don’t need to drown yourself in preparation and material, and the practices you pick up over the holiday could help you going forward

More generally, I would advise two key strategies: figuring out what you actually want to do, and then coming up with a plan of action. It’s a daft idea to say ‘I’ll do all the reading’ or ‘I’m going to revise’, because these goals are too abstract and thus essentially useless as a result. Make your goals specific and realistic – instead of vaguely promising to revise, say ‘I’ll spend one hour re-reading my notes on this topic and rewatch the lecture’ or something to that effect. If you just want to keep your mind busy, plan to write a paragraph each day (I write at least 1,000 words of something every day, just to keep the flow of writing up), or look at a past paper for a module you’ve done and plan an answer.

This approach has so many uses – it helps you to focus your energy, and it increases your chances of getting things done (and making you feel accomplished as a result). It also gives you time to enjoy yourself – once the hour is out of the way, you’ve managed to be productive and you have time to enjoy summer. You don’t need to drown yourself in preparation and material, and the practices you pick up over the holiday could help you going forward.

There’s no single approach to keeping productive, and I’m not going to claim mine will be the right way for you. But if you’re enjoying a bit of sun and you suddenly get worried that there’s only a few weeks to go before you’re back to work, why not try one of these ideas?


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