Christmas break is nearly upon us. That must feel good to read – especially if you’re first years. Nonetheless, do not waste the time you’ll soon have. Here are some tips on making the most of your break to ensure you can nail that first class honours.
First thing: don’t call it Christmas Break or Christmas Holidays. As much as you want it to be, it’s not a break – not at all. If you make it a break, it will have consequences that will constitute a waste of £9000. I don’t mean don’t have any fun – of course, you need to relax a little – but the first way to ensure that your four weeks are productive is to drop the ‘holiday’ or ‘break’ title. Start by calling it ‘Study Leave’ or independent study month. Now you’re all set to have four weeks of productivity.
The first thing you need to do to have a productive break is to establish a routine. You need to set a general layout for every day, minus Christmas day of course. Decide what time you want to get up and go to sleep every day – and stick to it. This is going to give your break structure and stop you from panicking because your life is going to be a lot neater. Also, you need to decide what time slots you’re going to allocate to working within this routine – you don’t have to decide what you’re going to do – it’s not a timetable your making. Just a routine. So for example, say you decide that you’re going to get up 8am and go to bed at 11pm every day. The next step would be to decide, for example, that you’re going to do work / be productive from 9:30-13:00 and then from 14:00-19:00. Of course, how much time you dedicate to work will vary on your year. If you’re a first year then the amount of time given to work will likely be higher than the above, due to exams, but for those in second years, 8.5 hours a day should be sufficient to complete the essays and vac scheme applications.
Before you embark on your study leave, you need to write down and set out your goals and things you need to achieve by the time you go back to uni. So this would include modules that you need to revise, essays you need to write, applications you need to complete and stuff like that. It’s important to know exactly what you want to achieve and how much there is to achieve, so you can plan and distribute your time accordingly.
Before your study leave starts, make sure you have all your ‘days off’ or ‘Christmas plans’ decided, booked and in the calendar. Know exactly when you’re going to winter wonderland in Hyde Park, or when you’re meeting your friends in town, or having brunch at the Fortnum and Mason Lodge – and know it all in advance. This ensures that you know exactly how much time you have to play with in regards to what you want to achieve, whilst also adding much more structure to your time off, in terms of knowing what you’re doing. It also means you can ensure you don’t spend too much time ‘out’ or ‘off’, as you can see beforehand how much time you plan to spend not working. Remember, over the three weeks you should be operating on a 70/30 work/non-work balance.
It’s all about breaking down goals to make them achievable. Bearing in mind the pace you work at and the size of the tasks, in relation to when you need certain tasks done by, begin to make weekly goals. By this I mean, at the beginning of each week, take your Overall goals, break them down further and make a plan of what you’d like to achieve for the week ahead. Which past papers do you want to get done? What essays do you want to plan/write? Which firm’s applications do you want to complete?
The next step in being organized and productive is to make a daily to list of what you want to achieve each day, by drawing on your weekly list. Be realistic in the number of tasks you wish to complete, in relation to how fast you work. What exactly do you want to get done that day, how much of it and to what amount of detail. Know, have a list and be able to work your way through it. These daily lists work great because you’ll find you have a desire to complete and check of all the tasks. By checking off each task you’ll find you gain a sense of pride and achievement, and reaching the end of the day and having all your tasks ticked and completed will leave you with a great feeling. Naturally, not completing your list will likely frustrate or annoy you, thus giving you great incentive to stick to your plan and get everything done. This equals a massively productive study leave.
Make your work feels like a break – a break from the hard slog of uni life. Yes, you need to work, but work is lighter over this time so make it feel that way. Uni can be stressful and heavy, filled with tight deadlines and a school-like vibe. Make your work and productivity at home feel lighter and more festive, to make it feel as though you are getting a little holiday and enjoying Christmas. Play festive music whilst you work sip a hot chocolate; sit in Starbucks amongst the Christmas bustle, sipping a gingerbread latte and writing an essay. Don’t let your work stop you from enjoying this time of year – combine both. Personally, it’s one of my favourite times of year to work, especially in coffee shops and places filled with Christmas spirit.
Also keep in mind, during your time off, that Summer is not far off. Whenever you feel yourself slacking, or thinking that ‘it’s a holiday, I should relax’ just remind yourself that soon it will be summer and you’ll have 14 weeks off to whatever you want. Push through the desire to slack and put in the work for the three weeks, because before you know it you’ll have your well earned holiday to kick back and chill.
Yes, you do need to work – a fair amount. But still, take some breaks and enjoy your time. Do spend some days out. Do use your evenings to curl up with a hot drink and Christmas film or a good book. find your balance and still enjoy the cinnamon scented winter days.