How to Create a Productive Summer for College Students

So you've had some time off from school, enjoying sleeping in or focusing on your job without papers to write or exams to take.  It's a glorious feeling, until you start to realize that time is already flying by and you have a list of things you want to accomplish this summer.  How can you possibly be productive with all of these distractions and sometimes unlimited free time?

When I was a student, I would feel the same way.  Often I would stay up late, sleep in, and wonder what I was going to do with my day starting around 12pm.  I would try to set big goals like applying for as many jobs as possible without clear deadlines.  And all too often, I would get sucked into some TV show or something to read on the internet.  My days slipped by and I wondered why I was able to get more done during the school year, when I was really busy.

Sound familiar?  You don’t have to have that kind of summer!  I wish I had followed this advice when I was in college.  Here are a list of three actionable items to help you create the productive summer you want:

1.  Set a consistent bedtime.  Yep, I’m serious.  Going to bed at the same time every night helps you wake up at the same time every day, so you feel well rested and ready to schedule your day.  Sometimes I hear people say, “I want to go to bed at 2am and wake up by 6am so I can be productive!”  That’s not going to happen.  You’re going to keep hitting snooze and then start your day feeling guilty, wondering why you didn’t get up.  Consistent sleep can change your life – Arianna Huffington wrote an entire book about it.

2.  Make your summer goals SMART SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  Instead of saying, “I’m going to apply for as many jobs as possible tomorrow,” make it SMART.  Say, “Tomorrow I will apply for three jobs already on my list by 5pm.”  This makes the task easier to accomplish and gives you a time frame.  Instead of spending your entire morning avoiding applying for jobs, you know that if you complete three (as you said in your goal), you’ll be done for the day.  Then you can cruise YouTube videos without any guilt and prevent the cycle of feeling miserable for not accomplishing anything. 

3.  Use apps to help you focus your time.  Feel like you spend too much time on Pinterest?  Or any other website?  Instead of beating yourself up for getting sucked in, create external barriers.  I have a daily time limit on Facebook for 30 minutes.  No, I don’t track that time myself.  I use an app called StayFocusd, a free extension on my browser.  I get to choose all the settings.  But once my time is up, it’s up.  Something else is preventing me from spending too much time on a website.  No willpower required.

So what do you think of these three tips?  What else has been useful for you in creating a productive summer?