Summer in college is different than summer at any other time in your life. In high school, the summer is for fun, and maybe summer jobs existing only to pay for movie tickets and ice cream sandwiches. After college…well, let’s just say summer stops being more than just another season.
But in college, summers are complicated. We have jobs to pay for rent, internships to get jobs, summer classes so we can finish school on time…and on top of it all, we probably all have things we’ve been putting off until the summer — what I’m calling projects.
In addition to a job search, an apartment search, and a couple more credits to finish my degree, I’m also trying to write a movie. If I’m not disciplined, I will procrastinate, and discipline means making a plan.
After several summers of trial and error on the whole productivity thing, I have a few tips and tricks for the college woman who wants to make the most of her semi-free time to do what she really wants to do.
1. Set aside time
The best way to ensure productivity is to actually set aside time for it. If you don’t make the time for it, and keep your schedule relatively consistent, then chances are your productivity will be like the rainbow–unreachable.
While setting aside time every day to get stuff done may sound like the worst when you’re trying to recover from this last semester (and prepare for the next one), it doesn’t have to be extreme. Just a couple hours a day can help you get a ton done.
Try to figure out what times of day you work best. I do my best and most focused work in the morning, and I currently don’t have a job, so my hours for the summer are 9-11. Every day I will make sure that I’m awake and fed by 9 so I can get my coffee and get to work.
I don’t get to stop until 11, and then I have the rest of the day to do whatever else I have on my to-do list, or just watch Netflix because I’ve earned it. In previous summers I would skip the productivity and go straight for the Netflix, but let me tell you, Netflix is a more enjoyable experience when you earn it.
Start your plan for productivity by picking a time of day–any time will do, as long as you can stick to it. This may be more difficult for people who have jobs, or summer classes to attend, but do your best! And if something comes up and you can’t work, don’t stress it–just make sure to try again tomorrow.
2. Create a space
I’m addicted to reading productivity-hack websites and articles, and they all say to make sure to have a space that is for getting things done–and to make sure it isn’t your bed.
If you already have a desk–great! If you don’t, you can buy one new from Target or IKEA for pretty cheap, or, better yet, at a garage sale. Desks are ideal for creating a productive space because, unlike your couch, your bed, or your dining room table, the only purpose the desk has is for productive things.
Maintaining consistency on where you work wires your brain so that when you’re at your desk, your brain knows it’s time to get stuff done, and then you don’t have anxiety attacks on the couch because it feels like you should be doing something.
Another key to creating a space is making sure it’s one you enjoy. Make it pretty, decorate it with washi tape (is that still a thing?), or pull out those Christmas lights you had in your dorm last semester and make your desk a fairy-tale-land. Get a succulent! Give it a name! (Mine is named Patrick Swayze.)
If you enjoy where you’re working, you’ll want to be there, even if you don’t feel like working.
3. Focus your time
We’re all different, and we all have very different plans for our summers. While my productivity time will primarily be for writing, for others it might be for attacking your room/house Marie Kondo-style, or for homework, or cataloging your insect collection.
Just make sure you focus what your productive time is for, ideally only one or two projects at a time.
The reason for this is your brain’s sanity. If you take your two hours every day and cram everything you need to do in that time, you’ll feel more stressed than relieved when your time is up, because not everything got done.
For example, today I need to write this article, finalize my summer playlist, do some reading for my summer classes, and do some research for my screenplay. But I’m not putting all of those on my to-do list for my two hours. I’m limiting my brain space to just writing for the next two hours, and letting Future Bethany deal with everything else later.
This time is just for me, and my project. The rest of the day is for everything else.
If you have multiple projects you’re working on, like learning a language and finishing Stephen King’s It, maybe switch off every other day, or focus on the book and then dedicate your time to the language.
The goal here isn’t curbing your ambition, but maximizing your brain space through focus.
What do you think?
What project are you hoping to get done this summer? What tricks do you use to stay productive over the summer?