In today’s hustle culture, being productive during your free time isn’t a suggestion, it’s an expectation we all need to adhere to unless we want to be perceived as lazy. On the other hand, wasting your summer vacation in a dark basement binging old shows isn’t exactly that much better. This article outlines 10 ways that you can spend your free time that won’t feel like work and will actually help you build life skills that will benefit you now and well into adulthood.
1. Complete a Personal Project
If you’ve ever wanted to start an Instagram account to share your poems or build that dream bookshelf in your bedroom, now’s the time! There are so many advantages that come from completing a personal project from start to finish I wouldn’t even know where to begin. From a psychological standpoint, such initiatives help build self-competence, discipline, self-esteem and keeps the mind active which by the way can “help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia.” And there is something so relaxing and fulfilling about getting lost in your project. I should know, this is what I feel right this moment as I am writing this post.
2. Create Something Tangible
If an entire project sounds like a nightmare to you, don’t worry about it. Creating something tangible, like a delicious dinner for your boyfriend or a photo album full of your favorite pictures can be just as impactful. Bottom line use your hands and make something beautiful for yourself or for someone you love.
3. Read with Intention
Do you ever find yourself putting down a book you just finished reading and realize you have no clue what it was about? Even if you don’t read self-help or hardcore business books, there are takeaway messages and lessons in all types of literature that you can apply to improve your life in one way or another.
So look through your stuff because I know you have a blank notebook lying around somewhere, and ship it with the book you are reading. If you come across an inspiring quote or a passage you simply find beautiful – write it down. This not only makes you practice extracting key information from a text, but improves focus and concentration. What’s more, you will be left with a tangible, rewarding goldmine of a tool that you can refer back to when you’re feeling unmotivated or even when you need some inspo to write an essay for college later on.
4. Host a Networking Event
Which professors are extremely hard markers, what classes should you take in your first year of college, where can you get the best pizza on campus? Instead of going out with your usual squad, extend your invitation to people you don’t know that well. I’m talking about friends of friends. A networking event can be a BBQ or picnic at a local park near your house, everyone can bring some food and you can expand your circle of friends and your knowledge. These types of events can help you improve your communication skills, build valuable relationships, and open your mind to different ideas, careers and even academic paths that you didn’t even know existed.
Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know.
5. Start a Lessons Learned Notebook
On those rainy days when you pretty much ran out of TV shows or anime series to watch, why not take the time to reflect on your past. More specifically, on what you’ve learned from past experiences. Once again using a blank notebook, start your own lessons learned tracker. Describe an event or a problem you faced in the past and note how it was resolved or what you got out of it. For example, if you studied for an exam the night before and you failed miserably – a lesson can be to study earlier by planning your time better, learning to say no, and improving your prioritization skills. This exercise can help you let go of past mistakes and realize just how far you’ve come.
6. Rebrand Yourself
You have always been, still are and will continue to be a salesperson. When you go to interviews, on a date, or present in front of the class you are trying to sell yourself and your ideas. In order to do so effectively, you need to understand that how you dress, how you stand, how you speak, and even how you smell will strongly influence the results and opportunities you receive in life.
I would highly encourage everyone and their grandmother to try this exercise out at least once during their free time. Draw a picture of yourself, thinking about how you believe others perceive you. The ask a close friend or a family member to draw a picture of how they think others see you. The discussion that follows once you look at both images is life-changing, I promise you.
Investing in your personal brand give you control over how you want to be perceived and treated. Don’t leave your image be decided for you.
7. Plan Ahead
Finding the right planning tool that best fits your needs doesn’t have to be a chore. I personally love using my free time to experiment with different apps or agendas and find out how I can organize my life better. Trust me, figuring out that your planning system is not working for you in the middle of midterms week is a not a situation you want to be it. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few options that I’ve used over the years that could be interesting (not affiliated links – not at all sponsored): Notion, Personal Planner and of course Google Calendar.
8. Job Shadowing
If an internship opportunity presents itself, I encourage you to go for it. If you can’t seem to get your hands on one in your field, try searching for job shadowing opportunities. Normally offered by your college/university, job shadowing programs consist of you spending some real “day in the life” time with a professional of your choice. Obviously this can be a bit limiting when it comes to certain professions, due to patient confidentiality or other safety reasons, but you don’t know unless you ask! This is a great way to explore different career options if you don’t know what you would like to pursue. Fun fact, I shadowed a veterinarian for a month and that experience played a great part in my decision not to go into Med School.
9. Practice a Good Habit
Trying to adopt a new habit during finals is more difficult than you’d think. This is why I always recommend to use your summer break or your time off to truly focus on creating systems that work. Use this period to practice implementing and tweaking new routines. Any change takes time & effort before it becomes automatic. So be patient, be consistent, and remember to take it one habit at a time.
10. Prep Your School Survival Kit
Doomsday preppers have zombie survival kits, A+ students have school survival kits. To put it simply, I am referring to a magical folder you create on your desktop and fill with tools, resources and other goodies you’ve accumulated over time. These could be links to videos about efficient note taking, old assignments you aced and could refer back to for inspiration, articles you saved that you would like to use for your future research, student blogs and websites, etc.
Think of it as looking out for yourself – you’ve come a long way. Instead of reinventing the wheel every single time, why not perfect your craft and sharpen your skills! Transform that School Survival Kit your secret weapon.