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Planning Ahead Before Holiday Breaks

By: Lily Livaudais (she/her/hers), Peer Success Leader, 2019

Read time: <5 minutes 

With Mardi Gras season quickly approaching, it’s easy to push aside schoolwork and studying when there’s anticipated parade plans and extra time to spend with friends. Procrastination is an enticing habit, but this is an obvious way to send your GPA plummeting! How can we plan for fun-filled breaks like Mardi Gras so that we can thoroughly enjoy them, without the stress of worrying about unfinished schoolwork?

My favorite way to plan starts with a calendar. For new planners, Google Calendars is a good first option. A simple, yet effective start is to schedule time by priority. For example, my first priority is my classes. After importing my class schedule, I would write in any scheduled club, sport, or other activity meetings. Then, looking ahead at the week or two before and following the upcoming break, I would input any project deadlines and plan out my time for completing my assignments and homework. Student Success has a Weekly Planner Guide, an Hourly Planner Guide, and a Time Management/Prioritization worksheet that can assist you when organizing these things. 

Important tests and exams often fall right before or right after a holiday break. In my planning, I also set aside adequate time to study. Everyone studies differently and in different amounts, so there is no one rule for how much study time you should schedule. In general, study on a regular basis according to you and your needs. In addition to going to class, studying is very important because it allows you to review material that you may have forgotten and better prepares you for that next test. Appointing a specific time every day or week to study will help you to actually sit down and put your nose in the books. Include peer tutoring appointments, Supplemental Instruction sessions, Peer Success Leader appointments, and any other exam or course review resources in this appointed time to help you develop your recall and refine your study skills. Unfamiliar with the Study Cycle? Learn more about it here.

The final addition to your calendar, remembering to arrange time for self-care. Everyone is different, and everyone’s self-care routine looks a little different. For me, my self-care includes social time, alone time, exercise, hygiene, and even eating. As a busy student, it can be easy to forget these basic things that are essential to your mental and physical health. With a realistic and well-established calendar, you will be well on your way to effectively planning ahead for your breaks.

Another great way to ensure that you will fulfill your school responsibilities before the break is by using the reward system. You have a specific task that you need to get done and when you finish that task, you reward yourself! For instance, I know I have a stats homework assignment due tomorrow at midnight, but I also really want to go out with my friend’s tomorrow night. The task is my stats homework, and the reward is going out with my friends. After finishing the assignment, I reward myself by spending time with the people I care about. Plus, my mind will be at ease knowing that I successfully completed the assignment and can better appreciate my time with friends.

The reward system can also be even more simple than that though. For example, after every chapter of my textbook that I read, I reward myself with something (chocolate, candy, an episode on Netflix, etc.). This system works great when planning ahead for holiday breaks and scheduled school closures. It helps to make a list of all the tasks you need to get done before you go, and then plan a reward for each of the tasks. If you don’t finish the task, you don’t get the reward. Also, you can think of your break as your reward for finishing all of the tasks on your list.

My last bit of advice for planning ahead is to have an accountability partner. Most other students are probably in the same boat as you and would appreciate someone to keep them accountable. Whether studying, exercising, or doing any other activity, everyone can benefit from having an accountability partner, especially when trying to plan for an upcoming break. It can help you stay focused and provide you motivation as you start to feel distracted or frustrated. Find a friend, roommate, or peer in class to help you stay on top of your academic responsibilities or to indulge with in some self-care activities such as running or a coffee break.

There are many more ways to plan ahead before a break, but these are my favorite ways to prepare. After fulfilling your scholarly responsibilities, relax and enjoy your time off knowing that you are set for success when you return.