This is my first week on winter break and like many college students without solid holiday plans, I am feeling a little lost. With no harsh deadlines for school assignments or a professor reminding me every day how far along on my thesis I should be by now, it’s hard to maintain any kind of productivity or even accomplish more than one thing a day (if that…)
Yesterday I spent about 75% of the day in bed, moving only to eat and transport my stationary body to the living room where the tv is. I’m not proud of days like this and rather than be relaxing, they make me feel pretty awful. But I told myself I would get one day like that, just to remind myself what “being on break” used to mean, and the rest of my holidays would be productive in some way–and they will be, because I’ve got a plan.
1) Have a solid reason to get up in the morning. Okay, I admit, this morning when my cats woke me up at 7am, I should have gotten out of bed. And when my alarm went off at 9am, I should have gotten out of bed. And when I woke up feeling refreshed at 10am, I should have gotten out of bed. But I ended up laying there till about 10:45am, and this is simply because I didn’t have any reason not to. Had I thought of a good reason to start my day last night, solidified it in my mind and made it a priority, this morning may have turned out different. Hopefully tomorrow will be an improvement.
2) Have a specific to-do list. For some reason, seeing “read Lolita” or “write a story” on my to-do list just doesn’t quite motivate me to actually accomplish that goal. So instead, I try to break these larger goals into very small, specific accomplishments that are more tangible in the short term, such as “read 10 chapters” or “outline a story”. This creates a much higher sense of reward and keeps me moving through my list.
3) Do anything “productive” to get started. When I’m feeling particularly lazy, I find it extremely hard to just jump into my scholarly pursuits with any kind of enthusiasm. So I try to do small, productive things like clean my room, take out the trash, clean the litter boxes, etc. It’s amazing how just accomplishing one small, albeit unrelated, task makes you feel productive enough to take on the things that you really should be getting done.
4) Go to sleep around the same time each night and keep a general schedule. It’s easy to stay up till 3am when there is nothing weighing you down or forcing you to get up the next morning, and for some people, 3am is the most productive time of the day. But then you’ve ruined your whole next day, you have created a bargaining chip for not getting anything done until that mysterious time called “later”, and you’ve set off a chain of events that will probably keep you from doing anything productive for the rest of the week–at least that’s how it works in my experience. So I plan on getting to sleep around the same time every night, unless a book gets particularly good right around midnight (and they always do), and keeping to somewhat of a general schedule. Wake up, coffee, morning tv, a little physical exercise, shower, read/write, family time, etc. You don’t have to stick to it hard and fast, but trying to keep it in mind will keep your day a little more structured and hopefully productive.
5) Don’t Break the Chain. This is the Jerry Seinfeld method of writing every day. Simply use this website to mark each day that you get some writing done, or whatever else you want to do every day (you can create multiple lists), and don’t break the chain. Simple! After a while, you’ll see when you get most your writing done, and when you check back and realize you haven’t done anything in a week, you know it’s time to get something on the page.