Whether you are enrolled in a master’s or a doctorate program, you could find yourself taking at least one class during the upcoming summer semester. Taking even just one course during the summer can be a dramatically different experience than your Fall or your Spring semester. As soon as the weather becomes nicer, it can become increasingly harder to stay focused in summer and not run outside the moment the sun comes out.
Even if you are attending a school that has relatively warm weather year-round, the summer season can bring with it even more distractions and the expectation that you can take a step back and relax. Festivals, concerts and summer vacation quickly become a temptation for many. As we quickly approach summer and the distractions only continue to add up, here are some tips that helped me stay focused during my first summer in OT school.
One of the best uses of my study time throughout the summer semester was spent finding quiet areas outside to set up. Here, I would spend the majority of my day going over notes and completing upcoming assignments. Find a coffee shop that has outdoor seating or a local park. If you live near a beach, you could try studying on a blanket if you find a quiet spot.
Fresh air can do wonders, so even if you’ve been spending most of your day doing work in an air-conditioned room, going outside helps to refresh your senses and reset your mind. Generally, frequent breaks can help us get through a study session without losing steam as quickly. Plus, studying outside feels like we are actually doing something more leisurely and makes it less of a chore.
Make Time for Leisure Activities
With the distractions of summertime comes plenty of room to lose sight of school responsibilities. It can be tempting to work extra hours during the summer but try to dedicate time to leisure and self-care so you don’t have to sacrifice more later. To help avoid this, make time in your schedule that isn’t dedicated to work or school. Think of it as a leisure “block” on your calendar where you make yourself available to all the distractors that life has to offer.
Additionally, study schedules can be especially helpful during this time, so consider sticking to one if you know that you are prone to get flighty during the summer months!
If you don’t want to commit to actually creating blocks of time for non-school related activities, consider making an estimated completion time for each assignment that you will need to get done for the day or week, this way you can have a rough idea of how much time you can dedicate to other daily activities.
Stay Loyal to Your Agenda
Any graduate student will tell you that agendas are heaven-sent, but actually keeping up with and maintaining your agenda can take a seat on the backburner. Since summers are intensive and distractions are so prevalent, actually complying with your own deadlines can be difficult. Don’t underestimate the power of organization during the summer semester. This can be easy to neglect after completing two long semesters in the Fall and Spring, so re-evaluating your organization skills will only help you stay on top of all your responsibilities.
Take Mental Breaks
Mental breaks are important during intensive studying and increasingly important when you are stuck inside daydreaming about frolicking in the sun. For this reason, mental breaks are probably most important when you’re taking courses in the summer because you can get easily sidetracked.
Rather than trying to power through everything before enjoying your fun in the sun, you will actually be more productive if you take that break as soon as you feel your mind lingering during a busy day of school work. If you need to watch an episode of The Office (only one), encourage this break so your mind will be able to focus better after its had a little bit of leisure time. Mental breaks can work wonders during this time.
Keep your body moving to maintain your focus and well-being. If you’re not studying and spend your free time laying out in the sun or going out for dinner and drinks, you can easily find yourself struggling to hit the gym and ultimately reducing your ability to focus on academics. Make it a priority to stay active, wether that’s a quick jog in the morning or going to the gym between classes.
One of the great things about the summer months is that jogging paths are much more accessible without snow or those April showers. Plus, it’s always nice to feel like a part of the community when everyone else is enjoying their time outside as well.
Find a Summer Project
A common theme of advice to stay on track with your responsibilities is finding healthy ways to destress and manage your time. Having a summer project gives you something to work towards and can further motivate you to get your work completed in a timely manner. Rather than dragging out your work in front of the TV, having a summer project gives you that extra inspiration. Maybe it’s updating your room decor or finding Pinterest projects. Maybe it’s selling on Etsy or reselling your old clothes. Maybe you’ve been wanting to make your own pickles or kombucha! Whatever interests you have that will keep you busy without tiring your mind, consider integrating into your summer plan.
Take a Social Media Break
unmotivated and defeated. Try to limit phone time to keep your focus sharp and your time management up to par. Fantasizing about others’ fabulous summers will do more harm than good.
Some phone apps available, such as Pocket Points, use contributing university’s wifi network to help keep you off your phone. The longer that you go without using your phone, the more points you accrue which can be redeemed for local coupons and deals. The hope is that you can refrain from phone use while in class, but it can definitely be helpful to use when you find yourself studying on campus. Another app that helps you stay off of your phone is Forest, which plants a seed within the app and grows a forest. The longer you stay off of your phone, the more the forest grows and thrives. If you go on your phone, your forest begins to wither.
How to stay focused in summer: breaks, schedules, and multitasking!
As we approach the summer season and put together our bucket lists, there will certainly be times that we will have to sacrifice life for work. The important consideration here is maintaining that occupational balance to help us stay sane when all we probably want is that summer break we are likely anticipating. Take advantage of the weather and the extra time outside of class, but don’t forget about those usual responsibilities that come with, well, being a graduate student. Don’t lose sight of what makes you a student and a future OT!
At the end of the day, remember that we are only able to be most productive when in the right state of mind. So, don’t forget these tips when you are at the height of your summer stress so you can make the most of your work-life balance!