How to Be Productive in School Holidays
Your teacher puts down the whiteboard marker, the bell rings, and an entire class of students rush out the door.
It’s school holidays.
You probably want to forget about school for at least two weeks, right? Without your teacher nagging you about internals and exams, you can finally binge that Netflix show you’ve been meaning to watch or scroll through TikTok without any guilt!
However, just because you have the freedom to do that, doesn’t mean you should. We’re here to tell you why.
In this article, we’re going to show you why you shouldn’t completely ignore your work during school holidays. We’ll also help you figure out what you need to do when you should do it, why you should care, and we’ll even throw in some study tips, because we’re cool like that.
Get Over the Fact that Work is Normal in the Holidays
It may be schoolwork that needs catching up on or the mug of black coffee that sat in your room all term and now has mould growing on it. Whatever it may be, we all have a tendency to let everything pile up on us during the term, and now is a good time to catch up, and take some much needed time for yourself. (This might be a good time to clean that mug of mouldy coffee though, yeah?)
However, the holidays are not a pause button on your life. This isn’t a time for you to lie in bed for three days straight, making friends with the bugs that have come to eat the crumbs in your room.
While it may sound nice to have a long break, you don’t want to neglect your school work forever! This is a great time to take a step back from your busy school life and take a quick break, but most importantly, prepare yourself for the upcoming term.
You know how you chuck your school bag by the front door at the start of the holidays, and then realise when you go back to school that there was a banana sitting there the whole time? Yeah, that’s not the vibe we’re going for here.
So, binge Netflix all you want, but think about balancing that out with some work too – after all, you now have an extra 8 hours of freedom in your day! If you make yourself suffer a little bit now (and studying is never as bad as it seems) you’ll be way better off in three weeks’ time when everyone is stressed, but you know that you’ve aced your work in the holidays.
What Does Being Productive Actually Mean?
People are obsessed with the idea of productivity, and we use the word all the time. But what does productivity actually mean, and how can you live your most productive life during the school holidays?
Being productive is all about how much you can get done in a certain amount of time. This can be really daunting, especially when your friends say “oh I was so productive today. I got all my school work done in an hour, then I cleaned my room, went for a run, ran for president and cooked dinner for my family.” However, productivity means more than just getting work done – and you can be productive without having to sit at a desk for hours, slogging away at your maths homework.
Here are a few different ways you can be productive during the holidays:
1. At home admin
Being productive at home could mean anything from removing the cups that have piled up in your room, vacuuming (because when was the last time you did that?), or finally clearing the mountain of paper that is slowly but surely taking over your desk. It doesn’t have to be cleaning either; you could rearrange your bookshelf and give your old books away to charity, or spend some quality time with your family. Being productive at home means catching up on any aspect of your life that you’ve neglected during the school term.
Some ideas could include:
- Clean your room.
- Sort out your closet and donate old clothes to charity.
- Pull out that old lego set, or finish an old project that’s been lying around for a while
- Organise any papers or books that are lying around in your room (again, recycle, or donate to charity).
- Spend some quality time with your family (play board games, have a chat at dinner or cook.
- Try out a new recipe (cook something for your family, or bake something new – you could perfect the ultimate chocolate chip cookie by the end of the holidays! The world is your oyster.)
- Do that speed run play through your mates have challenged you to
- Spend copious amounts of time completing every quest in WoW (this is not realistic before anyone tries)
- Get back into lego, because why not
- Catch up on the laundry that’s piled up during the term (e.g. When did you last wash your sheets?)
2. A personal pursuit
Productivity doesn’t just mean “clean your room, and study.” You are more than your tasks and achievements, and you can be productive in the school holidays without having to do either of those things.
Have you always wanted to learn the guitar? Do you have a keyboard in your house, collecting dust? Maybe you’ve been wanting to reach Level 20 on that game for weeks, or what about the Rubik’s cube that’s been on the shelf for far too long?
Whatever it is, now is a great time to set some personal goals, and make progress in other areas of your life, with that you have extra time for yourself.
We know that it’s often easier to sleep your holiday away or spend hours on your phone instead of being at school. However, it’s so rewarding to see your progress, and after two weeks you’ll have developed a life skill that you can keep up throughout the year! Think about it – you could serenade someone with those guitar skills, or you can improve your fitness by dedicating yourself to doing yoga every day.
Here are some ideas:
- Learn an instrument, or work on a new song: If you already practise the piano regularly, and you do classical pieces, why not learn a random jazz piece for yourself?
- Try to learn a new skill: Solving a Rubik’s cube, practising a trick shot, or do you want to learn how to juggle?
- Get some exercise: This could be anything from yoga, walking, running, skateboarding or dancing.
- Learn how to meditate, or start journaling: There are so many benefits to journaling and meditation, and there is plenty of research on mindfulness. While people throw the word “mindfulness” around all the time, there’s a lot of research on its benefits. Namely, in the ability to better cope with stressors by having more present-moment awareness (i.e. focus on the present moment) as well as engaging less in avoidant-behaviour that can have negative repercussions in the future.
- Don’t know your area well? You could combine (mild) exercise with geography, and try to mentally map out the area where you live. See if you can find a new cafe to try out, or figure out where the nearest parks are. Getting out for some fresh air, while also improving your spatial awareness, could be a fun way to take a break from studying!
Ultimately, the point we’re making here is that productivity is personal, and your goals should be made and completed for yourself. You’re not being productive to brag to other people, or to make your parents happy. Do something for yourself, and put effort into something that will make you feel better during your break. We often don’t have time during the term to invest in ourselves, but that time could be now. Be selfish! Set a personal goal, and smash it.
3. Study or work
This last one is the typical idea of “being productive” (and probably the one you’re dreading) but that doesn’t mean it should be scary, or that you should avoid it!
If you already have a part-time job, you could pick up more shifts over the break, to get more experience (and money!) while keeping yourself busy. If you don’t have a job, why not take the time to think about applying for jobs, or writing your CV? This is the perfect time to reflect on other areas of your life, and see if you want to start expanding into employment. Getting experience early on is great, and you have the chance to earn some spending money while learning great life skills too.
Studying can be daunting when you have no idea what you should do, but you know that you’ve got a bunch of exams or internals to prepare for. The idea of being productive can actually be really toxic, because we often get caught up with the idea that we need to study for 8 hours at a time, and ‘get ahead’ of everyone during the school holidays.
We have another idea for you.
Here’s how to ensure that you bang out all the school work that you want during the break:
This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Doing a little bit of studying every day (even just 15 minutes a day!) is really beneficial, and it’s much better than trying to cram everything in during the last weekend before school goes back.
Something is better than nothing, and a little bit of study regularly is better than a long chunk of studying once. Your brain will be completely overloaded if you try to shove a bunch of information in your brain at once. Instead, take 15 minutes a day to cover basic concepts, do a few practise questions, or work on little bits of your assignments (we cover how to do that later on).
Find a space without distractions
If you’re doing lots of short study sessions, you want to make the most of them. There’s no point in sitting on your phone with a textbook in front of you and calling that ‘studying’ for half an hour.
Instead, find a spot in your home, or even at a local park, that you can go to regularly and study. Think about it this way: Work smarter, not harder. If you don’t feel like studying, make sure that it’s really effective, so that you don’t have to study for really long periods of time to achieve the same understanding of content.
Remove the pressure of ‘succeeding’ or ‘being super productive’
If you’ve decided to study during the holidays, great!
However, it can be really easy to get into the mindset of telling ourselves that doing a bit of studying isn’t good enough, and we may as well give up and scroll through Instagram for a bit instead. Or maybe you do the opposite, and overwork yourself to make sure that you’re “hustling” hard enough, but then you’re either exhausted by the end of the holidays, or you give up early because your study habits are hard to maintain for more than a few days at a time.
Instead, try to study in a way that works for you. Maybe you can do a bunch of problems or questions, even if you get them wrong. Getting them wrong doesn’t mean you’re not being productive, or that you’re a failure. It means you’ve found something to work on, and you’ll know where you can focus your attention to improve in the future. Mistakes mean you’re learning.
What’s Your ‘Why’? Finding a Reason to Study
Studying can feel pointless if you don’t know why you want to complete your goals, or if you don’t have a reason for making goals in the first place. It’s important to remind yourself why you’re doing this so that when you think about bingeing a show on Netflix for 4 days straight, you can talk yourself out of it.
The holidays can often feel like a free pass for 2 weeks, and why wouldn’t you want to take that up? However, if you study now (even just a little bit) when you end up facing reality and going back to school, it’ll be that much better.
Studying now makes it way easier for your future self, and you can do a humble brag about your new study habits when your friends are complaining about how they didn’t study.
We’re not here to tell you why you should study. Everyone will have their own reasons, and we can’t just tell you “studying is important, trust us” and expect you to be super enthusiastic about it. However, if you find a personal reason for studying, it will become way easier to sit down and motivate yourself to get something done.
Here are some of our reasons for studying:
- Knowledge can’t be taken away from you.
- You can impress people with your understanding of random stuff in the future
- The subject may seem boring now, but you’re building up the base knowledge for way more interesting stuff in the future!
- Studying teaches you more than just the content of any given subject; You learn discipline, study habits (which you can use for the rest of your life), problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, and so much more.
- You will be able to communicate with others, so your chances of writing a really good CV increases, or maybe you want to write a letter asking for a pay rise – whatever it is, being able to communicate your ideas is really important! English isn’t just about analysing Shakespeare.
- Education is empowering. This sounds weird, but it’s true. Education is the one thing that gives you the power to choose your own future. With a strong education, you can further your education in any direction you choose, and that can lead to really interesting career paths.
- You can make a difference. Studying gives you the skills that you can apply to other aspects of your life, but the results of your hard work will pay off, and these grades will allow you to study almost anything in the future – giving you the power to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Think of a sport that you play (or a musical instrument). Did you turn up to a game without doing any practise? Of course not. If you wanted to do well, you went to the gym and lifted weights, had team practises, or started running in between games. Did you ever do a squat or a bicep curl during a game? Again, of course you didn’t.
So why did you go to the gym? Why bother doing exercises that you knew you wouldn’t do in a game?
You went to the gym to strengthen your muscles so that you were strong enough for specific maneuvers. You started running so that you could sprint faster than your opponent, and so that you would have the fitness to last for an entire game. More importantly, you made sure that you were fit and healthy so that you wouldn’t have any injuries, and you could keep doing what you loved.
The point we’re making here is that you had to work hard for what you wanted. Practising improved your skills, and you were then able to perform better in your game or recital.
Studying is the same thing. Studying is like practising for life.
It sounds really cliché, but studying involves building habits, creating goals and sticking to them. We build mental muscles, learn how to solve problems and how to look at abstract concepts and make sense of them. We develop logical thinking, spark our creativity, and increase our understanding of the world around us.
Even if you don’t use Level 1 Chemistry in your life, ever again, the skills that you’ve learnt through studying the subject will have made a difference. Everything you learn at school, whether you like it or not, improves your mental strength, and you’ll use these skills in the future.
Create a List of What You Want to Achieve
Once you know why you’re studying, a great place to start is with what you want to achieve during the holidays. Instead of saying “I want to study for physics” break it down – what do you specifically want to achieve in the next two weeks? Maybe you want to revise for mechanics and be able to do one past paper, or maybe you want to nail electricity and do a few mindmaps to link your ideas together.
The first thing that you need to do is make a list of what you want to achieve in each subject by the end of the holidays. How can you expect yourself to do a bunch of work, and be really productive in the holidays, if you don’t even know where to start?
Set Some Personal Goals
Having goals will give your holidays a sense of purpose, and you know what you want to achieve. If you don’t have a list of things that you want to achieve, studying either becomes a mental barrier in your mind where you’re like “yeah, I need to do that sometime” but you don’t actually know what “that” is, and “sometime” will probably never happen.
If you have goals, you can smash them out early on, and have more time to yourself at the end of the holidays, or you can pace yourself and do a little bit of studying towards your goal throughout the holidays. You also feel great when you can tick off each task on your list, and you can see yourself progressing towards your goals.
You’ve probably heard it all before, so we’re not here to tell you that you need to set SMART goals. Instead, we’ve got some helpful tips for breaking down that mammoth task into something that’s way easier to manage.
Have you ever said “I need to study for chemistry” or “I have a physics internal to do by the end of the holidays?” If you’re setting goals like these, it’s really difficult to motivate yourself.
It’s much easier to avoid procrastination when you have to write one paragraph for your internal or do 20 maths problems. Breaking down big tasks into lots of smaller goals will make it easier for you to be productive, and you’ll feel great as you start ticking off each one.
Here’s how you can actually break it down:
Start by writing down your task. For example, that English internal you’ve been putting off for weeks.
Then, check what you need to do. Go through your notes from class, or check online for a list of what is expected from you. For example, your teacher will probably outline what you need to do for the English internal. If it’s the writing portfolio, you’ll need to submit two pieces of writing. This sounds really scary until you break it down into smaller chunks.
Create a list of all the small things that you need to do, in order to complete the task. Taking the English example, you might want to do one creative and one formal piece of writing. For each piece of writing, you probably want to come up with an idea, do some research (either researching techniques for creative writing, or information for a persuasive essay), figure out how to structure your piece of writing, write an essay plan, write each paragraph, edit your draft, and do a final check before submitting your pieces of writing.
This might look like:
- Come up with an idea for my formal writing
- Research for my topic and find evidence for my essay
- Plan my structure
- Write an essay plan
- Write paragraph one
- Write paragraph two
- Write paragraph three
- Write the introduction and conclusion
- Edit my draft
Now, instead of having a really vague “damn, I still have that internal to do,” you know exactly what you need to do, and you can say “well, today I can start researching for that internal” because it’s a lot easier to commit to one small thing than trying to tackle a massive task.
Now, you have a good idea of what needs to be done, and you can tick off one or two boxes regularly, and by the end of the holidays, you’ll have finished your task!
Switch Up Your Study Locations
It’s really hard to study, socialise, eat and sleep in the same location. This is especially challenging in the holidays because we get used to studying at school, and then we chill at home.
If you’re not feeling motivated, try switching up your study location! It can feel really weird, suddenly trying to get a lot of studying done at home. This is because we associate different places with different mental states or tasks.
One of the best ways to boost productivity is to change your environment. Our brains don’t like doing the same thing, in the same place, for too long. If you switch up your study location, you’ll be able to focus more easily in a new environment, and it might just be enough to get you back on track again.
With that being said, each environment has it’s pros and cons, so make sure you choose carefully. For example, the local cafe might be a great place to study, if you like having some background noise, but make sure that you’re not easily distracted by the coffee machine, or the door opening constantly as people come and go. You may like to study in your room, away from people, which is great if you want a silent space, but a better option might be the library, because you have fewer distractions, and you’re less likely to take a nap on your bed halfway through studying.
Study Locations You Can Try:
- Your room
- A common space in the house
- The library
- A local coffee shop
- Your backyard
- A local park
- A friend’s house for a group study session
Try a Cafe Tour
If you’re really aiming to make a day of it (and enjoy the hustle-bustle study atmosphere), try a wee cafe tour.
Set yourself up to study at a cafe with a good vibe and bust out some work. Every 2-3 hours, switch up your location, motivating yourself with snacks and coffee as you go.
A warning: If you’re going to do this in a longer stint, try switching the coffee up with something less likely to keep you awake until 3am.
Start a Group Study Session with Your Mates
Studying is so much better with your friends. Since you’re not super stressed, you have the extra time to organise a study session with some friends in the holidays.
Having a group study session might seem less productive than studying on your own, but you can ask each other questions, test each other, and work through problems with your friends. It’s also way easier to study when you’re around other people who are also studying, rather than trying to study at home while your mum is vacuuming and your brother is screaming at the tv.
If you feel like a study group won’t help you, think again.
Whether you know your stuff, or you’re lost in a subject, a study group has many benefits.
According to science journalist Annie Murphy Paul, the protėgė effect is when students that tutor others end up working harder, and recall and apply information more effectively. Think about it this way;
When you explain a concept to someone else, you solidify the information in your brain. This also reduces the illusions of learning, which is where you think you know something, but you actually don’t. If you think you know a concept, but you can’t explain it properly to someone else, it’s a good indication that you need to revise.
People often ask tricky questions when you teach them something new, and being able to answer these questions also means that you’ll be ready to tackle a difficult exam question. Your mates might ask questions that you haven’t thought about before or may ask you to delve further into some aspect of the concept.
By the end, you’ll have mastered the concept that you taught! And studying in a group is way more fun. It’s a win-win situation.
Here are some benefits of study groups:
- You have a better understanding of the content: If you don’t understand something, you can ask a friend to help you out, and they might be able to explain it to you in a different way. If you’re all stuck on a problem, working together on the same questions can also be a great way to understand difficult concepts.
- You’ll be more confident: If you’re nervous about asking questions in class, a small study group could be a great way to increase your confidence. This will also help you with confidence during an exam because you know that you can approach difficult questions – working with your mates on hard questions teaches you these skills.
- You have a support system at school: If you study with people from class, you might find out that they also love playing Minecraft, or they’re obsessed with the same celebrities as you – why not invite them to hang out? Even if you don’t get along with your peers, you’ve now got a group of people that you can talk to when you’re stuck in class, or when you’ve missed a day of school and you need to copy someone’s notes.
- You’ll be more motivated: It’s a lot easier to sit down and get some work done when you’re not the only one being swamped in physics textbooks. Basically, if you know you’re not suffering alone (and you can ask for help if you get stuck), it’s a whole lot easier to motivate yourself to study. Plus, it’s more fun.
- A greater range of content is covered each time you study: Each person has different strengths and weaknesses, and the same goes for studying. Everyone in your group will be more confident in some areas, and you can learn from your friends about the different areas of a topic. You’ll cover more content in a group because if each person learns a concept, and explains it to the group, you’ll cover more content and learn in a variety of different ways.
Rounding it Off
With all that being said, we encourage you to sit down and make a list of goals that you want to achieve during the holidays – whether that’s personal goals, stuff to do around the house, or school-related.
Make a plan, rope in some mates, switch up locations, and get started on that school work! We promise, it might not sound great now, but you’ll thank yourself later. Plus, you could reward yourselves with donuts and coffee after your study sessions… then you’re really winning!
No matter what your plan is for the holidays, we hope that you take a break, reflect on the past term, and start preparing for what’s to come.