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Retreat, Recharge, Return: My Action Plan at this Year’s End

Last week, I took my first, last, and only final as a college freshman. It was an easy final, much easier than the exams our professor gave us in class. Two hours were allotted for the test, and I finished in a little over one and a half hours. I didn’t do very well in the class exams (or not nearly as well as I would have liked), but the final was encouraging.

I finished thirty minutes before time was up and went downstairs to visit Einstein’s for one last bagel sandwich and coffee. Then I walked out of the building and drove off campus, done with my first semester of college.

It was a good three months. I learned new things. I met new friends and acquaintances. I gathered experiences that I’ll look back on ten, twenty, thirty years from now.

Retreat

The first thing was to take a week off. I didn’t think about school at all for a week (not hard to do when it’s over). At the end of the week, I was relaxed enough for the holidays and ready for recharging during the rest of break.

Recharge

At the beginning of my first winter break, my task is to analyze my first semester and make a plan for how to make the spring semester much better.

It’s the job of a scientist: to analyze data and draw conclusions from it. Since last semester was my first, I didn’t necessarily have a good idea of what college would actually be like, and I didn’t make the best of the time and resources I had. So before spring semester starts, I must figure out a plan to maximize my potential.

These are the areas of focus right now:

1. Homework — In the spring I need a strict homework schedule. This past semester, it was easy to forget the less-pressing, minor assignments.

Action: In the spring semester, I will add all my homework assignments to my calendar, along with backdated deadlines for when I should start them and when I should have certain phases of them done.

2. Sleep — Many nights (often because of homework) I stayed up much later than I would have liked (I prefer to be in bed before 10 p.m. on most nights) and then had to take a nap on the next day (which often wasn’t scheduled).

Action: In the spring semester, I will schedule both regular sleeping time (in conjunction with homework) and strategic naps during the day.

3. Money — I didn’t have a job the first semester, which removes about half of the practice of budgeting. In the spring I’ll start working in the the New Student Programs office, so I’ll be more financially stable than I am now.

Action: In the spring semester, I will have a monthly/ weekly budget. Every week, I plan to review my finances and cut back on expense where necessary. (I’m also working on the personal development/poor man’s challenge to spend only $30 per month on food.)

4. Extra educational work — I’d like to be able to learn things seriously out of class. I’d like to learn programming languages on the side, a foreign spoken language, how to juggle, how to solve a Rubik’s cube, about hardware coding, etc.

Action: In the spring semester, I will schedule time to do (a few of) these things in addition to my regular coursework.

5. Extracurriculars — Extracurriculars have two different sides. On one hand, they can give me experience, help me meet new friends, and open career and social opportunities. On the other hand, they can distract from my main focus, waste my valuable time on not-so-valuable activities, and fool me into thinking that I’m doing something cool when all I might be doing is showing up at the meetings.

Action: In the spring semester, I will choose my extracurriculars based on the value they give me, and I will take some type of leadership role so I can give value back to the group.

Return

By the time spring semester comes around, I plan to have a concrete strategy where I get my homework done at least two days before I need to have it done, get at least eight hours of sleep (most nights), spend only as much money as I need to, and spend my time wisely out of class.

That’s how I recharge this year during winter break. I take a step back from the day-to-day of classes and homework, take a break mentally, physically, and emotionally, then return to campus with a fresh perspective in the spring.

Originally published on LinkedIn on December 26, 2015.

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