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How to manage your time over the summer

Shermaine Saw, an international student from Singapore, shares her top time management strategies and suggestions for summer break activities for university students 

    Shermaine Saw's avatar

    Shermaine Saw

    BA marketing and international business student at the University of Sydney.
    July 4 2024
    Happy friends group having fun outdoor cheering at bbq picnic


    As a final-year university student, I have realised how important it is to take advantage of various networking, internship and vacation opportunities during the breaks in term. I firmly believe in the importance of work-life balance, and after completing my finals I rewarded myself with a well-deserved rest before resuming my routine.

    Here are some tips and tricks on how you can stay productive over the summer. 

    Stay organised by setting up a schedule  

    Schedule your reminders, events and appointments and even include a mini bucket list for the break if it is useful.  

    I use Apple’s Calendar, Reminders and Notes app to ensure I stay organised and manage my time wisely. Plenty of free to-do-list apps are available, such as Google Keep, Microsoft To Do and Google Tasks.

    It is important to ensure you prioritise tasks and set realistic goals to avoid unnecessary burnout. The goal is to recognise when you’re feeling overwhelmed and take steps to rectify the problem before it gets out of hand. You may wish to prioritise tasks by using deadlines or order them by magnitude by putting the more challenging tasks at the top.  

    Some apps allow the incorporation of colour and design to make the process more fun and organised – although this can be costly compared with free apps with basic functions. 

    You may also choose to do it the old-school way by writing in a diary or on post-it notes with multiple highlighters, pens and markers to give it a nicer aesthetic – this often motivates me more to accomplish more tasks at hand. 

    Apply for short-term internships or part-time positions 

    Internships or part-time jobs enable you to gain experience in your field by allowing you to apply academic knowledge in the corporate world. They give you a chance to take initial steps on your career path, helping you determine if it is truly what you want in the long run. They can also help you forge relationships and learn from mentors.  

    To start off, you should start looking for job openings early (this usually means at least three to six months prior, and for graduate roles sometimes up to 12 months). It is important for you to understand the job market in your country and how it operates. 

    LinkedIn enables me to find job listings easily and efficiently. You should start by building your profile early, giving you ample time to get noticed before you graduate and land a full-time role. 

    During internships in Singapore, Sydney and New York, I have garnered recommendations and advice from mentors, colleagues and supervisors, and have been praised by industry leaders. 

    These internships have developed my skills in communication, my emotional intelligence, professionalism, time management and adaptability.

    Pick up a new hobby or passion 

    Several studies prove that balancing work and leisure is a key aspect of maintaining your mental health. Whether it is picking up a new hobby or pursuing your existing passion, there are endless ways for you to do what you love during your well-deserved break.

    Universities typically organise workshops or activities such as cultural exchanges, city tours or museum visits. There is always something to look out for in your school emails or the university’s socials. You could also try volunteering at your local charity organisation or for causes that you feel passionate about.

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    Choose your units and check your timetable 

    Review your course handbook to confirm you’re enrolled in the correct courses and have room for your desired electives/modules when term starts. Prioritise those that best match your interests or career aspirations. When choosing a unit, make sure to check the prerequisites and co-requisites to confirm that you meet the requirements for the course.

    In Australia, full-time study typically involves about 15 contact hours per week, which may differ in other countries. Therefore, it is important to research and understand the balance between study and leisure time required in your specific context. 

    Catch up on revision for the next semester 

    Getting a head start before the next semester can be beneficial. If any courses have prerequisites or co-requisites, review them to ensure you have the necessary background knowledge for your upcoming lectures and tutorials. Falling behind in the first few weeks can be challenging in the long term.

    Participating in group study sessions with friends can enhance your revision and increase productivity. Creating flashcards and taking notes are effective learning techniques that can stimulate your brain. Remember to pace your study sessions and take breaks – it is still your holiday after all. Notion, Quizlet, and Obsidian are a few free online tools you might find useful for taking notes more efficiently.

    I enjoy watching crash courses on YouTube and taking notes in my notebook. I typically use one notebook per semester, divided into sections for each course. Reading textbooks, reviewing the reading lists and finding relevant books in the library help me make a start on next semester’s work. 

    I hope these five tips help you maximise productivity during the holidays. A stressful semester can be draining and hurt your self-esteem. Therefore, try to accomplish one task each day to stay productive without becoming overly tired. This approach lets you rest while still achieving your goals.

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