It’s safe to say that at some point, everyone has been interested in learning the “secrets of success.” It’s a nice concept to believe in, as the idea suggests that if you could just teach yourself to do certain things all the time, your life would improve drastically. And, if you look into it, you might also come across the idea that making or breaking a habit only takes 21 days. Suddenly, you have an attainable goal in front of you! Just 21 days to start doing the things that will bring you money, power, and respect. How easy is that?
The truth is, it’s probably not that easy. The 21-day theory is scientifically dubious, and as you can see from looking at the habits of just a few successful people, there’s no one routine that will put you on a direct path to your goals. However, there’s no reason to let that deter you. Habits can absolutely change how productive your life is, and for some people, 3 weeks of constant work at something can definitely make a routine out of it. As it happens, you have a wonderful period of time to give it a shot in the near future: the 27 days of Winter Break! Self-improvement is a great habit in and of itself, and a little work at it during your “off-season” could give you the kick you need for a fresh start in the New Year. Here are a few ideas for habits you could try to establish before you return to school:
- Fix your bedtime routine – It’s no secret that seasonal breaks in college are “snooze-fests” (in the most positive sense of the phrase)! But what if you had less sleep to make up during your next break? One factor in getting better sleep is establishing a better bedtime routine. For example, it’s been shown in studies that using certain types of screens before bed, such as those on a phone or laptop, can alter your level of alertness the next day. Winter break would be a perfect time to make and break bedtime habits, such as reading a book instead before bed, or avoiding eating so you’re not digesting as you try to sleep.
- Plan your days – If you’re having a hard time accomplishing as much as you want to during any given day, it’s time to start planning ahead. With an idea of what you plan on doing each day and when you plan on doing it, it’s easier to set realistic goals and start seeing results that you’re happy with. In fact, planning the next day would be a pretty good part of a new bedtime routine! Try giving yourself some structure in the low-pressure setting of your winter break, and when you come back to school you may find yourself more organized and productive.
- Exercise – Most people feel they need to exercise more. I don’t have to tell you twice about the positive effects of exercise on your body and mind, as you’ve probably already heard and believe in them. What you might not believe is that any amount of exercise can give you these positive benefits. You don’t need to be jogging 3 miles a day to feel better about yourself, as any physical activity that raises your heart rate can improve your health. A little bit of exercise in the morning, before bed, or whenever you have time can have an immediate impact on your wellness.
- Budget Yourself – College is often a person’s first flirtation with financial independence, and it is almost always far less fun than you might have thought. In the low-stress period of winter break, when you’re not “comfort-spending” after every rough night at the library, try to put some thought into your budget and how you can be smarter with your money. Estimate your expenses relative to your income, however small it may be, and see where you think you can show better self-control or find cheaper substitutes. Then, give your plan a shot before you get back to school!
- Practice Positive Communication – One way to improve your overall mood is to work on your interpersonal relationships. The frequency and manner in which we communicate is very important to our social well-being. Some simple steps you can take are to try to avoid criticizing or complaining, and practicing patience and empathy. While you’re home for the holidays, try being more positive around old friends and family, and you’ll feel noticeably better about your standing with the people in your life.
- Find your productivity window – Most people have a certain time of day in which they work best. Some people can do the traditional “early to rise” method of knocking out work right away, while others may get all their best ideas after the streetlights have turned on for the night. While you’re less busy over break, do some experimenting to find your “productivity window” so you can exploit it to its full extent when you return. If you’re not doing any real work over break, try taking on learning something new, starting a creative project, or maybe… executing a job search?
- Improve your intake – Our body depends on nutrients. Sadly, at some point it was also decided that it was up to us to also decide which nutrients we want to give ourselves, and it’s safe to say many of us aren’t great at making those choices. An easy improvement to make is to start with adding more water to your day. You don’t need to do the whole 8-cups-a-day thing, but the benefits are numerous and come with any increase in your water intake. For food, a good habit to get into is cooking for yourself, as you can better control what you’re eating while you’re likely saving money on eating out. If this is new to you, try cooking for yourself once a day or every other day, and see how it gets easier and more rewarding.