Did you ever stare in awe at those people who seemed to have it all together? Who seemed like they were in possession of some dark magic, or at the very least a Time-Turner? Chances are, they were (to some extent) faking it. But chances are also good that they had some great habits.
With a few months of long summer days ahead of you, now’s the time to start developing those habits yourself. Whether this fall marks the beginning of your first year of college or your last, it’s not too late to start thinking about how you can set yourself up for an awesome semester.
1. Manage your time
If all you have to show for an hour’s worth of work is a few tweets or a shiny black 8192 tile, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your time-management skills. Time-management in college is so important that we’ve already dedicated two articles to it, and summer presents some perfect low-stakes opportunities to practice it.
Believe it or not, there’s a whole industry around time-management. There’s a whole host of various techniques, but they all boil down to breaking down projects, setting goals, and working for short periods of times. An easy one to start practicing is the pomodoro technique. If you’re looking for a more advanced system, Getting Things Done might work better for you.
2. Get more sleep
Sleep is everything: it keeps you healthy, energized, and focused, so when you’re getting enough sleep, you can do a better job of everything you normally do. Sleep scientists seem to be divided on exactly how much sleep you need but a good goal is between 6.5 and 7.5 hours– and your body will have an easier time both waking up and falling asleep if you do it at the same time each day. As fun as it is to burn the midnight oil and then and sleep in late, a regular sleep schedule will help you feel (and be) more well-rested.
Some good habits include setting a bedtime for yourself, avoiding backlit screens near bed time, and developing an evening ritual to get you in the mindset for sleep.
3. Eat better
Eating is a little like sleep–when you do it right, the rest of your life will improve as well. Nutrition is complicated, but in general, eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat is a good idea. Aim to maximize protein and fiber (which keep you full) and minimize extra sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.
If you’re about to move into your own apartment next semester, spend some time learning how to cook for yourself. It’s always easier to learn in a well-stock kitchen, ideally with someone else who knows a thing or two about cooking and can help you avoid burning your house down.
Second, see if you can discover some new healthy snacks–for me, my go-to snacks have become apples, baby carrots, and air-popped popcorn. As always, Lifehacker has plenty of good ideas for some inspiration. Additionally, if you find yourself always wanting a snack, try drinking a glass of water first–it’s a good way to see if you’re actually hungry, or just thirsty. (And if you just want flavor in your mouth, try gum or tea.)
4. Exercise more
It turns out that exercise is sort of like eating and sleep, too–and we’ve already covered why. The trickiest part of exercising, though, is making it part of your lifestyle. Inertia is a powerful force, and it’s easier to do something when it’s part of your routine. If you can use your free time to make sure you’re getting some exercise in during the summer, you’ll be more likely to continue it–and enjoy all the accompanying benefits–during the school year.
5. Practice happiness
Finally, if you find yourself stressed and complaining during the school year, take the chance over the summer to train yourself to cultivate gratitude. Much ink has been spilled over how to achieve happiness, but for me, happiness comes from recognizing the brilliance of everyday moments. Realizing how good my own life is helps me be more patient, generous, and friendly. Doing something as easy as keeping a gratitude journal can help put you in the right mindset for truly appreciating your fall semester.
College is a lot easier to handle when you’re thinking about the tremendous opportunities available to you instead of agonizing over getting that problem set done.
All these habits are a lot to take on at once–but don’t worry about that. Pick two or three and aim to institute one each month. You don’t have to have it all together now–but ideally, come fall, you’ll be a little more prepared to handle the challenges college throws at you.