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How I Write and Learn

Utilizing Spring Break

By Aiden, a Writing Center Coach

I’ve been counting down the days until Spring Break—as I write this, we’ve reached single digits! I can’t wait to spend time with my parents and friends without the stress of classes. If you’re like me, you might be a little bit worried about balancing assignments and a fun time off. I’m here to share my strategies for making sure that my rest and relaxation is not sacrificed to my rigorous coursework. 

If I don’t take time during Spring Break to step away from my commitments as a student, I’d be risking burnout. While Spring Break is only a week long, I have found that its proximity to LDOC makes it just the sort of break I need! I’m going to get to visit with people, play fun board games, perhaps marathon a show or two, and take time for myself! Note that I am not planning to spend every second getting as much of an essay done as possible. 

The tips I’ll share below are approaches I use to guide myself away from the urge to spend all of the break dedicated to class work or other school-related commitments. I have found that the most effective utilization of Spring Break doesn’t have to be doing as much school work as possible: it can be caring for yourself.

Making Progress while Practicing Self-Care.

Set out a planner for upcoming assignments and other commitments

One resource I love is the Writing and Learning Center’s “Semester At-A-Glance” calendar! My roommate and I both have one up on our walls. They use theirs to track assignment due dates and exam days, and I use mine more as a general guide to see progress throughout the semester. I like to add all my exams and large assignments to the calendar at the beginning of the semester. Then I can look back to see not only what I have coming up, but also what I’ve accomplished. The “Semester At-A-Glance” calendar is great because it also includes Spring Break!

It is particularly helpful to plan around Spring Break since it is a short amount of time but an important opportunity to practice self-care!. Looking at the calendar can help me plan certain days for certain activities.. I can see when I’ll be traveling, what days I am free, and where I have blocks of time that I can reserve for work.

Another approach I use is making a to-do list. Earlier this semester, I found myself working on multiple academic and personal projects at once and felt a little stressed out. I ended up making a to-do list of what I needed to complete for each class and when each was due. It looked something like this:

  1. Internship application due Feb 2
    2. ENGL assignment due Feb 3
    3. CHIN test Feb 5

I did not start off with a lot of detail. For my list, I first focused on the major tasks and the deadlines I set for myself.  I put my list on a post-it note and put it up in my room where I would see it everyday. This was helpful in making sure I was aware of my deadlines without having to remember when they were. Having deadlines on my calendar and in a to-do  list just made sure that I would not miss anything important!

For Spring Break, a calendar or to-do list might include things like internship/job applications, midterm assignments and exams, end-of-semester work and exams, and more. Rather than letting myself worry about what I have to do over the rest of the semester during Spring Break, I will create a clear plan to help me figure out what are my must do’s  and what can wait until after Spring Break.

Track current progress on each task

The next part of this strategy for me is to add more detail! Breaking a project down into little steps can make it feel less daunting overall. One way to do this is by using SMART goals; this approach offers a guide to make sure that a plan is specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time sensitive. Also, in the context of Spring Break, I can assign certain aspects of a project to a specific day. This helps me to avoid procrastination and develop a more balanced workload habit.

Having a more detailed schedule helps me to spread my work over the entire break, while still making sure to leave plenty of time for myself! Spring break is a necessary and much welcome break, but it also isn’t as long as winter or summer! A big assignment like a large project or midterm paper due the week after break can be very scary. If I’m nervous about it, I might hesitate and not start writing until the end of the break, creating a lot of anxiety and stress for myself, and potentially contributing to burnout and exhaustion.

However, if I take an approach that breaks the assignment down into smaller chunks, it feels more manageable and I am more likely to do them and spread them out. Rather than leaving it at “midterm paper due,” I might set up something like this:

Midterm paper due March 22
1. Brainstorm – Monday
2. Outline – Tuesday
3. Intro + thesis – Wednesday
4. Body paragraphs first draft – Thursday
5. Revise existing writing – Friday
6. Conclusion and final review – Saturday

I can also switch it up if I know there is a certain day of Spring Break I want to dedicate more time to other activities, like hanging out with friends. Knowing what I have to do, even if it seems like a lot, can help me to relax. If I am worried about forgetting something or prone to catastrophizing with the amount of work I  have on my plate, having a list of everything laid out can help keep me calm.

Spring Break Work Life Balance

Breaks don’t need to be deserved or earned; resting is essential to wellbeing and a sign of your maturity and preparedness for college life and beyond 

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” —Audre Lorde. This and other ideas relating to radical self-care can show us that caring for ourselves is necessary to maintain our ability to care for others.

If at the end of Spring Break I find myself stressed out and studying for a test at the last minute, I might consider staying up really late and sacrificing my sleep to counteract my procrastination. But I can take a step back and consider if the “studying” I attempt while exhausted will really be more helpful to me than getting decent sleep and relying on the other work I have done in class and prior test preparation.

I apply this approach to general life as well. Realizing when I  need a break before it’s absolutely necessary is a skill that has taken time and  practice. I plan to let Spring Break be a time for prioritizing myself as an individual rather than solely as a student. It’s also important for me to have a support system that helps encourage these practices and good habits. 

Setting up things with others can be fun!

Some examples that first come to my mind are planning to have a game night, watching a show, doing a craft, spending time with a pet, etc. In all, it’s important that these are all concrete things that you enjoy and want to do.

Stereotypical self-care things like marathoning a TV show or doing a facemask can be fun, but for me it is also important to do activities that energize me in other ways. For example, hanging out with friends, spending time outside, doing an activity I haven’t been able to make time for during the semester like an art or craft, or whatever else brings me joy. These are things that I can plan an entire day for if I want, or integrate into a day where I’m also working on school things. I often find it motivating to have afternoon commitments; if I want to finish two pages of an essay one day and am going to an event with a friend at dinnertime, that sets a clear time for me to complete my work.

I hope these tips will be helpful! Have fun over Spring Break and try using a strategy shared here to make sure that school work isn’t all you do over the week. I know I can’t wait to go home and keep my laptop shut for at least a full day.

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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