Maximize your time during winter break

The holidays are upon us and we know that some well­ deserved rest and relaxation lies ahead.

I get it, I really do. You’re tired. You’re done. You’re a car that’s been burning on all cylinders for months on end and thousands of miles. You can smell the bitterness of burning rubber and there’s steam coming off your engine block; you’re road weary. Like most people, you want to end this long trip, park in the garage, and cool down for a bit. And, this is what most people will do.

But, since you are reading this, you’re not most people. You’re willing to do what others won’t so you can live like others can’t.

While, yes, you absolutely deserve a break and this time to cool off, don’t shut down the systems just yet. Instead, use this time for a tune­up and some planned maintenance so when you hit the road in a month, you’ll be warmed, ready, making gains, and burnin’ hot while others get a cold, clunky start.

Successful people get ahead while other people rest. By taking advantage of downtime, they increase their odds of success, clear away distractions, and simply accomplish more with greater efficiency, which means more results with less work. This is why successful people wake up earlier than others, why some of the greatest inventions were created in the middle of the night, and even how some of history’s greatest military victories were accomplished.

As a college student, you don’t have to be superhuman or even wake up super early to create an advantage. Simply find key times to work when others won’t.

Here’s the secret: After final exams are over, campuses become ghost towns, yet administrators still work to provide services all they way up to the New Year. This means most career service professionals, academic advisors, success coaches, scholarship consultants, etc. are on campus with hardly anyone to serve. Whereas a month earlier, you would’ve been part of the express lane, now you can receive premium, focused attention. More attention means better service, and better service means a stronger return on your overall investment.

Here are three things you can do to use your holiday break more effectively:

Evaluate Your New Accomplishments

After 15 weeks, you accomplished more than you realized. Take time to reflect on what you learned from those speaker events you went to, the community service you did, the internship you worked, the organization you joined, or anything that happened outside of the classroom. Make a list of everything (no matter how small) and, additionally, write up a quick reflection. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but something that can help you make something greater than the sum of the parts. Otherwise, all those extra things you did won’t be worth nearly as much. Doing this will help you see the value created from your hard work this semester beyond the grades and will later help you articulate it to people who will want to hire you for it.

Set Stretch Goals for Spring

Set big goals. Think of the life you want to be living or the job you want to be doing. There’s a path to it, but you won’t find it by following the rest of the crowd. A stretch goal is a goal that will be a game­changer, yet it is difficult to imagine the path to accomplishing it. You’ll have time to figure the path out later. The important thing is that you set the goal, and put it out there, take some baby steps towards it, and ask for help from the get­go. Afterall, if you don’t tell people where you’re going, how can they help you get there? Remember, at the moment of commitment, the universe with conspire to assist you. When you return for Spring Semester, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running. Better yet, you’ll have a purpose and all those little things will now add up to something even bigger and keep you focused.

Shop Your Services

Use the downtime during the break to shop your campus and find things you’ve been missing out on (yet were paying for anyway). Talk with career services professionals, scholarship gurus, campus mentors, or whoever. Show them what you accomplished in just one semester, tell them where you want to get to in the future (your stretch goal), and challenge them to help you.

During break, these professionals have time to get to know you and you’re no longer just an appointment on the calendar. After 10 years of working with students, I can tell you I readily help the students that take the time to let me know them. This is why 5 percent of all students get 90 percent of the benefits simply because they show up and we can articulate more about them. There are people on your campus paid to make you successful. Make them earn it, you’re paying for it anyway.

I’m not saying this is easy. Remember though, if you want something you’ve never had, then you have to do something you’ve never done. After all, you’re making a huge investment in yourself. Your goal is more than good grades, it is to build a successful professional brand that will outsell the others. College is expensive, time consuming, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd of the thousands of students competing for grades and shared services. Challenge yourself this holiday season to try something new, get ahead of the crowd, and see how far it can take you. Everyone and everything you need will literally be sitting around waiting for you.

Credit // Author: Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith has spent his career encouraging students to discover their purpose and helping them find their leadership path. As the Director of the Institute for Leadership Advancement for the College of Business Administration for the University of Akron, Kevin works with students each day to help them build and unleash their leadership potential. Learn about Kevin’s keynotes at