When spring semester ends, the first thing to cross all of our minds is "Finally, a break! I can't wait to do nothing." I myself have spent the last few days loafing on the couch and binge-watching some television while scrolling through my social media feeds and eating lots of snacks.
There is nothing wrong with doing nothing for a while; in fact, I think it's important to give yourself time to relax without any obligations for your physical, mental and emotional health. What may be difficult and potentially problematic, however, is breaking out of the couch potato cycle, especially if you are not starting a job, internship or some other program that will force you out of this routine (or lack thereof).
I make lots of lists. I make to-do lists, grocery lists, lists of books I want to read or movies I want to watch, lists of jobs I want to apply for or literary magazines I want to submit to. I even make self-care lists that include items like "Take a bubble bath one day this week" or "Paint nails on Thursday" or "Go to mall."
When I make lists, I don't always stick to them; in fact, it's probably more common that I veer from them than not, but this is just a reflection of life and its various twists and turns. So why write lists if I know they're going to be altered?
For me, the act of making a list is more psychological than practical. When I see everything I want to do or need to accomplish all written down on a single sheet of paper (or possibly more than one), it becomes much more tangible, and the amount of time required to accomplish these tasks becomes easier to grasp.
In addition to visual impact, list-making has a kinesthetic effect as well. I am a firm believer in the power of putting pen to paper, whether that be through taking notes for school, writing thank you notes, or making lists. Studies show not only that handwritten class notes are more easily retained, but also that writing down one's goals, or at least sharing them verbally with someone else, increases the likelihood of achievement of these goals. And just as a handwritten note or card is always seen as more thoughtful than an email or phone call, so too are handwritten lists or goals. Besides, there's nothing more cathartic than placing a check-mark next to an item on a list, or better yet, drawing a line straight through it.
Your summer should by no means be a jam-packed schedule of events, deadlines and tasks (that's what the school year is for); however, I have spent too many summers procrastinating and putting off things I really want to do, from day hikes to books I want to read, because I get so wrapped up in working my summer job that I feel too exhausted to do anything else, even if that is a much-needed self-care activity. So write down a few things you would like to do for yourself this summer. You'll be surprised how many things you'll squeeze into your schedule simply because that list is staring you in the face just waiting to be littered with check-marks.