Making (and Keeping) Your Goals for the Summer
By Meghan Reilly
While just about every other college student has already started their summer vacation, I still have three weeks left of school: two more weeks of classes and one week of finals. My college operates on the trimester system, which means that I don’t finish school until mid-June. It can be really difficult to keep up my motivation, especially as the weather begins to warm up and all I want to be doing is laying outside in the sun reading a book. However, one of the ways that I’ve managed to find motivation to finish my final year of college strongly is by planning out my goals for the summer. I’ve even been able to implement most of them in some form already, despite my senior thesis deadline looming in the near distance.
I’m a big planner, and I love to write out lists and goals. Yet most of the time, all of my well-meaning goals to exercise more, spend time on my Chinese skills, learn new recipes, and more, end up falling by the wayside. My problem tends to be that I want to do everything, all at the same time. In the past, I wasn’t particularly realistic when I created goals for myself. I would block off an hour for daily exercise that required me to wake up at 6am. In addition to all my homework and meetings throughout the day, I would also block off an hour for language learning. While I did occasionally make it to the gym at 6am, I simply couldn’t keep up with the goals that I had set for myself.
The most important thing that I’ve learned over the years is to create sustainable goals that work with your schedule. Being in quarantine has been the best thing for me personally, as I have adopted a much healthier sleep schedule and I spend more time on things that are meaningful to me. I have also been able to work on my summer goals to exercise and practice my language skills and try new baking recipes in a way that works for me and my schedule, not against it.
For exercising, I have learned to create measurable goals. Every day, I get up and run a mile. Yes, just a mile, and it takes me less than 10 minutes. I first adopted this goal about a month ago, when I was annoyed at myself for being a lazy couch potato. This time, unlike every other time before, I thought about what was truly reasonable for me. I ignored all of the data about 30 minutes of daily exercise and my internal voice telling me that ten minutes was nothing to be proud of. In the end, I told my inner voice to quiet down, because ten minutes of exercise every day is better than zero minutes. I’ve also noticed that it’s harder to convince myself that I don’t have the time, especially when it’s only for ten minutes instead of sixty.
Now, I wake up and the first thing that I do is go running. It fits perfectly into my schedule because it’s only ten minutes of exercise, followed by my daily shower. I made sure to create a goal that was both realistic and that complemented my daily routine. If I don’t run in the mornings, I still make sure that I run in the afternoon or evenings. I created a measurable goal: every day, 1 mile, 10 minutes, for 21 days. Once I reached 21 days, then I readjusted my goal. This summer, I want to eventually work up to 2+ miles.
For self-driven language learning, I have found that accountability is what works best for me. Previously, I often felt like I wasn’t making much progress because I am always so busy with a million other things. I always thought that if I was going to get better at Chinese, then I would have to spend at least an hour on it daily. Of course, that was not realistic. Once I finished all of my homework at the end of the day, it was already time for bed (so I could make that 6am gym time), or I didn’t have the mental energy to do even more work. I couldn’t accomplish everything that I wanted, but in time I’ve come to realize that the key to meeting your goals is to reframe what you want. Like with exercise, it is better to pursue your goal with consistency, even if it is for less time than you would ideally spend on it.
I recently found a website that sends me a daily email with a newsletter in Chinese. I read that, and then spend 27 minutes learning vocabulary, taking progress tests, playing games, and more. Previously, I had a ton of Chinese apps on my phone that I wanted to use every day. This was a lofty goal, and it conflicted with my desire to use my phone less. How could I possibly accomplish both? Now, I get out of bed, exercise, shower, and then come downstairs for my morning cup of coffee. While I drink my coffee, I check my emails, where I see my daily Chinese newsletter and then spend those 27 minutes brushing up on my language skills.
This allows me to get a slow start to the day that also helps to wake my brain up and improves my Chinese. I know that I tend to pay more attention to emails than push notifications on my phone, and so I was able to find the perfect resource to help keep me accountable. Another great way to keep up with language learning is to find a language partner, as scheduling meetings or conversations will help you find that motivation to keep working. This summer, I want to figure out how to work on my Latin skills on a weekly basis in addition to my daily Chinese.
Because I am self-isolating, I often find that I have more free time than usual. Sure, I could work on my thesis, but it’s not realistic to do work 24/7. When I feel like I need a mental break, I tend to bake or cook. I will spend two or three hours absorbed in my task, and it is one of the most satisfying ways to relax, at least for me. The only goals that I set for baking are to make a particular recipe at some point. I often try to find recipes that work with the ingredients that I already have. For example, I had a pint of blueberries sitting in the fridge, so I made a goal that I would try out blueberry muffins. I made them yesterday when I needed a break from thesis, and I was actually more productive afterwards as well. For the summer, I want to take advantage of my increased free time and make a different pie every week.
While you may have very different goals from my own this summer, it’s important to try and keep up with them. Identify your goals, but don’t get fixated on the ideal because that often doesn’t work in the end. Start small, or however much is reasonable for you, and then you can grow your goals over time. Especially when it comes to things like exercising, try and create a measurable goal that you can check off of your list every day. Try and work things into your schedule so that eventually, they just become a part of your normal routine.
You also don’t have to choose goals that are done daily. One-time goals like cleaning out your closet are just as valuable to your health and productivity. However, with these goals that are one-and-done, it is often better to do it all at once. Spend a couple hours (probably a full day, in my case) on goals like this and you will be surprised at how satisfied you feel.
The most important thing when it comes to keeping up with your goals is to be understanding and adaptable. If you didn’t go for a run today, then that’s okay. Just try and go tomorrow, or in a couple days. If you don’t have an hour to spend on reading every day, then readjust your goals. Maybe 15 minutes a day is better. Don’t get down on yourself if you are not able to do everything that you anticipated. Lastly, keep in mind that it is never a bad time to start working on your goals. Now is a great time to start thinking about what you want to accomplish. If you already have summer goals but haven’t been keeping up with them, take some time and readjust your goals to be more realistic. Good luck!
About the author: Meghan Reilly is a senior double major in Classics and Chinese with an Economics minor at Union College. She is passionate about working with underserved populations and accessibility to education. Meghan loves learning languages and traveling, and is currently working on juggling her summer goals and her senior thesis.