You're Done With Finals: Now What?

"After victory, tighten the straps on your helmet." - Tokugawa Ieyasu
Sebastian Marshall wrote a while ago that when you have a victory, celebrate and quickly get ready for your next challenge. Victory can quickly turn to defeat if you allow it to lure you into a false sense of security. A string of big victories is even worse. We quickly forget that things were ever bad if they've been good for a while. "This time is different," we tell ourselves.

If you're a college student, you're either done or soon-to-be-done with finals. Once you're finished with them, celebrate and quickly get ready for your next challenge. This is a valuable time; use it!

Lessons from the Past


Make a note of the lessons you learned this semester, whether as part of your coursework or not. This is a great time for reflection.

My lessons:

  • Quickly enlist the help of your professors, advisors, club members, and doctor when you take ill. Being out of commission for even a short time can have huge negative impacts on your semester, so be proactive about minimizing the damage and setting expectations.
  • Coming in with a plan is invaluable. If you run a club, have a plan for the club for the whole semester before you begin. As a student, take note early of all important dates and plan paper writing and exam review as early as humanly possible.
  • Minimize distractions. Computers and cell phones are useful as tools, but they're also poisoned with tons of media distractions. It's OK to watch Game of Thrones with friends on Sundays and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with friends on Tuesdays, but going to town on Netflix every other day you will regret.
  • Regularity is key. Make decisions early on in the semester about when you will go to sleep, when you will get up, what you will do when you get up, when and what you will eat, and so on. Then stick to those habits and don't waste energy re-deciding them every day.

Plans for the Future


Take stock of upcoming challenges: finding or starting summer work, preparing for next semester, or taking on pet projects that may turn into something bigger later on. Summer vacation is a resource uniquely held by students. Take advantage of the long blocks of unstructured time to do things you cannot normally do during the academic year.

My summer plans:

  • Work, obviously. I don't have a job lined up yet, but I have things in the works.
  • Take course in bartending. It looks interesting, it's cool to be able to make drinks for people, and apparently it's kind of lucrative for how easy it is. It's basically drug peddling, so that's not surprising.
  • Complete an Olympic triathlon. This will require a lot of training, but it's really fun. It will require lots of swimming practice since that's my weakest link.
  • Continue podcasting and writing. I'd like to put out one episode a month and about one article a week.
  • Practice stand-up. I've got a lot of material I want to workshop, so I'm going to try to get on stage every week at minimum.
  • Lift twice a week. I want to hit 150 lbs. on bench, squat, and deadlift by August.
That's some good stuff! Having such a clear plan in mind makes it much more likely that I won't just lay in bed re-watching Marvel movies all day.

Have you thought about what you want your summer to look like?

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Will be in NYC on Thursday and doing hopefully 3 shows at different venues.

For the Love of All that is Good and Right in the World

When you're working, here's how you should work. It's so simple and yet so easy to screw up.
  • Focus: when you're working, work. Do not permit yourself any distractions from the task at hand. You will thank yourself for your Draconian discipline.
  • Break: take at least a 3 minute break every half hour. And get your ass up off that chair when you do. Walk around, have some water or a snack, and keep your body moving.
  • Pause: reaffirm your commitment to the task. Remind yourself that you are doing this because you want to do this.
  • Focus: when you're working, work.
Stick to this all day on interesting tasks at the edge of your ability and I guarantee you'll hit flow by lunch.

That's all. Go do it.

Updated: Literally within 15 seconds of posting this I opened Feedly and saw this post by Shane Parrish. He goes into more depth on why working in this manner is so damn effective.