Once school is out for the summer, those three months can fly by and leave you no closer to your goals than when you started. After finals, there’s no doubt you deserve the hours spent watching Netflix and sleeping into the afternoon. However, that should be balanced with productivity and self improvement. Summer is a great time to upskill, spend time with friends and family, save up money and create healthy habits for yourself. Here are five creative ways to be productive during the summer.

1. Learn something you actually want to learn.

Have you always said you wanted to learn how to cook? Or start to learn a language? During the school year, so much of your day is spent learning. As a result, when learning is offered outside of school hours, you often run the other way. Summer, on the other hand, is a great time to pursue learning things you enjoy. Find a YouTube channel that will teach you how to cook, or spend 30 minutes a day on DuoLingo learning French. Learning and upskilling is a creative outlet that you will enjoy.

2. Take a class or certification. 

I know that’s probably the last thing you want to do when you’ve been taking classes all year. But with most schools offering discounts for summer classes, it can be a great financial move to save money and keep you productive. Choosing an online class is a great move for summer because you’ll need to set your own schedule, and it will hold you accountable. See what options your school offers, or find your own course on Coursera or Udemy.

Another smart move is to spend the summer taking a job-related course or certification. For example, if you’re a marketing major, devote the summer to getting certified in Google Analytics and Facebook Blueprint. Even if you’re not a junior or senior, being productive toward your career during the summer will put you ahead of the game.

3. Find an adventurous summer job or internship.

You don’t have to serve at the local restaurant or be your neighbor kids’ nanny if you don’t want to. There are so many things you can do in a summer if you take the time to seek out your options. Resources like Cool Works or GoAbroad can set you up with unforgettable opportunities. You can spend your summer interning at a vacation resort in the mountains, or be a tour guide at a national park in California. If you want to go abroad, there are options like becoming an au pair in Europe, or teaching English in Asia. A unique summer job is exciting, character-building and rewarding. Just be sure to plan ahead, maybe for next summer, in order to finance and plan your summer around it.

4. Set a reading goal.

Reading is crucial for strengthening the skills you develop throughout the year, and it’s great for brain health. Reading a book causes heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that continue even after you’ve stopped. If reading isn’t your hobby of choice, use the summer to ease into it. 

Set a goal for the amount of books you want to read by the end of summer, although this might feel like you’ve regressed to elementary school. Maybe it’s 20 books, maybe it’s 10 or maybe it’s two. Whatever it is, the goal should be reasonable but challenging. And your reading list should make you excited to get started.

Another tool is to stack a reading habit on top of part of your daily routine. For example, read every day after you eat breakfast. You can keep the book you’re reading on the table to provide a natural cue and after you eat, you read 10 pages. That sounds small but will enable you to finish over 9 books per year (pg average of 400 per book). Building a solid reading habit is a way to be productive during summer.

5. Find an active hobby.

A lot of us go into the summer with ambitious workout plans, then a few weeks later, we fall short. This summer, find something you love to do that will keep you fit. You don’t need to go to the gym or trek for hours on the treadmill if that’s not your thing. But when you find a workout you love, it impacts both your physical health and mental health. It makes it easy to keep up with working out, and it serves as a mini therapy session in your day.

Set a steps goal and aim to never miss twice, whether you’re hiking in a local park or walking to a coffee shop with your friends. Try out a free week at local fitness studios, like OrangeTheory, F45 or Corepower. Keep testing the waters until you find something you absolutely love. The best workout is the one that gets you out of bed in the morning. Making fitness part of your life rather than a chore is a goal for the summer that will have long-term benefits.