10 Productive Ways for a Graduate to Spend Free Time

Congratulations! You’ve just graduated from four years of binge-watching Netflix, microwaving Ramen dinners, and staying up past midnight to study for tricky exams. Now that you landed a job and are “adulting” by shopping for food outside of the frozen and boxed aisles, you are in total control of your choices. Once you arrive home from work, I bet you have hours of free time on your hands no longer being consumed by collegiate sports, on-campus organizations, part-time jobs, or three-hour night classes. You might be wondering how you should transition from a student schedule packed with homework and extracurriculars to the corporate world. This list shares ten ways to be productive with your free time to successfully kick off your first few months of full-time employment.

1. Reconnect with Loved Ones
Do you have an aunt in Colorado, an aging grandma, or a friend from sophomore chemistry lab you haven’t spoken to in a while? Give them a call, see how they are, and show you care by reaching out to rekindle these relationships. Though texting or emailing is easy, a phone call is more genuine. Try calling at least three people each week for 30 minutes or more to have a meaningful conversation.

2. Treat Yourself
Grad, after working hard and chasing your dreams, you’ve made it! Celebrate the little things in life by trying dinner at a new restaurant, buying tickets to a concert, shopping for a trendy business outfit, selecting a classy bottle of wine, or staying in to watch a favorite movie. Do whatever makes you happy! Budget a small amount of money into your monthly savings to have the freedom to splurge without going overboard.

3. Expand Professional Skills
Though the Scantron tests are over, learning and personal growth continue long after walking across the stage. Dare to be intellectually curious by seeking online courses in areas of interest, listening to audiobooks by influential thinkers, or finding an inspirational mentor. Whether it be learning Japanese or practicing VLOOKUPS in Excel, push yourself to try something out of the ordinary.

4. Find a Page-Turner
Though you might be happy to never touch a book again, there are countless classics frequently quoted in the business world. Trust me, many of them aren’t dull. Not only will you benefit from hearing the advice of savvy businesspeople, you will also impress your colleagues by demonstrating a willingness to learn. If you need a place to start, try 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey or How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

5. Volunteer Your Time
Become an integral member of your community by exercising your ability to give back. With student loans to pay, don’t worry about needing to donate cash to make a difference. Just show up! Consider spending a few hours each month at a food pantry, animal shelter, or local library. You might be surprised how much individuals appreciate an extra set of willing hands.

6. Network with Everyone
Is there someone sitting on the other side of your cubicle wall who you haven’t met? Make sure to take initiative, introduce yourself, and find out how their role might impact your own. We all know LinkedIn is a phenomenal tool for connecting with contacts around the globe, but don’t forget to mingle with the people in your own office. Ask for an opportunity to job shadow a leader or grab a coffee with a teammate and actively listen to what they share with you.

7. Unplug and Unwind
I bet you have a cellphone, laptop, or both within your reach right now. When is the last time you were more than a few feet away from either? In a world full of information and a whirlwind of technological advancements, it can be hard to walk away from a meme compilation to give your brain a break. Set aside at least ten minutes each day to get away from all devices, breathe, reflect, and prepare for the next day.

8. Explore the City
One of the best phrases to hear from a professor on a beautiful day was, “want to have class outside?” While most full-time employees no longer have the option of working outside, we should still prioritize spending time outdoors whenever possible. Enjoy walking around boutique shops downtown, kayaking on a nearby lake, or going for a run in a regional park to soak up the rays during your hours off the clock.

9. Locate a Financial Advisor
Hoping to retire before 60? If you want to have sufficient funds to live comfortably, consider setting up an appointment with an advisor who can help you save for the future. They will have the industry knowledge necessary to provide advice about where to invest your money, so your money works for you! Make sure to shop around before selecting an advisor because some consultations are offered at reduced rates or free of charge.

10. Plan a Weekend Trip
An institution-wide spring break is a fond memory from the past, but PTO provides full-time employees the freedom they need to travel domestically and abroad. Instead of taking five consecutive days off then not having more than a couple vacations each year, try spreading your days out by using one day at a time to create three-day weekends. This allows plenty of time for a quick road trip to explore the state, a weekend getaway to Rome, or a much-deserved stay-cation in the comforts of your own home.

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