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Follow a Sunday Ritual

In How to Win at College, I emphasized a simple, but surprisingly effective piece of advice: Create a Sunday Ritual. I learned this trick from the superstars I interviewed for the book, and quickly put it into regular practice in my own life. Now, I couldn’t imagine getting through the week without it…

The Perfect Sunday Ritual

Here’s the idea: Friday and Saturday are a time to be social. Sunday morning and afternoon is a time for you to regroup, get organized, and get prepared for the upcoming week. To accomplish this, you need a Sunday ritual.

A good Sunday ritual consists of the following:

  1. Immediately after waking up, go grab a big breakfast (realistically, considering that last night you were out partying, this is more likely to be a brunch). Do this on your own, with strong coffee, and a copy of the Sunday Times (or, anything else that is both mentally stimulating and completely unconnected to any schoolwork). Take your time. Spend an hour.
  2. Swing by the nearest library. Spend 20-30 minutes to review your calendar and to-do lists. Get a feel for what work you need to get done this week. What deadlines are looming? What personal projects have fallen fallow? If you follow the GTDCS method (or something similar), this is the time to assign specific work to the specific days of the week. Make sure you also set aside around three hours of work to get done today. Preferably select something intellectual but also non-intimidating, such as catching up on reading assignments.
  3. Clear your head. This might involve going for a quiet walk. Or, hangover permitting, hitting the gym. Conclude with a snack that will boost energy.
  4. Settle into the most deserted possible library on campus. (At this point, it will be in the early to mid-afternoon) Taking quick breaks every 50 minutes, efficiently plow through your three hours of work for the day.
  5. Conclude by sketching your Monday schedule. It’s important for your stress levels that you feel like you have a detailed plan for the next day. Now, clear all work thoughts from your brain. Have dinner with your friends. Spend the evening doing whatever it is that you like doing. You’re ready for the new week.

The Power of the Sunday Ritual

A consistent Sunday ritual does wonders for the week to follow. It’s a crucial buffer between the debauchery of the weekend and the grind of the work week.

Something about spending some alone time, making a schedule, and getting some significant work done (but not too much), really helps you calm down and gets your mind and body to a place where they can handle a new, intense week. I swear by my Sunday ritual. If you want a simple change that will eliminate a significant amount of stress in your student life, I recommend you do too.

43 thoughts on “Follow a Sunday Ritual”

  1. Sunday was always one of my favourite days at university for focusing. I’d try to get up about 6-7am (even if I’d only got to bed at 2am), go for a brisk walk to the shop to buy the Sunday papers, get my laundry washed while I read the papers, walk to the library to check e-mail and quietly study for an hour (you’re so right about using the most deserted possible place), head back to my room and spend another hour or two focusing on the week ahead and working on any notes and essay writing that I wanted to deal with.

    It was an amazing feeling to get this every Sunday. You’re right…it really is a great time to regroup, organise and prepare. Almost nobody would be around until about midday, when the first wave of students started getting out of bed.

    They didn’t know what they were missing!

  2. Julian, you use the word “library” singular. But there are often smaller, department specific libraries scattered around campus. One for the engineers. One for the music department. Etc. That’s where you’ll find your concentration gold mine…

  3. habits are hard to change when it is ingrained but I’ve found that with effort, determination and follow through, the results often surprise me, especially when it is in the form of a report card.

  4. Sounds like great advice, except for one problem: I go to church on Sunday mornings (from 11-12). Any tips for how I should work that in, or should I just switch my review day to Saturday?

  5. @Coleman:

    What about doing the ritual before or after church? I could imagine that attending services could be a great piece of the relaxing, re-connecting, and re-focusing that make a good Sunday ritual work.

  6. Hey Cal,

    I’m a physiotherapy student and I’ve been trying to implement the advice you give in your blog and the red book. It’s been hard since I’m a bad procrastinator but there have been some positive changes and I’m happy about that.

    I really enjoyed this post because it shows that everyone regardless of age should learn how to study properly. I hope that in the future you could feature how a student taking a technical course without maths employ the straight-A method. Currently I am making quick-draw questions to memorize facts and using the storytelling method to describe how the body functions. It would be nice if I could read about how a real-life example studies for a similar type of course.

  7. Great . Through your advice and practicing help me out of work-life , stay focus, and I have more time to relax ๐Ÿ™‚
    I’ve thought about time to social and fresh time for a week. This post is excellent .
    Thanks so much ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. at coleman:
    I go to church around 5 on sunday, but I suggest just using the afternoon church service as a break before you began, as a relaxing hour instead of going for a walk.

    that could work maybe.

  9. Cal,
    that suggestion works not for me . I don’t do any work on a Sunday except perhaps a bit of planning. For me, there is a good reason why sunday is called the Sabbath. My ritual is getting up late, reading the Sunday papers, rest, reconnecting with my family and friends….. and going to church on Sunday evening. I work hard enough from Monday to Saturday as it is….nope…this suggestion is a fail for me…

  10. Hey Cal,

    I have a dance class on Sundays at 12 pm, right in the middle of my day. Is there any way I can implement your schedule to fit this in?

  11. Hi,
    Just a question, having a schedule and all is great but having a girlfriend changes it all, how do you allocate enough time to her but also doing all the scheduling and block work that you recommend? I am at Mcgill and spend around 5 nights a week at my girlfriends this makes blocking a schedule or have a Sunday ritual virtually impossible. any suggestions?

  12. am at Mcgill and spend around 5 nights a week at my girlfriends this makes blocking a schedule or have a Sunday ritual virtually impossible.

    First of all, you can certainly still do a Sunday Ritual. Just leave your girlfriend for a little while each Sunday morning (the horror!)

    For the blocking, consider a student workday : that is, building a schedule where you efficiently work from morning to dinner, so your evenings are usually free. Treat it like a job. See your girl after the job. Great motivation to stay focused.

  13. Any suggestions for students who are married and have a child, how must spend Sunday with them,but in critical need to have Sunday Ritual?

  14. I’d like to follow through with this Sunday ritual, except almost every Sunday I have so much work to get done there is no way I could finish it in 3 hours. It usually takes around the whole day and well into the night.

  15. I’m not quite certain about what you mean when you say that Mon-Sat is kind of like “social” days. Of course I’m not taking you literally, but how would Mon-Sat look like compared to Sunday?

  16. I like the concept and will be implementing it but Sunday for me are a day off rest and family. So I will try Saturday. It’s when I do my planning anyway.


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