Feel like doing something productive over the holidays? Here are four of our favorite options.

For students at most colleges and universities, winter break lasts around four weeks. It’s a refreshing intermission between the rush at the end of the first semester and the start of the next one, and you should absolutely spend time relaxing with friends and family and soaking in holiday season.

Still, there’s no reason you can’t also use some of that time productively. And relax—we’re not suggesting you break out the books. There are plenty of painless things you can do that will absolutely benefit you down the road. Don’t believe us? Here are four of our favorites.

1. Shadow someone at work

It’s perfectly understandable if you’d rather not give up your whole holiday, but some students choose to pursue an internship over winter break. That’s not a bad idea, but these opportunities can be difficult to find. The holiday season is a busy time in any profession, with employees scrambling to make up for shorter work weeks, and asking someone to train and manage an intern isn’t always a realistic proposition. That’s why a great alternative is to spend a day shadowing a professional in their field.

Shadowing just requires you to follow someone around and watch how they spend their day. It’s a low-pressure gig, and if you have even a passing interest in a particular career, it’s well worth it to give shadowing a shot. Whether it ends up at the top of your list of dream jobs or you decide it’s not actually something you want to consider, you’ll know more after shadowing someone for a day than you knew going in—and knowledge is power. Don’t have any specific careers in mind? Get some inspiration from our list of a few of the most promising.

2. Learn something new

At the SCLA, we’re all about continued learning, and winter break is a perfect time to step out of your comfort zone and start learning a new skill. No matter what you decide to pursue, whether it’s learning Photoshop, exploring video editing, or playing an instrument, learning something new actually changes your brain chemistry for the better.

If you’re open to anything, allow us to recommend coding. Why? From app development to the coming artificial intelligence revolution, coding skills are in high demand with employers around the globe. To make it an even more attractive option, there are tons of free online resources that will get you started on the right path, including, and many others. Whether you go into a tech field or not, knowing the basics of code will serve you well for the rest of your life.

3. Set goals for the next semester

Over winter break, it’s a good idea to take a look at your last semester and debrief. What areas did you succeed in this Fall? Where do you have room for improvement? You don’t have to limit this evaluation to academics, either. Maybe you didn’t spend enough time making friends and you want to have more of a social life next year, or maybe you struggled to keep money in your bank account, and you want to be more financially focused going forward.

Regardless of what you prioritize, look at the next semester as an opportunity for growth and set goals that will help you track your progress. That might mean trying to meet at least one new person each day, or setting a weekly budget and keeping a closer eye on your spending. Without goals, you have nothing to measure, and without metrics, progress will stagnate. Make goals and put them in a place where you’ll see them every day.

4. Do some networking

Networking doesn’t have to be a drag, and you don’t have to go to an official networking event to do it. Over winter break, you might attend everything from family reunions to holiday parties, and these are great occasions to chat with business-minded folks and keep an ear out for potential opportunities.

Not sure how to network? Feel free to go back and read some of our favorite tips, but here’s a quick summary: First, focus on what you can offer, not what you can get. When you put the needs of other people before your own, they remember it, and the value you can create for them will find its way back to you. Second, look for opportunities everywhere, including online. At the time of this writing, LinkedIn has 660 million users around the globe. Create a profile, or if you already have one, dust it off and update it if you haven’t in a while. Finally, follow up with people you meet, whether it’s in person or online. Take the time to nurture relationships and they’ll bear fruit at some point in the future.

You’ve earned some time off, so make sure to enjoy yourself over winter break. When you’re feeling recharged, take a few seconds to start thinking about what’s next, and invest some of your break in something productive. Whether it’s a relationship, a new skill, goals for the future, or some career insights, this time will pay off in the long run—and you might even have some fun in the moment.