4 Productive Ways to Effectively Take a Gap Year

laptop studying desk

So you have decided to take a gap year for what ever reason it may be, wanting to think what you want to do with your life, if you want to travel or maybe you just need a year’s break from school because you applied to late for Higher Education and didn’t get in… One of those reasons is why I’m taking a gap year.

I am maintaining my blog to hopefully build up a portfolio for myself and all day, every day I focus on studying. I’m using this year at learning web development so I can get started with building time management web apps for students.

A year is a long time and you have it all to yourself, well mostly, unless you’re wanting to work part-time. But how should you take it effectively and make the best out of this year to better yourself. How better can you prepare yourself for your studies? How should you learn discipline and become more productive. How can you use this year to develop skills that will help you in your studies and future career?

All these questions can be answered below.

Plan out your year

Planning out your year is essential to have a productive year. You need to have a clear idea what you want to achieve in this coming year. Do you have a specific goal in mind or skill your want to master or maybe even a list of things you just need to do.

Step 1.

Have an idea with what you want to do this year.

What is it you hope to achieve. Take the time to sit down and think about exactly what you want to do with this year. It’s a good to have a few ideas in your head of what you want to do.

It is common for people to have no idea what they want to do after school or study. To help you think about what you want to do, is to consider you hobbies and things you’re interested in. Maybe it could be your favourite subject from school or a sport you take part in. For now choose one of them. For example I love weight training, an interest I could have is Personal Training.

Step 2.

Have a clear goal in mind.

You need to focus on the clarity of you newly formed idea. You need to be able to write it down so that it’s clear and well-defined. It could be as simple as, I want to learn web development because I’m interest in it, I want to start lifting weights, I want to learn photography, or what ever it may be.

2017 goals written on notepad











Write down any of the ideas you have on a notepad like I did below on a notepad or anything that you won’t loose.

2017 Goals:

  1. Learn web development.
  2. Maintain my blog
  3. Start working out.


Step 3.

Plan how you are going to achieve you goal.

This part may seem a bit daunting to some people. For more challenging goals you may not now where to start at all. For a non IT type of person, they might not know how to start learning web development on their own. A possible solution would be to Google “Introduction to Web Development for Dummies”. A list of resources will come up to get you started. But this is an easy example.

A different approach is to write a list of all the ways you can think of to achieve you goal.

You always need to do a bit of research on the subject so you can get a better grasp so you know what to expect. For example, I though I knew a bit on works of being a web developer. I was dead wrong!

Step 4.

Narrow it down.

So know you have a more clear understanding of what to expect, how do you actually learn how to learn this thing you want to do? You need to take you new-found list and organise it into a working plan. It can be as simple as a list sorted by task priority. Implement deadlines or due dates for each task.

Your plan is never definite. There always will be unexpected bumps along the way for when you are unable to complete a deadline. In this situation you need to set a new deadline. It’s always good to append you plan of tasks from your new-found knowledge and additional experience gained from your journey to completing the task.


A year full of learning

An approach to self-studying.

There are many ways to learn something in order to become a specialist or mastery of an art. In today’s day an age we, mostly, are blessed with the technology of the Internet. The Internet is a powerful means of sharing knowledge and resources to any flavor of material of any subject. Thankfully a lot of the resources can be accessed quite freely. But there are easier solutions built and designed to make online studying more effective.

Online studying courses is very popular and most partly very affordable in any subject. Studying courses consists of a full-fledged course either in the form of video tutorials or more traditional reading approach.

Self studying










In my gap year I have chosen to specialise in Java programming alongside Node.js for back-end server development. I have broken my field down into requirements I need to study. Each topic is written down assigned as a task I should practice every day.

For a more independent explanation on setting routine, read my blog post on Time Management for Maximum Focus

The benefit of spending a year to study will prepare you for when you choose to actually study. By developing study routines and focusing on your time management will help you in the year you choose to study at a college or university. You can kick-ass in college by having already these management and routine setting skills.

How self studying will help you continue to study throughout your career. Self-studying is an every going activity that you continue throughout your life. To keep advancing your knowledge in your particular field, understanding new ideas and how to apply them. This is why you it’s important to develop a studying routine.

Developing discipline.

The Importance of self-discipline. This is a skill you can use in every aspect of you life. Self discipline is the idea of doing something whether you feel like it or not. As of right now, I don’t feel like writing this blog post. I could easily be reading up on something more appealing to me. Self-discipline is the means of having self-control in the actions you make and reactions you take.

Having disciple may be very challenging at first. I know I never had it when it came to school work or homework, heck evening studying. I was never inspired by it or really encouraged to do any of it, that’s soulful why I failed my 9th grade.

Start with physical disciple. I mean by start exercising by going for morning runs before breakfast, or start by going to the gym.

Remember self-discipline doesn’t come with ease, it take time to develop and to build routines to help you stick with it; because it’s not easy wanting to do something all. When you have a routine

Focus and Concentration

These are two important factors when it comes to success. Focusing on your goals by narrowing down so you have a tunnel vision of where you want to be and knowing exactly what it is. Concentration is involved with developing discipline. It is the discipline to concentrate on your goal and work at it until you have achieved it.

Working part-time

Working alongside your studying-year is an extra additive to your portfolio. Depending on the job, whether it be related to the topic your studying or just to earn some money, working in the field you are studying will give you a hands on experience for a good idea of what your chosen field is like.

Working part-time will help you develop your professional skills, working with other people, is a great opportunity to ask questions you may have and is gives you more insight on what having a job can actually be like.

Working part-time may be in the form of an internship, check my first experience of an internship here.

Hello my name is INTERN










Working part-time may be in the form of an internship, check my first experience of an internship here.

Internships are a great way to learn about a particular field you’re considering. Your experience can also help you decide on where this particular field is well fitted towards you, if you like the ecosystem, the workflows people may have, and so on.


Focus on self-improvement

A gap year can be a perfect time for you to have self-reflection on your life. It is most important to focus on self-development.

Kitten looking into Mirror of lion











Apply goal setting to every aspect to you life. Plain and simple, successful people set goals, focus on them, working on them and achieve their goals and the move on to another. You should apply this to everything else in your life too. Set goals for how long you want to sleep

Always be willing to develop your skills. Say you stumble upon something new that you don’t understand, but are interested in. Try it out, don’t be afraid to try it out. This may actually be something you rather enjoy over your actual chosen field.

Learn how to develop mental toughness. Life will give you all kinds of pitfalls. Will it make sense for you to have some sort of training towards these challenges? Yes, yes it would! Developing mental toughness is your way of preparing for challenges. Being hard on yourself and doing very difficult things will prepare you for any challenges you may come in day-to-day.

As an example my regular gym routine at the gym is hard and difficult exercises, I love doing them. Sometimes when I train with my friend, it’s a nightmare for him to do this kind of stuff but it’s so easy for me. This is mental and physical toughness.

On of my favourite quotes is as follows.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” – Archilochus

Benefits of gap year.

Taking a gap year is very important for anyone just out of school, even though you may know exactly what you want to do with your life. During this year you now have the time to do a bit of reflection on yourself and really get an opportunity to focus on achieving specific goals. Focus on self-improvement and developing self-discipline. It will gladly help you in your personal life and professional career.

Take a the time to organise your plan of you year and your achievements along the way into a portfolio. You should focus on the benefits of skills you have acquired throughout your year.


Apply these aspects to the rest of your life. You have to come to realisation that a gap year is just a regular year in itself. You life, career and so on starts from whenever you decide. Work on this to make every year productive, set routines, set goals, make a stance to change your life to be a doer.

Adrian van den Houten

I'm Adrian van Houten, founder of ScholarCoder and a passionate software developer for full-stack web development. Read more about me here.