Social life, healthy life, or 4.0 GPA life? You can have any two.
Master all three? Congrats! You’ve conquered college. And we are all insanely jealous.
In college, ‘the balancing act’ is extraordinarily challenging, difficult to master, but manageable with a certain amount of effort and the ability to accept that multi-tasking never truly helped anybody. Here’s what it looks like: achieve 18 credit hours, work 20 hour a week internships, build and maintain your social circle, attend club meetings, join a sorority, date your chemistry class crush, make impressions and connections with professors, participate in an intramural sport, go to the newest bars, and somehow get enough sleep, catch the latest Netflix original, maintain a healthy diet, and find time for yourself. Oh and not to mention, try to figure out a career path and land a job on top of that.
Time management is a unique balancing act that requires persistent dedication, patience, diligence, and sacrifice. While college students do not have the depth of responsibilities such as maintaining a marriage, financing a mortgage, or raising children into upstanding citizens, we do have a responsibility to ourselves to establish a stable groundwork to build the foundation of our future.
Recently I may have been on a blog hiatus, in the midst of a vigorous career hunt. However, there is no doubt that the blog ideas are overflowing my draft box, waiting anxiously to be written (you were all worried, right?). This post is dedicated to the brutal truth of time management, how to achieve the balancing act, and perhaps how to gain just a few minutes back into your day.
Prioritize. Be honest with yourself in terms of what you value and find crucial to fulfill your professional, social, and personal life. Often, we find ourselves with an hour in between class. On special occasions, a blessed moment arrives when a professor sends an email with a subject line blaring: “Class Cancelled” and we have a choice of how to spend the free time, one we are not often familiar with. 85% of the time, a nap sounds like the ultimate plan, and often, it is. But when we wake up from our 30 minute power slumber, we may find ourselves scrolling endlessly, but even more mindlessly, through social feeds allowing time to slip away faster than we realize.
Here’s a way to look at this: Millennials think, act, and live “in the moment”. We desire and strive for instant gratification and satisfaction in the near and foreseeable future. Our time, while understandably precious and vastly appreciated, is focused on what brings joy now versus later. Think about it. When your Twitter feed doesn’t load or a video doesn’t play within 3 seconds, what do you do? How often do we give up and open the next app? We order our Starbucks’ double-shot-caramel-skim-mocha-frappuccinos on an online app simply so we don’t have to wait in line and face social interaction with a barista. We choose self-checkout more often than not. We order Ubers and expect a driver to be at our door within 4 minutes or less. The craziest of all, we expect Amazon to drop our products at our doorstep within an hour of pressing ‘order’. The instant-fixes have become second-nature and are ever-evolving from wants into needs.
Does this sense of immediacy make us narrow minded? Are we doomed for the future (have I mentioned I’m dramatic?)? Will we become ineffective in planning for what’s ahead? Not necessarily. But, we must begin to understand that allocating our time into experiences that will benefit our future down the road may be more important than it seems. By pursuing higher education we are continuously attempting to establish a long-term place in the world. In this sense, we are acknowledging the future. However, in terms of people, are we developing long-term relationships or pursuing friendships for IG likes? In terms of shared knowledge, are we reading about our history or catching the daily news to further our understanding of the world or are we reading the latest Cosmo articles that are insanely catchy, if not vulgar? What might benefit us now, may not sustain our knowledge and happiness in the long term. In order to evolve away from immediacy and towards sustainability, our time must be well-balanced and carefully considered.
Eliminating ‘wasted time’ is crucial to maximizing the value and progression of our lives. In order to increase this value, it’s important to examine the significant impact that developed routines and habits have on us. Having a consistent, structured routine can only help cut down on the minutes of lost opportunities. That’s not to say we shouldn’t schedule time for somewhat-reckless activity or for quiet time alone. However, regimented habits such as maintaining a consistent bed-time, are not only beneficial for our physical health but puts our mental health at ease. When we utilize planned routines, we are significantly more familiar and aware of how we consume our time and are able to plan more appropriately. (PS. Spontaneity is a good thing, too).
As a senior, time seems crunched. One would think that after 18 years of formal education, I may have reached a cure to procrastination, when in reality as I write this post I have two presentations due this week that reside in ‘stand-by’ mode. Procrastination finds all of us. We label tasks as mundane or repetitive such as paying monthly bills (this one just plain sucks), keeping up with weekly readings for class (who actually does this, let me know), or going grocery shopping. We label other tasks that require more effort, thought, and time as daunting. This daunting category of tasks is often recommended as the best to conquer first. By tackling the larger items on your to-do list in the earlier part of your time frame, you allow yourself to have more energy and focus for the projects that matter most. Then when the smaller, mundane tasks arrive, you are able to cross them off quickly with an empty list in the horizon. In my own experience, each day at my internship I write a list of projects I have for the day. While I know it’s best to tackle the most daunting, time-consuming tasks first, I often look at the quickest ones like shooting off an email or scheduling a meeting and will attempt to get through them immediately. Our minds sense the level of difficulty of what lies ahead and often prioritizes items illogically, hoping to get as much done as quickly as possible, without understanding that working through the time-consuming items first when your brain is freshest, is more effective.
Timelines. I blogged about goals in my post during New Year’s season but I failed to mention the fact that goals are perhaps worthless without timelines. How do companies track their profitability or sales growth? How do women follow their pregnancies? How do we record the world’s fastest runner? Time. We simply cannot track the progression or rate of success of our goals if they don’t contain an associated timeline. The easy part in this is actually setting the timeline. The harder part is forcing yourself to stay on track and not allowing for too many ‘oh I’ll forgive my slip-up just this once’. Self-control and self-discipline are essential to achieving success in time management. Again, I have not come close to mastering this (anyone else notice I haven’t blogged in a month when I promised bi-weekly?).
The stronger and stricter the timeline you set is, the easier it is to prioritize, schedule, and eliminate wasted time. When this is achieved, the more free minutes you may have to brighten and strengthen your future. I am young and time seems endless, however, that is the biggest myth of all. While a balancing act may not perfectly exist, your time belongs to no one but you, so treasure it and use it wisely…
You’re off to a great start by spending the last few minutes reading my blog.
“Time is very slow for those who wait, very fast for those who are scared, very long for those who lament, very short for those who celebrate, but for those who love, time is eternal.” – William Shakespeare