November 06, 2012
There are simple ways to give yourself the illusion of having more time.
Arguably the most frustrating part of college, and life in general, is that there never seems to be enough time in the day. One quote managed to change my thinking on this matter, though, and it was a statement attributed to H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” -H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
This idea is so impactful because it is simply the truth. As an example, one of my loftiest New Year’s resolutions was to read 99 books in 2012. Most college students are lucky to find the time to read 10 books a year, including those they are expected to read for class, and I often hear people say that they don’t have enough time to read. That breaks my heart, because it isn’t about having time, it’s about making time – says the girl with only 11 books left and two months to go.
However, I understand that making time is a pretty radical idea, so I set out to find ways to, at the very least, give the illusion of having more time. It is decidedly easier in college because we have more autonomy over our lives and more control over where we might be at any point in the day. At the same time, I think that makes us more accountable for how wisely or unwisely we spend those precious moments.
Luckily, there are simple ways to change how we think about time and increase our efficiency.
Get rid of activities that are wasting your time. Start out by identifying organizations or other commitments that exhaust you and seem to take an abnormally long time to complete. Maybe those four hours you spend interning somewhere you don’t enjoy could be better spent working somewhere fun or volunteering in your community.
Limit yourself. Only check Facebook twice daily, or do as much of your homework offline as possible. On a smaller scale, unplug. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the Internet in general are basically giant black holes when it comes to sucking up valuable time.
Prioritize. I love making to-do lists, but they don’t actually do me any good unless I number each task, ranking them in importance so I don’t waste time later deciding how my day, afternoon, or night should be spent. If the assignment is especially big, break it down into sections to make it more manageable, and reward yourself for completing tough projects.
It can also help to start off by doing a smaller task to get yourself in the right mindset; I love how productive I feel after sending an email or cleaning my desk, and I can ride that wave of energy and that feeling of accomplishment into the next, bigger task.
Obey your alarm clock. I am not a fan of the idea of Americans as slaves to time, but actually waking up when you intend to (and for that matter, going to sleep when you say you will) can save you at least 30 minutes if you are as snooze-button-inclined as I usually am. There is nothing like the empowering, satisfying feeling of climbing daintily out of bed when I first hear my phone in the morning instead of springing up in a hurry when I noticed I’ve overslept.
This is easier said than done, of course, but I think there are little ways to help yourself. The sillier way: practice setting your alarm and jumping right out of bed to train your body into remembering and reacting in the same way later. The second way, maybe just as silly, is to set reminders in your phone for why you will feel good when you do wake up; for example, I just changed my reminder from “yummy breakfast” to “warm shower” to match this cold autumn weather!
I think we have to remember, too, that time is a construct, and it has whatever meaning or importance we choose to give it. That is what I remind myself when I see an old friend and know I will feel better, in retrospect, about catching up with her than getting a head start on next week’s paper, or when I use my Saturday morning to finish a good book instead of sleeping in a few hours.
Everyone gets the same number of hours in a day, but we decide how best to spend them – and that’s enough for me.
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