Perhaps the second most written about topic, next to love, is time. Our culture abounds with clichés, idiomatic expressions (and song titles!) about the passing of the hour: time after time, third time’s the charm, let’s make up for lost time…the list goes on. The irony of this of course is the fact that few of us are masters at “keeping to the clock” (unless of course the activity in which we’re engaged is a necessary evil such as work!).
Now it goes without saying, we all sometimes need (and more importantly, deserve) a “time out”. Me personally? I relish in “not-showering-staying-in-my-pjs-all-day” kind of days. Undoubtedly, the value of such lies in their infrequency (ie: it’s not exactly like we can afford to relegate ourselves to our flannels whenever we see fit). All of this brings me naturally to the question of “how do YOU spend YOUR time?”
A few months ago, you may remember The Interrobang (this here fantastic student-run publication to which your attention is currently glued) elected to run a readership survey in order to derive valuable feedback in terms of its strong points and suggested areas of improvement. While you, the audience, by and large, ranked our content satisfactorily, it would seem you were displeased with our allowable word counts. In other words, you feel us writers are simply too verbose (myself included)!
Now admittedly when I was pursuing academic studies myself (and believe me I got my fair share after six years straight!), there was only so much written textbook doctrine I could stomach on a daily basis. In order to get through the copious amount of assigned readings each month, I’d pace myself by powering through one to three (at max) chapters a night, taking 30 minute breaks in between to ensure I properly digested the material before moving forward. Given the time I was expected to devote to the written word, there was a LOW likelihood you would find me cracking open a novel just for kicks during my time off. To make a long story short, I do empathize with your situation.
However (and yes you knew this was coming), it’s becoming increasingly difficult to relate to a so-called “lack of time” to engage in thoughtful contemplation and information acquisition -something that could easily be accomplished by reading one of the fine articles in our paper - purported by not just students, but the populous in general, when it would seem that countless hours are devoted to the “art of time suckage” whether it be via following the drama-rama on Facebook, listing your ever-so-exciting grocery shopping experiences on Twitter or being one of the million people addicted to NicePeter’s “Epic Rap Battles of History”.
Again, let me be clear: I don’t have a beef with any of the above nor do I find fault in the concept of “vegging out”. My issue is when the aforementioned activities are PRIORITIZED above meaningful personal or social engagements and then somehow dismissed as “un-time-consuming” when one is struggling to come up with a valid list of excuses as to why their essay was not submitted by the deadline yet again or their work is falling short of expectations. Put more plainly, people – please - get your shit in gear! This of course, is easier for some than others.
As psych research has demonstrated, one of the “Big Five” individual tendencies you’re either born with or without is “conscientiousness”, defined as: “a fundamental personality trait that influences whether people set and keep long-range goals, deliberate over choices or behave impulsively, and take seriously obligations to others,” (Psychology Today: Psych Basics).
Of important note, “conscientiousness” has been positively correlated with a whole range of pro-social behaviours and desirable life outcomes including: academic and/or occupational excellence, longevity of life and overall strong health, marital stability, diminished or lack of substance use, stable mental condition and lower incidence of criminal activity (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Journal of Personality; Psychological Bulletin). Suffice it to say, time management pays off!
Just because you inherited your parents’ “walk on the impulsive” side of life attributes however doesn’t mean you’re justified in being ripe with constant excuses. Conscientiousness can be learned and instilled in your routine, but first it’s a matter of identifying the wormholes in your world.
With this in mind, this month’s advice transverses beyond simple “written instruction” to “active participation”: I urge all of you caught up in the “there’s never enough time” mentality to track your time allotment of each of your daily activities in a journal for a period of one month (ie: Mon: 8 hours sleep, 2 hours studying, 1 hour for dinner and tv, Tues: 6 hours sleep, 5 hours doing homework etc).
Following the month’s end, review the areas to which you’ve devoted the most hours and see where adjustments can be made. I assure you you’ll be surprised with just how much more “productive” time you’ll be able to find by cutting out (or least cutting down) the hours you “waste” on activities that, in essence, don’t propel you further in any capacity.
Ah but therein lies the rub: if you have no goals toward which you’re working, time proves irrelevant and… unlimited. I’m gonna hazard a guess though that as fellow academics (that are likely studying to pursue career dreams) the previous statement fails to apply.