I’m a self-confessed planner geek. One of my favorite things to do on Sundays is to open the fresh, white blank pages of the upcoming week and fill them up in a frenzy of color-coded pens, to-do lists, and sunny inspirational stickers (can’t you just picture it?). I love my planner because it gives me a sense of control to see everything laid out in such a predictable way.
This semester, however, I’ve noticed a creeping tendency of mine to fill up every hour of the day with expectations for what I need to accomplish. I’ve even started to become bothered when I have nothing planned, worried that I am not being “productive” enough. Staying busy and occupied at all hours of the day has started to become a competition not only against myself but against other people.
When I stray away from my schedule, I become hyper-aware of what other people are doing and wonder if I am working hard enough to keep up with the grind. I’ve begun to notice these tendencies in some of my friends. Instead of asking, “how was your day?” the questions have more often turned into, “what did you do/get done today?”
The glorification of busyness, which is especially prevalent in our college culture, takes a toll. Being busy feels like a competition and takes away from our ability to engage in experiences with our whole humanity. Rushing from this lecture to that club and to this event leaves no time for self-reflection, which makes experiences lasting and impactful after they occur. In fact, the students are unable to actually value their experiences because they are overwhelmed by excess activities. There’s a big difference between being “soooo busy” and being deeply involved with experiences that matter to you.
Staying busy is good, to an extent. It promotes healthy routines and time management. However, our campus’ infatuation with productivity is suffocating and, quite frankly, unhealthy. DePauw students might “do it all,” but are they really doing it well in a healthy manner that supports their wellbeing? The answer is no. No one can do it all without sacrificing their mental sanity or sacrificing engagement and in-depth opportunities.
In a recent interview, I asked my interviewer how he learned to maintain a work-life balance. He told me plainly, “Make a list of what’s important to you.” This answer was simple but stuck with me. Of course, as a college student, there are things we must do every single day, but we can make an effort to prioritize meaningful work instead of mindless obligations.
As hard as it may be, I encourage you not to make plans one day or afternoon. It’s scary (maybe impossible), I know, but try and see where the day takes you. When was the last time you did…nothing? I know this is easier said than done. I may not be one to give advice, as I am only just becoming aware of my own obsession with busyness; however, I hope you’ll join me on this journey to making you time your own.