With the end of the term coming up, I’m struggling to keep my head above water. Between studies, work, being a TA, and co-curricular activities, I’ve got a rather full plate. And sometimes, it’s hard to look out and see my peers succeeding in a lot of different ways, while I’m struggling to keep my schedule from imploding under its own collecting mass. But, aside from one recent case, where I literally ran back and forth between meetings like an old comedy trope, I’ve been getting better at managing my time.
It’s not an easy task to do. I’m the sort of person who needs to be constantly busy in order to keep any semblance of order in my life: any hint of free time threatens to expand and swallow up days and weeks. A single show on Netflix leads to a season being binged, or catching up on all those series with which I’ve fallen out of date. A day relaxing in bed finds me incapable of later standing up. Without momentum, I’m usually at a stand-still, and it’s hard to get moving again. So I like to keep my life busy.
But there’s busy, and there’s too busy, and it can be hard to tell between them when you’re preoccupied with just filling up your time. And, while things worked out well during the middle of the school year, commitments find a way of piling everything on in the final few weeks of the term, and it’s easy to forget that. By trying to manage my time and be productive, in trying not to come to a standstill, I’ve been nibbling on more than I can chew. And sometimes it’s better to be standing still than to be on a runaway tram.
But I’ve been getting better with my time, and the secret is this: replace down-time with slow-down-time.
There’s simply too much to do to come to a full stop, and I have a lot of responsibilities I can’t possibly drop. This summer, I’m going to commit myself to some healthy time off, but sometimes we need to compromise in life. During the day, I like to schedule slow-down-time instead of complete down-time. I’m allowed to keep working on things, but I have to take a breath and disconnect from the world. I close my social media accounts. I turn my phone over. I turn myself over to the pen and paper instead of my laptop. I go outside (when it’s not frigid!). And I slow myself down to the world around me.
Maybe this doesn’t sound healthy to some of you, and maybe it’s more of a tip on how not to manage your time than how to manage it. But for other people, keeping busy is important, and it’s a really fine line between staying afloat and being adrift. As the term winds itself to a close, remember to make time for yourself in the ways that work for you. Go for a walk. Read a book. Try some mindfulness meditation. Remember, you don’t have to stop to slow down and breathe (it took me too long to learn this).
And if you can’t stop to smell the roses, at least try to pick one off the bush to sniff as you carry on your way.