As the school year begins, it comes with the dreadful anticipation of that midway point in the semester. Everything starts to feel harder like there’s a never-ending to-do list of things that never fully get done — you feel like time is escaping you.
I’ve spent the last two years of college trying every method in the book to manage my time. I’ve tried blocking my calendar, creating a plethora of to-do lists and using agendas to establish routines for myself — but none of it feels like it’s working.
The year usually starts on a great note. Classes are manageable, and your productivity is at an all-time high.
Maybe you fill up your schedule with a few too many clubs or let yourself say yes to every social outing, but you manage. Until you reach the tipping point.
Time is the biggest villain in all our lives. You would think with only four to five classes, you’d have time to get it all done. But it can be so hard in college to say no to things, even if you know you don’t have time. This is especially true if you’re like me and you have FOMO, or the fear of missing out. From social events and clubs to academic and professional events, I say yes to it until my calendar looks like a rainbow checkerboard.
You have the same schedule and workload from the beginning to the end of the semester. However, it quickly stops feeling fulfilled and starts to feel more like a burden. Maybe the reason for this is burnout or just a lack of motivation.
The anchor that pulls me down in all of this is that nagging feeling that I’m never quite using my time wisely. It always seems to come when I’m trying to be productive. The feeling pokes me in the back and tells me that I should be more productive than I am. Because if I was, I’d get more finished, and then I would have more time for other activities — and have more success.
The lie I tell myself is, “I could be better — the only thing holding myself back is me.”
This may sound like an inspiring sentiment, but it can drag people into a pit of self-hatred if they misinterpret it. Rather than thinking I could be better, I feel like I’m not good enough.
The best advice I received to combat this feeling was to allow myself to be present — telling myself, “right now, this is how I’m choosing to use my time.”
It may seem like simple advice, but the more I remind myself of this, the easier it becomes to be present in my daily life. Because yes, while you’re studying or watching Netflix, you might be thinking of the million other things you could be doing instead to be more productive, but you’re not doing those things. You’re choosing to do whatever it is you’re doing in the present moment.
When you start looking at your time that way, you begin to feel a lot less pressure to be more productive. You no longer feel like time is escaping you because it’s not.
The more present at the moment you are, the less anxious or stressed you can feel about all the things you’re not doing, and the easier it becomes to finish and enjoy the things you are doing. It even works when you apply it long-term.
Sometimes I look at my life and have regrets over the choices I made. I question if I chose the right major, if I should’ve planned better for study abroad or if I should’ve applied for that one job. But then I tell myself that this is how I’m choosing to spend my time — when I want to change, I will.
You could spend hours, days, or weeks contemplating if you’re doing the right things with your time. You’ll never know for certain, so there’s no point in allowing yourself to mull over every choice or regret. Instead, bring yourself back to the present moment, reminding yourself that you have control of your time.
Time will only escape you if you let it.