November 20, 2012
“You know, some of your daily obligations may seem impossible to fulfill. You do them anyway”, a friend of mine said to me one afternoon, after I had told him about my worries concerning procrastination. His words caused a disturbing effect, like that of a pebble when cast on water, as it left growing ripples in my mind. The thing is, he and I were quite different back then – and boy I envied him. He was a med school undergraduate who lived his life in small pieces of time. He knew, for example, that he had a reccess of forty-five minutes at two, after which he would study for three hours nonstop. Next he would have a fifteen-minutes break, and then he would return to his duties. Minutes were not to be wasted in his life. In addition, bound to his schedule were other obligations (though he wouldn’t call them that way) related to his religous practices, which included a time for praying, a time for reading, and a time for mass. Yet, he still had time to spare for friends and family. I thought of him as a walking clock-pendulum – precise, steady, swinging from task to task. But my daily routine was quite the opposite. To begin with, it wasn’t a routine at all, unless you counted that every morning I would ignore the alarm clock for some twenty minutes, then drag myself out of bed, run to every class, be late for every meeting, and fail to finish (and even start) some tasks. It cannot be said that I did not try. On the contrary, I used to struggle to make the most of my day. In spite of this, time seemed to slip away from my hands like water on a bathtub drain. It was not long, however, until I realized that I could draw a distinction between those hours spent on certain unavoidable activities (e.g. attending classes, sleeping, and the like) which I need do, and those which are commonly referred to as “spare time”. I define the latter in the following way: it is the time I use to do the things I either love doing or must do but which are not obligations per se, although whether I do them or not will drastically affect my near and/or not-so-near future. For instance, I use some of these hours for jogging, which keeps me fit. Studying during these hours becomes productive eventually – usually sooner than later. I also use these hours for recreational purposes, which I realize in novel reading, creative writing and guitar playing, among others. Hence, it seems that I can only control what I do in my “spare time”. The rest of the day is for my obligations which, as my friend wisely said and I wisely repeat, I must fulfill. Once that was clear, what remained was the hardest part, as I needed to decide the best way to organize my time. Again, differentiation proved to be helpful, since one must ask oneself how much spare time ought to be spent, how much invested, and, above all, what is being spent on. Why I should say such a thing can be explained by the following reasoning. It seems to me that only life goals are worthy of the daily hard work and the time management they require. With that line of thought, I will not study to pass an exam. Instead, I will rather study to get a degree. Accordingly, I will not practice scales and drills on the guitar just to learn more notes on the neck, but to become a profficient guitarist. And jogging is not just to keep me fit, but also healthy. It has been my decision for a while now to have a must-do list for each day; one which includes all this sort of things, plus a couple more (praying and mass). Besides, – and I should add this also was given to me in the form of a strong advise – I carry with me a sheet of paper where to jot down both my daily accomplishments and failures, so that, at the end of the day, I may examine what I did well, what I could not do, and what I can improve. Lastly, here is a note of warning: too much work can be mentally unbalancing. In order to avoid this, I recommend taking breaks to find peace and quietness. Therefore, if you usually end up in a situation where you wish you had done more work earlier, but at the moment it is too late, perhaps you should consider making a schedule. Hopefully, it will be as useful for you as it is for me.