Raise your hand if you always start off the semester with big dreams of going swing-dancing, trying new restaurants, and finally taking that free cooking class you’ve been wanting to take for years. You’re going to successfully cook Thai food! You’re going to learn French! Hello, best self!
Keep your hand up if, by week 3, your not-school/not-work/not-homework time looks like this: you, curled up in your room with a blanket and a takeout container, watching Netflix.
MY HAND IS UP TOO. (It’s making it difficult to type, but I’ll persevere.)
But here’s the thing, if you’ll excuse me getting heavy for a moment. During college, the way you spend your time builds habits that’ll probably carry over to “real life.” And if you’re looking at your average day during the semester and feeling vaguely drained, bored, and unchallenged, something’s gotta give, right?
Friends, I believe we can do better. For ourselves, and for our countrymen. And for all those tiny restaurants you’ve driven by and shouted “One day, when I’m not so busy!”
How do to what you want during the semester, in 3 easy steps.
1. Stop saying “I’m too busy.”
“Busy culture” is such a thing. And sometimes, for college students, it’s a little bit legit. Yes, there are only so many hours in the day. Yes, you’re applying to med school (congrats!) and you need to make sure your resume is on point (en pointe? French police?).
But if you’re so busy, how do you have time for Netflix? How do you have time to accidentally hang out at Starbucks for an extra hour when you run into your bestie?
Because you always have time for the things you make a priority.
“I’m too busy to x” means “To me, x is not a priority.”
Note: This is not something to feel guilty about. It’s something to acknowledge. Sometimes, your grades really ARE a priority over getting dinner with your friends. But if that’s alwaysalwaysalways the case? Step 2.
2. Write down all the things you “just wish you had time for.”
Carry around a little notebook. Every time you catch yourself saying, “Oh man, if I had more time, I’d LOVE to (take that ballet class/paint a mural on my wall/take a weekend road trip to the mountains),” it goes in the book.
With solid list in hand, carve out thirty minutes. (That’s shorter than an episode of Gilmore Girls!) Sit down, look over your list, and circle the things that are most important to you.
3. Schedule them into your life.
From experience, I know this: if I have an actual plan to go somewhere/cook something/read a book/sew a skirt, I’m approximately 800% more likely to do it. Here’s why.
- I’ve already planned my day around it, so I’ve anchored myself to the idea, and I’ll feel disappointed if I don’t do it.
- It’s written down and everything! It feels so official!
- A quick look at my planner will show that part of the day blocked off, so I (usually) won’t accidentally make plans over that time.
- I know, FOR SURE, that I have time for this thing, because I figured out the exact block of time I have available on this day for this thing. So the “I just don’t have time” excuse is out.
Look at the activities you wrote down in your notebook, and think about how they would work best with your life.
If it’s a weekend trip, schedule it for the weekend AFTER that big project is due. If it’s a weekly swing-dancing event, consider making it a weekly (or bi-weekly) commitment.
IMPORTANT: When you’re scheduling, actually write it down the date and time block that you’re going to do this thing. (Example: Saturday, February 13, 7-9pm: Dinner with Lisa) Put it in your calendar. Make it as official as you know how.
4. Stick to your plan.
Here’s what this means: treat your plan as though it is Immovable, Uncancelable, and It Must Happen. Even if your plan is “2:30-3:00pm: Knitting scarf and listening to Welcome to Night Vale“, this is your activity that you cared enough about to a) write down in your notebook, and b) schedule into your life.
It’s tempting to let assignments slide and then use those self-commitments as “extra time” to finish your work, justifying it because School Is Obviously The Most Important Thing.
But if you take yourself and your commitments just as seriously, you’ll be well on your way to a fuller, happier semester.
5. Involve someone else in your plans.
It’s also roughly eight billion times easier to take your commitments seriously if you’ve got someone else involved.
One year, a friend and I had a standing dining-hall-omelet breakfast date. We were seriously ready to go by 8am every single Tuesday. Over the course of the whole year, I think we only cancelled (i.e., slept in) once or twice.
Why did this work? Because when you’re just getting breakfast with yourself, and you accidentally sleep in, you’re not really letting anyone down. You just get more Blanket Snuggle Time.
If you’re getting breakfast with a friend and you accidentally sleep in, you’ve left them wondering where you are, texting your silent phone, and eating an omelet alone.
So get someone to keep you accountable! Invite a friend to that new taco place you’ve been wanting to try, and set a date and time. Have your BFF over for a knitting-and-podcast evening. Throw a small “study party” and promise those orange marmalade croissants you’ve been meaning to make for, what is it, six months now?
(Bonus: You get to water your current friendships and start to grow new ones, all while doing the Things You Want To Do!)
Let’s raise our glasses to becoming bilingual and making delicious queso dip from scratch! What have you been wanting to do, but haven’t got around to? (Some of mine: road trip to Sedona, start running every other morning, finally watch Star Wars.)