I brought ten books with me when I moved into Stony Brook my freshman year. They were all books I intended on reading for pleasure. While I read through a few of them in September, by mid-October I was too focused on my classes to have any time to read.
In my First Year Seminar class my professor introduced us to the “College Triangle,” with “good grades,” “social life” and “enough sleep” written in their respective corners surrounding a sardonic “choose two.”
I think a better shape for college would be a square. Add “hobbies” and you’ve got a real dilemma. I finished my first year of college as a good student, with a host of new friends and an average of six hours of sleep a night. But only during the first half of each semester was I able to focus on the other things that make me, me.
In “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” one of the few books I’d recommend every person on planet Earth read, Stephen R. Covey writes about time management, focusing on the important but not urgent aspects of our lives. It’s easy to focus on the important and urgent things: homework, projects, event planning. It’s easy to focus on the unimportant yet urgent things: that text, all those things you do because you can’t say “no” and that long conversation you have even though there’s a test coming up. It’s easy to be distracted by the unimportant and not urgent: binge-watching that show, ranking every Spongebob episode based on how funny Patrick is and sharing articles you’ve only read the headline of on Facebook.
Practicing piano, writing poetry, reading, taking time for personal development, having deep meaningful conversations with friends and all those other things that really make us who we are get pushed to the side during the high-pressure environment of college academic and social life.
To ensure that you make enough time for your hobbies and development, plan ahead. This past January, I resolved to read 100 books throughout the year of 2016. I then signed up to write book reviews as a way of keeping myself on track. If you make the plan to dedicate specific times on specific days for specific things, you will be able to do them. With this mentality, you can also do assignments early to free up more time for your own things.
In “Seven Habits,” Covey writes about four activities to organize yourself. First, he writes about dedicating time to identifying your roles and writing them down. Second, he advises thinking and writing about one or two goals you would like to achieve in each of these roles. Third, he writes about scheduling time in your week to work toward these goals as a part of or around your weekly routine. Fourth, he recommends adapting your schedule based on whatever is going on that day and leaving room for all the unknowns that inevitably happen.
With the right amount of planning, real goals and the flexibility to apply yourself regularly, you can excel academically, meet new people, sleep and do the things you love.
Don’t let college stop you or change you from being who you are. Use college to help make you into the person you want to be.