Keeping our time so it doesn’t fly

Have students lost the ability to bide time in their scheduled lives to Facebook?

Kelsey Kudak

After circling the premises of Coffman Union searching for parking last week, I found myself a spot in the Comstock lot without a quarter. Of course this issue was resolved, but only by a $3 cup of coffee at Starbucks with 34 cents change. Racing back to my unpaid meter, I finally bought myself 12 minutes of time in the bookstore.

The fact that a person can, quite literally, buy time seems uncanny, especially as our lives rely preposterously on the concept. However, even as we realize such cases, we do little to their remedy.

It seems the perfect time of year to reassess the little devil in our lives called time management. Fall for students marks either an entrance or re-entrance to University life: endless syllabi and pages of academic literature and text. Nearly all students have jobs and the addition of the football season often implies a teeter-totter of time. Naturally, one big kid is always on the playground dangling the smaller ones in the air with his weight. That is, we’re stuck in our most demanding pursuits and sometimes we allow schoolwork to bully self-guilt into time spent away from its pages.

Perhaps the trouble with time management begins with the adjustment of freshman college students to new activities, people and flow of life. Or perhaps we just have trouble saying no. A friend might need an explanation of an assignment three times over, or we are needed to make the afternoon basketball teams even. Facebook accounts overwhelm us with notifications of parties on weekends and endless student groups on campus.

However, the question is whether students are naturally poor managers of time, or whether we choose to be in lieu more enriching activity. It is obvious that if we actually budgeted our jobs and 18-credit course loads properly, there would be time only for necessities like breathing. Early on, we are taught the importance of passing the person ahead of us, whether at work or in academics. But what are we getting ahead of by forcing every small piece of commitment into a time slotted calendar? Just because it fits there, does not mean we should pencil it in.

Statistics are published year after year stating that citizens of the United States work longer hours and take fewer breaks and vacations. We can’t leave for a long weekend without access to our e-mail accounts. Drive-through windows prepare everything “to go” and if a trip to the bank lasts longer than 10 minutes, there is reason to be livid. We are annoyed that traffic now becomes backed up on University Avenue during rush hour because alternative routes are necessary after a bridge collapsed in our neighborhood.

Perhaps we would do well to learn from countries like Guatemala, where my firsthand experiences at their banks typically lasted an hour. Road construction on one of the only highways in the country can simply close the road for hours at a time. Traffic stands quietly in lines, and people simply wait outside, leaned on their cars for support. It is not that they have nowhere to go, but rather there is no other option and frustrated anxiety will not cause workers to quickly reopen a road. Lunch is a family event, midday, and all enjoy a minimal hour away from their jobs and school to sit in conversation and company.

It is not only places in Central America where lunch habits and siestas have developed. Argentina supports a 30-minute nap anywhere between the hours of 1 and 4 in the afternoon, as do countries like Bangladesh and Japan. England has slowed her afternoons with tea since the birth of the East India Company in 1644.

As students, we instead procrastinate and consume large quantities of caffeine at our dorms and apartments in the wee hours of the morning. Safely said, this is not exactly our most socially upstanding habit. The problem, however, is that around our jobs (essential to the reduction of our tuition debt) and other extracurricular involvement there is little opportunity to simply “bide time” as students. Culturally, the timetables don’t figure the “luxury” of the nap into the afternoon and we, instead, conquer caffeine withdrawal.

We need not all become members of the Dead Poets Society and cry “Carpe Diem” to the world, chucking our schedules toward the garbage. But everything seems vivid after eight hours of sleep, good conversation, or a pickup game of football.

We think more clearly and feel less overwhelmed. Perhaps we need not feel guilty, but should be budgeting time for these events as they reduce stress levels and make way for more effortless work. Work produced under lower levels of stress is always of better quality and merit.

Instead, we should allow ourselves to say no sometimes and add stress relievers into our habits. Make such events intentional instead of merely creating a way to avoid tomorrow morning’s deadline.

Pour the coffee down the drain and go play ball for an hour in the backyard.

Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]