One of the biggest day-to-day challenges that students face is time management. Between looming assignment deadlines, extracurriculars, and social events, it is easy to become overwhelmed. To help students make sense of their busy lives, collective sustainable living space ECOLE is hosting a recurring series of talks called ‘A Space for Time.’ The workshops are designed to give students an opportunity to talk to each other and brainstorm strategies for de-stressing and time management. They are set to take place every Saturday from 3:30–5 p.m. until April.
Easton Houle, a facilitator and event coordinator at ECOLE, explains that he started ‘A Space for Time’ to respond to a need he perceived for a forum where people could come together and sort through their responsibilities.
“I was constantly hearing from people that they were so busy [that] they couldn’t do the things […] that were important to them, which is almost paradoxical,” Houle said. “If we’re always running away from the feelings that are overwhelming us, such as the fear of deadlines or of [receiving] a bad grade, then that is probably not the direction of our goals and aspirations.”
‘A Space for Time’ begins with a short reading from CrazyBusy: Strategies for Handling Your Fast-Paced Life by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD research. Hallowell found that many of the issues he dedicated his career to were also concerns for the general public, especially with the proliferation of technology that distracts us. Houle’s vision was to address some of these issues of stress and time management difficulties through discussion between students. So far, he has found these conversations to be successful.
“Each time, I’ve had lightbulb moments,” Houle said. “People share strategies and feelings about the pressure of things that they have to do, and we help each other in terms of telling one of our own stories about how we’re ordering our lives. Simply telling a story and talking about it makes us more self-aware.”
One of the dangers of taking on many responsibilities is becoming cognitively overstimulated to the point of perpetual distraction. When faced with too many things to do, we have a tendency to switch between tasks in an attempt to cover all of the bases. For example, a student who is trying to work on an essay might easily get distracted by an upcoming exam they have and switch to looking at the exam material as a result. Psychologists have found that the cost of task switching is huge because the brain has to slow down and speed back up again every time it focuses and refocuses. To solve this problem, Houle suggests working on just one assignment at a time rather than perpetually moving back and forth.
“Once you hone in on one thing, you have the focus, motivation, and momentum to do a lot with the time you have,” Houle said.
By making these empowered decisions, productivity can go a long way. Houle suggests that students look at the time in front of them as a blank canvas, rather than stressing and trying to cram in as many different things as possible. It can be helpful to sit back, take a look at a calendar or schedule, and try to prioritize responsibilities based on what is most important and the time available. Houle also suggests trying to limit the number of responsibilities we take on.
“You should never, in good conscience, take on things past the capacity of what you think you’re able to handle, because that completely ignores the unexpected,” Houle said.
This balance is never easy but taking strides toward making more efficient use of our time can give us more time to do the things we love.