Can you believe it? Nearly a whole month’s worth of classes has already passed and with them homework, classes, clubs, events and even exams have come and gone. No matter how prepared we think we are, there are always unforeseen events that can sneak up on us and throw down the precious house of cards that we’ve built that we call our schedules.
You’ve probably heard this story before:
A professor places an empty glass on a desk in front of his class. He then pours rocks into the glass until he can add no more and asks his class if the glass is full. Some students answer yes while others remain skeptic. He then takes small rocks and adds them to the glass, filling the spaces between the larger ones and asks the same question. He repeats the process with sand and finally most student agree that the glass is full. He then takes a pail of water and fills every physical space available in the glass.
And why does he do this? Because the professor in the story is trying to teach his class about time management. If they immediately filled their schedule with all the small/frivolous things in their lives there would be no room for the important (i.e. large rock) things and thus they should fill their schedule by first prioritizing what is truly important to them.
It’s a nice metaphor and it can be very tempting to take that empty glass and try and fill it to the brim with commitments and activities. However, there are two crucial elements that this metaphor does not address:
1. The ability to hold a very full glass that was just moments ago empty
For some of us, especially those in first year, it can become very daunting to suddenly face all these academic requirements on top of all the great opportunities that the University of Alberta and student life have to offer. However, what some people tend to forget is that the ability to manage your time efficiently has its limits and thus another crucial ability comes in: how to say no.
In my example of this story, saying “no” = having room for air. I’m not just talking about saying “no” to a night out on the town so that you can (and probably should) stay in to study; I’m talking about saying “no” to that club you wanted to join, to that trip you wanted to take, to that conference you wanted to go to or that volunteer position you wanted to try. Sounds horrible doesn’t it? I should be telling you to seize the day and take every opportunity that comes at you so that you can grow and become a better you… right? In between your class and club meeting, did you remember to go to the grocery store today? Do your laundry? Exercise? Take care of yourself? Sleep? Who needs sleep right? Answer: Everyone. Even if you plan out every minute of every day there will be unforeseen events and that’s why you need air space. You need flexible time that will help you get from A to B without burning out. You need time for that thing you forgot. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.
There is good news. You can do great things. A lot of them. Master self-discipline and create a schedule. Look at where you use your time inefficiently, fix it and maybe cut back on the Netflix a little. The professor in the story does have a point: add things in gradually, starting with the important things. I’m just adding the point that you should remember to save a little room for the unexpected. Know your glass.
Here are some resources that can help:Time Management Tips
Well Being Exercises
Unwind Your Mind