Be more productive by doing less

Overwhelmed with my heavy workload, I was compelled to read the comments that students wrote on the “do less, be more” posting near the Conservatory office a few weeks ago. The display provides students with markers to write ways to cut back on something they are doing, or change a small habit to make better use of their time. The comments written by students include phrases such as, “eat better,” “get more sleep” and “take time to sit, reflect and mediate.” Essentially, they list small adjustments we can make in our schedule to make life a little easier on ourselves while simultaneously increasing productivity.

The comments were yet another reminder that I needed to drop a time commitment from my schedule. Over the course of three years, I had accumulated quite a hefty list of courses and activities that I wanted to participate in before graduation. While planning my senior year last spring, I crammed in as many of those interests as possible into our current Fall Term. In doing so, I did not provide enough time to fully indulge in each one of my responsibilities. My grades and quality of work were in good standing, but the bulk of my time commitments prevented me from truly absorbing all of the information I was receiving and to take care of myself.

In order to solve this problem, I decided to drop a class. Since my freshman year, I have never dropped a class, instead choosing to stretch my time in unrealistic ways and deprive myself of sleep. Dropping the class — a creative writing class I had wanted to take since my sophomore year — was not easy. After all, I was already five weeks into the term, had completed many of the assignments and knew I would not get a chance to take this particular course again. Before committing to cutting the class, I felt as though I would be failing myself for not seeing it all the way through.

However, if I did not drop an obligation from my schedule, I would be failing in a different way. I would not come to that class prepared and fail to help workshop the materials written by my classmates. If I did not cut a commitment, I would not be as available to my residence hall in my position as Head Residence Life Advisor or as thorough of an editor for The Lawrentian. If I did not cut something, I would not have the time to complete readings for my other classes, or find time to practice my instrument. If I did not skip out on something that I was doing, I would never sleep.

When we think about doing something less in our schedule, we do not always acknowledge that by doing so we are actually able to do more. That choosing to participate in less can make us more productive and well-balanced individuals, rather than less productive.

Imagine everything that you would learn throughout your time in college if you provided yourself with enough time to finish 100 percent of the readings for your courses, or the level of musicianship that you would gain if you spent time in a practice room nearly every day. Even if you are getting by with an “A” in a class where you are not doing all of the work, what will the grade provide you after graduation? If you did not gain the skills or knowledge you desired while signing up for the class in the first place, then what was the point?

When people fill their schedule with 15 different activities, they are not inherently being more productive than someone with four, because in order to be involved in so many different things, the quality of time put into those commitments will be significantly less impactful. Especially at Lawrence, it is easy to get into the mold of comparing hours of sleep or number of activities within a day as though it were a competition. However, without the time to sleep, take an occasional walk or anything else needed in order to take care of yourself, will you have enough to actually focus on your commitments?

While I was wary about dropping a course at first, I am already thankful for the additional time it has provided me to focus more on my remaining responsibilities. As college students in our late teens or early 20s, if there is a course we hope to learn more about, there is still plenty of time. By taking full responsibility for our learning and choosing to focus on the quality of our experience over the quantity of our responsibilities or our GPA, we learn how to learn and make our own opportunities. Take a deep breath, enjoy reading period and remember that sometimes, less is more.