Shifting your Mindset, Part 1: Time Management
Shifting your Mindset, Part 1: Time Management
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Shifting Your Mindset: Time Management
As I have grown up and observed the world around me, I’ve noticed that our culture often pressures youth with expectations to get ahead and be successful. Because of that, overworking ourselves can easily become a major hurdle in maintaining our mental and physical health. Many young people believe we have to work tirelessly to be “Number 1” at everything we do to be considered worthy of praise and recognition. As a result, we are often rushing to do it all instead of taking our time to enjoy the process and recharge along the way.
As a college junior and workaholic, I have felt these pressures and expectations first-hand. Over time, I have learned to decrease stress and not allow the pressure of expectations to weigh me down as much as they have in the past. In this three-part series, I will share what I have learned with you, including what I wish I knew sooner about productivity and mental health. In this blog post, I will focus on managing time and being mindful of mental health while being productive. In the second blog post, I will focus on redefining personal success and setting goals. In the third and final blog post, I will explain the art of saying “No” and the benefits of identifying what is important to your personal growth.
As you read this series, I hope you keep in mind that progress takes time and you can only do so much at once. Becoming more aware of your abilities and limits is an important step that can lead to continued growth and improvement.
Manage your time effectively. Take time to recharge.
As someone who lives and breathes to create, I have learned how to work in a way that suits me. I’ve found that working in time blocks rather than one long stretch of time can be beneficial to the quality of my work and my mind. Making time for both your extracurricular and personal endeavors can be helpful and healthy in the long-run, and taking time away from a project can give you space to resonate with the work you’re doing and come back recharged with new ideas. Allowing yourself to take breaks can also help you avoid hitting creative blocks.
In my own life, this became especially apparent at the beginning of the pandemic. I went from having a schedule of working, seeing friends and doing homework to staying at home 24/7.With no set schedule, when was I supposed to designate time to focus on school, work and taking time for myself? All of my free time became work time and any relaxation felt like I was somehow “falling behind.”
Truth be told, I wasn’t falling behind, because the only person I needed to keep up with was myself. I didn’t realize this at the time, so I kept pushing. After several months, unsurprisingly, I was beyond exhausted and burnt out. What I learned is this: Taking breaks to ease your mind isn't a waste of time, but rather a useful skill in accomplishing goals. Some of your best work and ideas can come to you when you’re not hyper focused.
In essence, make time for what’s important to you. Seems simple enough, right? Keep in mind that taking time to care for yourself is also productive.
I have had to learn that taking breaks and engaging in self-care is also a form of productivity, as working too intensely for too long can become a hindrance to completing tasks. I now understand that meeting deadlines is important, but not at the cost of your mental health or your enjoyment of the activity. In my own life, I had a habit of working on a project for hours at a time and not wanting to take breaks because I would spend them stressing over time I was convinced I was “losing.” I am not fully out of this cycle, but I am getting there. I’ll say it again because it can be so hard to fully grasp: taking care of yourself is productive!
You don’t need to rush yourself.
Young people – including me – often feel like we need to race to the finish line. In the long run however, taking our time can give the best results and support our mental health. There are countless avenues where we are told that we have to finish things quickly: pressure from parents, school, peers etc. We are told that we should push ourselves to graduate early and be the youngest ever so-and-so.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re able to, that’s fantastic. However, the reality is that taking your time isn’t going to make or break you and that goes for nearly anything you do in life. Not everyone is on the same path, and while it may be hard to keep in mind, it's totally normal and okay to take your time. This is something that has taken me a while to fully understand.
When I was 18 years old I had no idea where I wanted to go once I graduated high school. I had not applied to any colleges and felt aimless. Instead of following my peers and going to a 4-year school, I spent 3 years at a local community college before transferring to a university (class of 2021!). While it was sometimes difficult to see my friends progressing in life and having fun, I knew that just because my timeline was different, it wasn’t worth any less. By taking my time, I was able to complete 3 Academic Associate's programs and earn a certificate in teaching. Rather than feeling down on myself because I wasn’t in the same place as my peers, I worked at my own pace and was able to discover that the path meant for me was different than I had initially expected. As a 21-year old fresh out of community college, I was able to hand-pick the school I wanted to transfer to. I had more choice and felt more informed about my decision, even if the timeline was different than I originally anticipated. While this is my story, yours may be totally different. The road less travelled may end up being the right one and detours may end up taking you to a totally different yet perfect place.
Aim for progress, not perfection
Regardless of what you are spending your time and energy on, at one point (maybe even currently), you were just starting out. Not everything you do in life has to be a direct Point A to Point B scenario, and making mistakes or moving in a different direction is not always a negative thing. You may find that you learn just as much from your mistakes as you do from your successes. Sometimes a situation doesn’t work out the first time, but the experience you gain from each trial is valuable, too.
Spending time trying to make something absolutely perfect on the first try can be draining and time consuming. I now understand that at the end of the day, mental health is more important. Aim to improve as you work, and don’t beat yourself up for not meeting perfection every time. Improving over time is how skills are strengthened! Aiming for progress can often be more beneficial than aiming for perfection.
Take this blog series for example: by the time this blog post is published what you are reading is probably close to the 5th draft. From those drafts, I have learned that sticking to my original plan and expecting it to be perfect on the first try meant missing out on other possibilities and learning experiences. Instead of making a simple piece on mental health, I ended up writing a 3-part series on mental health tips I wish I could have read when I was in high school or starting college.
You do not have to do it all
I know that navigating the world as a young person can be difficult. Especially when there is an expectation of perfection and romanticization of overworking in order to be seen as successful. However, I’ve found that the only thing you should be competing against is the idea that you have to do it all.