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Being busy for the sake of being busy just wastes time

When I was 14, I fell in love with a song called “Time Wasting” by Heffron Drive. The song is basically about a girl who’s rushing through life without appreciating what’s right in front of her. The chorus goes, “Slow down little lady, you’re gonna waste your time.” I related to it as an angsty ninth grader, and I still relate to it now as a slightly less angsty 20-year-old.

As I’ve grown older and Heffron Drive has released better music, I’ve become more like the girl in the song. I feel like I always have to be busy. When I’m not busy, I’m wasting time. Yet, when I’m too busy, I’m just wasting time.

This obsession with constant business seems pretty prevalent in American culture. Everything is go-go-go, our lives becoming candy-colored cars racing down I-4 to get to the next exit before the clock strikes midnight. If you’re not busy, you’re lazy, and if you’re lazy, you’re not the kind of person anyone wants to be.

In 2016, a team of researchers decided to look into why Americans are so impressed by busyness. They found that, in general, people who were busier were perceived to be of higher status than their more leisurely counterparts were. In another part of their study, the researchers found that the reverse was true for Italians.

The Economist reported that Americans have more leisure time now than we ever have before. Thanks to technology and other important innovations, everyone gets to work less. We have more time to enjoy things like time with family or new shows on Netflix.

However, Americans still aren’t taking half of their vacation days. According to a recent survey by job-hunting site Glassdoor, only 23 percent of employees take off all of their allotted vacation time, and the average American employee only takes about 54 percent of that time off.

I think it’s safe to assume that the same sentiments relate to those of us who are yet to enter the workforce full-time. Even as college students, we are required to be more than students. We must be friends and club leaders and athletes and partners and part-time employees. I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone who counts himself or herself as only a student all of the time.

This is not going to be some argument in favor of all that self-care hoopla. If you want a bath bomb, buy a bath bomb. However, while you’re headed to Lush, maybe you could take a few minutes in traffic just to let yourself breathe.

One study investigated the relationship between college students’ academic stress and their anxiety, time management and leisure satisfaction. The researchers found a negative correlation between them. Time management had the greatest buffering effect on academic stress. The more in control the students felt of their time, the less stressed they were about their studies.

Time management boils down to not spreading yourself too thin. Think of life in college as a buffet. There are so many things you could be doing. You can take a full load of courses or the bare minimum you need to still be full-time. You can join a sports team or perform in musical theatre. You can play chess or read comic books or find a club that matches anything you’re passionate about. There are so many people to meet and so many places to go. However, everything you scoop onto your plate takes up space, and there’s only so much room.

I’d prefer if buffets had those sectioned serving trays like in elementary school instead of the giant dinner plates they have at Golden Corral. It’s really hard to estimate how much of something you want or if you’ll even like it in the first place.

College life is like that, too. You can try a little bit of everything, but you can’t fit full servings of 15 different pasta salads on your plate. Only serve yourself what will really make you feel fulfilled when dinner is over. If you don’t like what you’re eating, don’t be afraid to go back for seconds.

I’m a picky eater. There is a laundry list of things I will not eat. I try to be the same way about my time. I only want to spend my time on things that actually matter to me. At the end of the day, I want to be happy with how I spent it.

Food wasting is a serious issue, but so is time wasting. It’s better to fill your plate with what matters rather than stuffing yourself on a little bit of everything.

Related Links:

The Southern: Over-involvement: An open letter to the c/o ’21 by Adrianna Cole
The Atlantic: ‘Ugh, I’m So Busy’: A Status Symbol for Our Time by Joe Pinsker
Study: Optimism and risk for job burnout among working college students: stress as a mediator by Edward C. Chang, Kevin L. Rand and Daniel R. Strunk
Saint Mary’s College: Time Management Techniques