Sometimes the only reason I can finish an assignment is by knowing I get to read a book when I’m done. The realization that I can spend time with friends after completing an essay or problem set is motivation enough to finish the job. After a long day (or perhaps just several long hours) of doing homework or paid work, it’s critically important for me to relax — be it by watching a movie or going for a walk — so much so that I’ve proactively built this time into my schedule.
Princeton students love to talk about how busy they are, and it’s true! In between classes, problem sets, club meetings, and rehearsals, it seems as though we barely have time to breathe. Additionally, once exam season rolls around, numerous appeals to self-care pop up around campus, reminding us to take a break and do something we enjoy between the long hours of studying. That said, I honestly can’t say that I see “self-care” practiced that much during exam week; I see more stress than anything else.
Even “regular weeks” (i.e. not exam weeks) are fairly stress-filled. Princeton students constantly talk about how little time they have for anything that’s not schoolwork, Theatre Intime auditions, or the next Press Club deadline. We like to mention how long it has been since we last read a book for fun, and how we envy those people who have the time to do that (and say that they must not have a lot of work to do). Once you build personal enjoyment into your schedule, though, it becomes doable. More importantly, you become happier.
After spending far too many semesters bogged down in work, I’ve practiced incorporating this philosophy into my busy Princeton schedule, too. In between a full course load, at least ten hours of stressful — but at least paid — work, and club meetings/obligations every week, I sometimes feel like I’m sinking. But the only thing that reminds me that I won’t is that I have something to “greet” me at the day’s finish line. I’ve built my day into chunks of working time, wherein after a few hours of uninterrupted work, I reward myself with half an hour of reading or maybe lunch with a friend. It makes work way more tolerable, and it means that I have more energy to go about my day.
Sure, some days are busier than others — and some days, I really don’t have more than one such opportunity to do something I really enjoy. I’ve also realized that you can pick and choose what you want to do: if I want to, say, go out with friends, I have to get all of my work done beforehand and avoid scheduled breaks during the day. However, that means that I’ll have several hours of unadulterated fun later on. Since enjoyment has become so integral to my schedule, I become quite unhappy if I don’t include it. The quality of my work can suffer.
It may seem as if I have the luxury of doing this because I’m a humanities major and don’t play a sport. I don’t have to face regular organic chemistry or COS exams, I don’t have problems sets, and I never have practice or competitions. My major still gives me plenty of things to do (and essays to write), though.
That said, nearly all of us, however busy we may perceive ourselves to be, find time to scroll through Facebook or Instagram. It may be worth trading at least some of that screen time in for high quality pleasure time, maybe with friends or a book. If you really love social media, you can definitely consider working it into your schedule as scheduled enjoyment, but if you just do it out of boredom or procrastination, consider replacing it with some other high quality pleasure. Perhaps read a book, spend time with friends, practice yoga, etc. The possibilities are endless. It’s best to find out what you enjoy doing most and build it into your schedule, so that you are happy and fulfilled.
It may seem selfish to schedule time to explicitly not to do work, but it’s just giving you both the opportunity and motivation to raise your future productivity. Building time for personal enjoyment motivates me to finish the paper I’m writing — and also ensures that I’m rested and refreshed enough to do a good job.
Leora Eisenberg is a junior from Eagan, M.N. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.