By Calvin Batista-Malat, Rising Sophomore at Bard College
Shortly before I left for my first year of college, I was given a present and a note from some family friends. They wished me well, and sent me off with a nice towel. The eldest son, in college himself, wrote me a blunt farewell: “In college, you can do whatever you want.” I laughed when I read it. The crazy part is, he was totally right.
College is a new kind of freedom. My parents weren’t particularly authoritarian, but there is a real structure to living in a familial household and going to high school 35 hours a week. In college, I was given an immense amount of responsibility, and an immense amount of freedom, but not the tools to put the two together. While high school left me well prepared for the difficulty of the work, I was not prepared for the unrelenting tempo of it. There was never a time I wasn’t working on several projects, as well as balancing extracurriculars and a novel social scene.
I only had class four days a week. In high school, I could sit and patiently wait for the day to end, college introduced a chaotic flow of papers, projects, and reading. So much reading. I would regularly have hundreds of pages of reading a night, and unlike high school, it was not my professors’ job to get me to do the reading. It was my job to find the motivation and intrinsic value in the work.
I learned little things about how to manage my time and stay motivated, like taking a piece of fruit with me to the library to eat once I started to lose steam. The sugar and sweetness of the fruit would perk me up, as well as give me a short break. But the biggest time management tool I utilized was lists. Every Sunday night I would make a list of things I needed to do between Monday and Thursday, and every Thursday night I would make a list of the things I needed to do between Friday and Sunday. It gave me purpose, and more than that, 3-4 days was the perfect chunk to break the week into, as it was small enough to conceptualize, but large enough to make real progress.
Another tool that helped me stay on track is the Time Timer. While I must concede I’m writing this as a paid employee, Time Timer creates clever products that visually represent time and keep it from slipping away. I’m not just an employee, I’m a user, too. I took my Time Timer Mod with me to college, and it lived in my desk drawer, ready to help me visualize an hour and take control of my time.
Time is easy to lose track of at college. Whether studying, socializing, or working on independent projects, there are no bells, crowds, or parents to remind you where to be or what to do. While this does give an exciting promise of freedom, it also creates a void of motivation that must be filled with new skills and tools.