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Just Take Time (The 1st Thing I learned Junior Year)

Posted by on Sunday, December 17, 2017 in Academics, College Life, College of Arts and Science, Commons, Extracurriculars, Freshman Life, General Information, Learning Style, Pre-Med, Student Organizations, Studying, Year in Review.

Disclaimer: I do not have it all figured out.

Overused image but the other day I lay on a lawn very similar near Wilson and just took some time to read. Yes, I know you’re impressed. Thx

Now, I think I know what you’re thinking. Sophie, you’re taking 18 hours. You’re involved in more than three activities, you do research, SOPHIE, HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Well, the key is balance. Actually, the goal is balance. But the key to getting there is thinking about balance.

First, I analyzed the main three commitments in my life: Math, Research, and Violin. At this point, I didn’t even include University Catholic, since that’s less of an extracurricular and more just a significant part of life as I know it. Last semester, among other things, I definitely felt like I was failing to balance all three of these things and doing them well at once. Why? Because I took two math classes at the same time and didn’t focus on just one. For research, I wasn’t doing research I loved, even though I learned so much from it. And then because I was consumed with math classes and thus struggling to finish my research (which also drove me crazy with frustration), I was down to practicing about three hours a week, tops, for my violin lessons. Yes, it was awful.

So this semester, I stepped back. I stopped taking violin lessons, knowing I would start again in the Spring (Update: I am!). For research, I made the difficult decision to transfer from Matlab-based research to social science research, which has made me SO much happier. It was also a lot easier for me to understand, and because I was already passionate about it… well, let’s just say I’m really happy. And as for math, I decided not to take a math class this semester. My extracurriculars were also pretty heavy this semester, and they’re decreasing a lot in the spring, when I’ll take a math class and violin lessons again.

I realized a few things about myself, too:
– Waking up at 4:30 AM or 5:00 AM and going to sleep at 10 PM is the way to go
– That schedule is unsustainable if you go to sleep past 10:30 PM (what happened after a month of that)
– So stick to the schedule, Sophie
– Even if you wake up past 5 AM, studying in the morning always works better for you
– A bike makes everything SO much easier
– When your bike breaks, get it fixed (RIP the last month of school)
– Knitting in class helps you be focused. Remember to bring your needles and yarn to class
– If you really, really focus in class, understanding the material is a lot easier

Having figured out some things about college, I now had more time. Then, I made another decision: I was going to try to stop scheduling things back-to-back. In Vanderbilt culture, this is a crazy idea. Most students try to go to everything that they can – the event, the pregame, the party, the after-party, “stopping by” at the best things that they can, rarely staying the whole time, and trying to go to the maximum number of things as possible. Coffee dates & meals are scheduled back to back with classes. Rarely will people budget more than an hour for things. And til August, this was me to the max – not really enjoying things, just meeting with people to meet with them, some times a lot less ‘present’ than I could be, fitting in prayer/daily mass some time into those busy days…

Then I started putting chunks of 30 minutes after a coffee or breakfast date. I would deliberately not schedule something until an hour and a half after a friend and I agreed to meet up, knowing that we might talk longer, and even if we didn’t, I could use that 30 minute chunk to study. I started using 15-minute and 20-minute times to review bio notes. I started cutting off my work schedule at 7 PM so that I could hang out with friends or go to an event or talk. This semester, I’ve heard more talks than I have in the past 4 semesters combined. I’ve allowed myself to casually chat with people longer than usual, knowing that I had the time to do so. I know that this is heavily impacted by the fact that I wasn’t taking a math class and wasn’t consumed in that, but my much better study skills contributed to this as well (see my post: How to Study). Finishing work more efficiently and and faster gave me the freedom I needed to do other things.

Giving myself time in the evening also gave me the chance to go to daily mass, something I absolutely love. Even if you’re not Catholic, daily mass is an incredibly meditative experience because of the quiet voices, the only acapella music, and the consistency that is inherent in the mass. I’ve had a few non-Catholic friends who have regularly attended just because of its beautiful and quiet nature. Also, check out what the Cathedral looks like below! It’s about a 10-minute walk from Rand in the direction of Kissam and masses are at 7 AM, 12:10 PM, and 5:30 PM Monday through Friday, (though no 5:30 PM mass on Friday). If you hit up the 7 AM, Sam, the Rectory’s golden retriever, is also there! He walks through campus each morning and evening AND IS SO CUTE.

This place is definitely one of my favorite places on campus – so, so restful to just sit and think

That was a lot, folks! Here’s the summary:
– Morning is an underrated time to do work
– You probably are not as productive as you want to be after 10:30 PM (and after 2 AM, your brain is probably fried dead)
– Not scheduling things back to back gives you time to really breathe
– Giving yourself free-time in the evening instead of the morning can be so incredibly restful
– Daily Mass = my favorite way of just taking time
– Rest is also underrated but really frees you up to be so, so productive when it’s time to work!

Let me know if you have any additions to the tips or comments!