My life consists of to-do lists. These lists typically have multiple layers with ranked priorities; sometimes, I assign a date to a task so I know exactly when I should make time to complete it. The short-term lists—homework due tomorrow, projects due at the end of the week, or approaching time-sensitive errands—seem easier to complete than my long-term lists. Those long-term lists include tasks I eventually
have to do, such as purchasing something that will make my life easier or setting up a meeting/discussion with someone. These actions all lack immediate necessity, so they are more likely to be pushed to the side as “other things are more important.”
The truth is, sometimes those non-immediate to-dos are passions, or areas of interest, that may help me relax and take a break from constantly thinking about and meeting school and work demands. For example, reading a book of choice (for me, that would probably be a story about business case fraud) or turning an idea into a substantive project with good friends. After engaging in some of these “for fun” activities this week, I reflected on how I got myself to pay attention to them.
The first step includes motivation and time. I recall asking myself: do I have time to do this? Am I being honest with myself about time, or am I being overdramatic when thinking there is no time? Can I push myself to do more than watch Netflix and linger on Instagram in all my free time? We do not get the time we waste back, so we should actually
make the most of it, not simply look at cute Instagram graphics that tell us about it.
Pursuing activities in our areas of interest while juggling competing responsibilities also requires discipline and accountability. This can be accomplished by setting more concrete goals for your interests (for instance: before bed, I will read ten pages of my book of choice) and sharing those goals with others. Telling the right people about your interests and what you are seeking to pursue not only provides you with a support system, but it also opens up a two-way street. Your actions can encourage people to reflect on and reinvest in their own interests and goals. Further, this develops maturity to know when to address our immediate responsibilities and when to reward ourselves. Exercising discipline is a skill that can follow us into adulthood and serve us well in our decision making.
As you begin to make time for what is important to you—for work and play—you establish habits. I encourage you to take time to participate in what matters to you, to step away from the everyday to-do list and take a balanced break. Involve others in your pursuits and engage with them about their passions. You never know what the results may bring.
Lauren Abiog is a Masters student attending Mays Business School