If we prioritize everything, we prioritize nothing. It took me years to be okay with that. It took me years to realize that the definition of balancing – to keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall – requires me to indeed stay standing.
I’ve discovered that burnout is a convenient psychological term for replacing the necessary with the urgent. So, I want you to close your eyes. Think about a day in the life of you. Waking up, what’s the first thing you grab, your phone? Are you immediately inundated with the sounds of Outlook and a list of reminders, or met with residual Snapchat stories stirring you to text a friend for the next hangout instead of attending to what kept you up last night?
Often the times when I feel overwhelmed, strung-out, or unfulfilled can be traced back to days I barely had a moment to take my brain off of cruise control. You know the days, days where classes, appointments, interviews and meetings are strung together like pearls on a necklace and even meals are put on the back burner.
I know what you’re thinking: We’re in college, we’re expected to fill our days with what will fill our resumes. Except, you may also be wondering when the lines of being driven and being driven insane got so blurry. Because we feel when there’s a disconnect between what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We feel the dwindling desire to attend the meetings, the lack of production and the restlessness that comes from forgetting why we’re expending this energy every day.
So, how do we maintain the same fervor to reach our goals throughout the entire semester instead of counting down the days until break (I know I can’t be the only one mourning the loss of our fall break this year)?
I heard an interesting quote by Amos Tversky that got me thinking of the answer.
“We waste years of our lives by not being able to waste hours.”
It feels so counterintuitive to acknowledge that slowing down to think intentionally about why we’re doing something reaps a higher yield than just going. But, action preceded by careful deliberation doesn’t remove the risk, faith, creativity, or spontaneity of that movement, it fortifies it. It drives us forward, it reminds us of the reason why we endure, and what will come of our efforts.
I’m choosing to start with why. To draw the outline of my picture, to really consider my schedule even if I still don’t know the colors that will fill each stroke, if only to know that what I’m working towards holds significance. Because believe it or not, we hold eternal significance. These present hours we hold as the gift they are deserve the stillness of reflection so that tomorrow can be built in accordance with our lives’ blueprints. So that we do what we have to do, and can then prioritize what we want to do. Eventually, they’ll overlap.
It’s okay if you’ve already wasted some years, waste some hours and redeem your time.