In an interview four weeks ago, they fired a question at me that had it been an actual bullet, I would have died a painful death struggling to articulate one of the most challenging concepts of our generation: “How do you manage your time when you do so many things on campus?”
It was the kind of question that made me want to lean back in my chair at a trendy little café and sip almond milk and re-evaluate my entire life, because it should have been super easy to answer. It should have been a simple matter of delineating the process, making a checklist, turning the solution into a paint-by-numbers masterpiece so that anyone four years and older could complete it.
It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t know how to explain it then, but I think I have a better idea now. Time flies when you’re having fun, which you might think would mean that all of our wonderful opportunities at the university are sucking up our time in a vacuum of awesome. If you’re part of an organization you love, though, you know that isn’t true. The moments do pass quickly, but they also pass with a sense of purpose and the realization that what you are doing matters. That time forces you to acknowledge your heart beating in your chest and the miracle of being alive and the ache in your bones reminding you that the world needs someone like you, even if you don’t yet know why. Manage your time by doing things that make you feel victorious over time instead of like another victim; manage your time instead of letting it manage you.
Part two of my response would address a quote by H. Jackson Brown Jr. that now pops up in my mind at least once a week: “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” It can read like a pretty powerful guilt trip, but I think it can also read as a wake-up call, the alarm going off in your head that nobody is making you waste your time doing something that isn’t fulfilling in some capacity.
A fantastic article by Laura Vanderkam in The Wall Street Journal titled “Are You As Busy As You Think?” is guaranteed to make you modify your definition of “busy.” Vanderkam suggests that by replacing phrases like “I don’t have enough time” with “that’s not a priority,” we can change how we value and measure our time. Do you really not have time to call your best friend from high school, or is it just not a priority? Would you really not be able to make time this weekend to read a book you’ve always wanted to read, or are you just not making it a priority?
My answer to that tough question, four weeks late, is that I can do so many things on campus because to me they aren’t just things. They are people and passions, and they are priorities. They are timeless.
Article originally published in the April 15th, 2013 issue of The Chapel Bell.