Three Things I’ve Learned
I have always enjoyed being busy and keeping myself busy. My interests are diverse; I love being involved and I’m very down to do things. Making sure I wasn’t involved in too many activities was never a priority for me until the fall semester of my junior year.
During this period, I often did not have enough time to do my tasks as well as I would’ve liked, or enjoy them. I realized this deviated from why I enjoyed being busy in the first place, so after that semester, it became important for me to be busy with the right balance.
Here are three themes for what I’ve realized, considered, and practiced over time to keep busy enjoyably and sustainably. For each theme, I share some considerations and tips that have worked for me, that can maybe inspire how you make the most of your time at Cal.
Theme 1: Self-Care
I want to be healthy while being busy, since my mental and physical well-being determine how enjoyable and sustainable my routine is at the end of the day.
Most of us tend to feel particularly stressed when involvements get in the way of us connecting with others and expressing our social roles (Dickerson & Kemeny, 2004). Therefore, I make sure I have time for fun with my relationships even when busy, or involve people in my schedule like studying or eating together.
Eating and sleeping consistently allows me to physically be able to go through my day. On the topic of sleep, I realized having downtime (specifically 1.5 hours) before I sleep was really important for my mental health. It helps me avoid revenge bedtime procrastination so I can get enough sleep, and gives my mind a nice break.
Your subjective well-being motivates and indicates your success, and you can check out more tips in my other article, “Being Happy at Cal.”
Theme 2: Scheduling
I want to substantially engage and enjoy what I am involved in, which means the way I schedule my activities and the number of them become important considerations.
When choosing classes (which you should do wisely!), I consider: Should I schedule them back to back or spread them out?
I personally avoid having classes spread out throughout the day: Sometimes there’s too little time between classes to motivate myself to be substantially productive, go home and take a break if I’m tired, or hang out with friends. I would be tethered to campus, or have to walk more. Instead, I try to schedule classes in sets of two (I have Berkeley Time to get from one class to another), and leave at least a 1.5-hour break between sets. I try to make sure I have one hour to grab a meal (I have a Berkeley Dining plan), and I avoid classes before 11 a.m.
When applying for clubs at the beginning of each semester, I keep in mind that my commitments will get busy, even though they may not seem like a lot at the beginning. So I try to think about the peak busy periods when evaluating how many commitments I can take on in a semester.
On the topic of time management, I believe it really is an area where each person experiments and finds what works best for them. I use Apple Calendar to keep track of daily events and due dates, and Apple Notes for general tasks/errands for whenever I can sit down and be productive. I would note that having strong organizational skills over my time, space (having a clean room, for example), and communication have been invaluable to keeping up with everything.
Theme 3: Purpose
I want my time to reflect my goals and interests, especially when I am busy. If it doesn’t, I would feel less motivated and interested, and question why I am stuck doing all these things. Currently, I find that my involvements are reflective of my goals and interests, which makes my days feel more “eventful” than “busy” because I am having fun while growing academically and professionally.
I think it’s important to experiment and identify the level of busyness you enjoy. For example, my workload was too little during the spring semester of my junior year (after fall semester, when I was too busy), and I did not like that either. In the process of trying out how my time can look, I realized what’s important to me, and how I want my daily life to feel.
Remember to take care of yourself, and I hope that being busy contributes to you enjoying your time at Cal. All the best, busy Bears.
Hosea Chen is a fourth-year at UC Berkeley majoring in cognitive science, and minoring in creative writing and data science.