Last week, I received a text message from my best friend about a recurring problem.
I’ve advised her to leave a crippling relationship amid fears that she won’t be able to cope with the change in routine, which may now include nights weeping while using all willpower and reason available to overtake emotions. Although the intention of being in such relationship has turned hazy, she’s hesitant on completely parting ways because it’s the life she’s most familiar with. (When trying to help a best friend deal with problems of this nature, I can only exhaust wisdom and reason, based on life in general, to make up for lack of experience.)
I realized that while my challenge may pale in comparison with her emotional struggles, the same theme applies: The familiar may not necessarily be good.
I can spend the entire week holding TV series marathons, sleeping when I feel like doing so, and lurking on the Internet. Some friends even say I’m lucky I have this degree of freedom. But these things, which are the perfect components for a “bum life,” are not good for me when excessively done. To emphasize my point: bags of Cheetos, week-long parties, endless hours of Grey’s Anatomy—I like all of these but they aren’t good for me. They are familiar, comfortable, and are rewarding only for my short-term self.
I don’t intend on filling up every white space in my calendar with unnecessary appointments and be the conventional example of ‘busy.’ It contradicts my pursuit of living a minimalist and intentional life, in which I prioritize and focus on things and people important to me. Living more with less, as they say. Operative word: pursuit.
I figured, however, that I’m more productive with a structured day than having a spontaneous day, wherein hours are usually spent dillydallying on the Internet (i.e. watching movie trailers on YouTube for three hours), listening to 2000 pop hits, and daydreaming. Ironically, I accomplish more when I have limited time. I remember how I thrived under pressure while juggling extra-curricular duties, academic demands, and personal matters during the last two years of my college life.
Maybe having “too much time” is not the problem but the way I spend my time. I feel hypocritical when I remember telling my friends that time is such an invaluable gift because it’s a resource that can’t be taken back, yet I’ve spent most of my waking hours procrastinating. I’ve figuratively ran in circles. I feel terrible because my actions are not congruent with my values.
So, today, I made a routine. I’m not deliberately making life miserable, but I thought sticking to the life I’ve grown comfortable with for four months will be detrimental to my long-term self. Steal Like An Artist perfectly sums up my thoughts:
Establishing and keeping a routine can even be more important than having a lot of time.
For now, these consist my schedule while I wait to return to school on June:
- wake up at 6 a.m. and create or review objectives for the day
- eat, or when I’m in the mood, cook breakfast
- exercise. It’s not the type of workout that preps me for a bodybuilding contest, but is challenging enough to give a sense of reward that lingers throughout the day.
- take a bath. The rest of the day remains unknown, so might as well prepare for any activity that requires me to go outdoors.
- review for NMAT or learn a topic that can be useful for life in med school and afterward
- check social media for a maximum of 30 minutes
I encounter frustration when I think I have too much time—a problem, said Buddha—and that 30-minute time limit is extended to infinity. When I find myself in the labyrinth that is the Internet, I ask what the better version of myself would do.
Acknowledging that the Internet and social media can sometimes be a curse instead of a blessing, I’ve started another kind of detox; I’ve allotted specific times of the day to check my accounts and I’ve filtered the people I see on my feed. Have I become so attached to social media that I passively scroll and ‘like’ when I have nothing to do for fear of missing out? Why not do things I must do, like reading, writing, and learning which contribute to growth?
Three things I’ve learned and am trying to apply every day:
- do the most important tasks in the morning.
- be more mindful of using the Internet. Turn off notifications. (I found that any notification from Twitter or Instagram are far from urgent.)
- find any distraction irrelevant instead of actively fighting it.
To better days ahead.