One thing that I’m trying to get better at this year is creating margin. Margin can mean a lot of different things. It’s also kind of a buzzword, I know. But only one week of classes into the school year, I already know that it’s going to be important for me to have time in the morning and time in the evening to intentionally start/end my day the way I want to. Last year I convinced myself that I “felt better” when I worked out and started on the day’s work as soon as my alarm went off. That way, when I went to classes, I had already accomplished something. That way, if in the afternoon I was struggling to study, I could at least look back on the tasks I’d already checked off and feel better about myself.
In actuality, jumping right into the work made me feel harried, panicky, and like I didn’t know what was going on. I’d go through the motions of the day, my mind constantly on my list of things to do. When I took breaks, I might physically stop cranking away at my chem homework, but I spent that time how calculating how much longer I thought it would take me.
I wrote about my summer morning routine earlier. Obviously, it’s changed some now that classes are back in full swing. I don’t have lemons, so goodbye lemon water. (Though I could pick up lemons next time I’m at a store. I suppose that’s an option, if it’s that important to me.) I can’t always blend up my matcha because my roommates are sleeping. But the things that I’ve been able to keep the same, I’ve kept the same. My first inclination when I got back to school was to throw all that out the window. Goodbye taking care of myself and my health and sanity, it’s study time. (I may have mentioned I have tendencies to be an all or nothing person. This is true.)
But I made myself stick with it, and I’m so glad I did. My general guideline for myself for this semester is to not do any school-related stuff until after classes. Obviously, that won’t work for everyone; my class schedule just so happens to be very conducive to this. I have classes in the morning and they’re chunked together.
Okay, I know I’ve been preaching about slow mornings all summer (and all last summer too, I think), but finally, finally how much it changes the rest of my day is sinking in. I look forward to my mornings. I can focus better in classes because I’m not still thinking about the work I was doing beforehand. Overall, I’ve just been feeling more peaceful, and it’s a good feeling.
It’s also been helping to think about school/studying as a job. I’ve heard people say to treat your college days like you have a 9 to 5 job. I don’t think that’s possible for a lot of college students (myself included), but thinking about it as a job has helped me create some boundaries. Would I go into work at my job on a day off or late at night when there is really nothing I need to do at that moment? Probably not. So if I don’t need to get ahead on the reading for that class during a half-hour I’ve set aside as a break, should I do the reading anyways? Probably not.
Taking intentional breaks and shutting everything down an hour or so before I go to bed have been game-changers as well.
Underlying all of this has been reminding myself of my priorities. Yes, I want to be a good and successful student, yes, I want to learn and keep up on my work. But do I push myself at the cost of relationships? My own well-being? Are succeeding in school and taking care of myself mutually exclusive? (Answer: no. but sometimes I live like they are.) It’s easy to set boundaries but it’s hard to keep them unless we know our why behind them.
I’m curious to know how you create margin in your life. Any ideas for us?